The Ordinary's new Squalane cleanser sold out in hours. But what is squalane and is it any good?


Over the weekend, there’s a good chance you saw or were tagged in a post about a new face cleanser from cult skincare brand The Ordinary.

Even if you haven’t tried The Ordinary products, someone you know has, and it’s likely they rabbit on to you all the time about how bloody great they are.

For fans of the brand known for its scientific lotions and potions that look like they belong in a laboratory, any new The Ordinary product launch is very exciting.

This time, it’s The Ordinary’s first ever cleanser, The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, $13.50.

If you’ve got no idea what this ‘squalane’ thing is, you’re not alone.

Currently, there is only one other squalane cleanser on the market, and you can’t even buy it little old Australia yet, which means you mightn’t have seen squalane on the shelf at your local pharmacy. You might’ve seen or heard of squalane oil, which you can buy as a face oil, but it’s still very much a mysterious skincare ingredient.

As someone who has tried The Ordinary’s Squalane Cleanser, I can answer all your burning questions, including what is squalane and why people are putting it on their faces? And most importantly of all, does The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser live up to the hype?

Side note – did you know you can help improve your skin while you’re snoozing? Check out our video below on seven things you didn’t know about skin and sleep. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

What is squalane?

This is going to sound quite strange, but essentially, squalane is lipid found in sebum… the oily stuff that can get clogged in your pores and cause pimples. Stay with us.

“Squalene is a type of chemical called a ‘lipid’, which is similar in structure to fats and doesn’t dissolve readily in water. It is a product that humans produce naturally as part of our sebum, the ‘oil’ that protects our skin,” Dr Deshan Sebaratnam, dermatologist and clinical senior lecturer at The University of Sydney, told Mamamia.

Northern Sydney Dermatology’s Dr Liz Dawes-Higgs added, “In humans, squalane is found in sebum, which is a yellow oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin to keep the skin and hair moisturised. In skincare products, squalane is an excellent moisturiser and lubricant.”

Another fun squalane fact: in cosmetics and health supplements, squalane was mostly sourced from shark livers. Yum. Now, products like The Ordinary’s Squalane Cleanser are made from sustainably sourced squalane from olive oil.

Just to confuse things a little more, you might see squalane spelt two different ways: squalane vs. squalene. That’s because they are two different variations of the same compound.

“Squalene is quite unstable, so trying to combine squalene into skincare can be a challenge. Instead of squalene, most skincare companies will use squalane, which is derived from squalene and is much more stable,” Dermal Distinction’s Dr Giulia D’Anna told Mamamia.


Both squalene and squalane do very similar jobs, to lubricate and moisturise the skin.

Mamamia’s beauty guru Leigh Campbell breaks down the difference between foam and gel cleansers, and milk and oil cleanser on this episode of You Beauty below. Post continues after audio.

Squalane oil benefits.

All of the dermatologists I spoke to said the primary benefit of squalane is its moisturising properties for smooth and soft skin. It’s also thought to be useful in the treatment of fine lines, skin firmness and elasticity.

Being an oil, skincare products with squalane in it will also dissolve makeup and other skin impurities, without striping the skin.

That said, Dr Sebaratnam did say there isn’t much testing and research into squalane in skincare products just yet. At least, not enough to label it a holy grail skincare ingredient.

“There is little evidence in terms of its benefits to the skin as an ingredient in cosmetics. As a lipid, squalane has moisturising properties, but there is little evidence to suggest it is superior to other moisturisers which are available and have been tested from rigorously,” he said.

What is the Ordinary Squalane Cleanser?

This $13.50 cleanser is the new kid on the block. Image: The Ordinary.
Here's the guy in real life. Image: Supplied.

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is the cult-brand's first cleanser product.

Rather than come out with a stock-standard gel or foam cleanser, The Ordinary's parent company DECIEM decided to launch a squalane-based cleanser that is one of the first of its kind, with just one other squalane cleanser on the market (the Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, which isn't available in Australia).

According to the brand's website, the everyday use formula uses squalane, and other 'lipophilic and emulsifying esters' that trap makeup and skin impurities to then be washed away with water.

It's free of a lot of things: water-free, alcohol-free, soap-free, oil-free, silicone-free, nut-free, gluten-free and cruelty-free. Oh, and it's vegan too.

After the cleanser launched in Australia last week in The Ordinary stores and on The Ordinary and DECIEM websites, it promptly sold out. Right now, it is available to purchase online - it's not yet available to buy in Priceline or MYER where you normally get your other The Ordinary products, but a representative for the brand told Mamamia you will be able to pick up the squalane cleanser at Aussie retailers in the near future.


When it does, things are going to get really hectic, so here's what you need to know about The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser.

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser review.

Like all of The Ordinary's products, the squalane cleanser comes in no-fuss, science-y packaging - a 50ml squeezy tube that feels small for a cleanser at first, but isn't because of this cleanser's oil/balm formula.

The product looks like moisturiser when you squeeze it out of the tube, but as the instructions say, it changes to an oil consistency when you rub it between your hands for the recommended 10-30 seconds.

The next thing to note is you've got to apply it onto your face dry. No water, which feels counterproductive for a product that's meant to... wash your face. It goes on like a face oil or balm - I massaged the cleanser onto my dry face (felt so weird!!) for a good 30 seconds before rinsing off with cold water (the instructions say warm, but cold did the job for me).

The cleanser washes off really well and doesn't leave behind an oily film like a lot of straight cleansing oils do, and my face felt moisturised and hydrated afterwards. I also didn't experience any irritation, which is nice.

This what the cleaner looks like straight out of the tube. Image: Supplied.
Aaand here it is after I rubbed it between my palms - looks and feels like an oil. Image: Supplied.

We have to talk about the smell though. After consulting with non-biased third parties (my colleagues), I can confirm the squalane cleanser smells a bit like... processed meats. Kind of like you're walking into a fancy Italian deli to get some shaved leg ham and salami for a grazing platter. Sounds kind of gross, but when you remember squalane is essentially a fat, it makes sense.

Personally, I found the smell a bit off-putting because I haven't used many lipid or oil-based cleansers before, but my boss and beauty editor of 15 years Leigh Campbell didn't mind it, so your nose can make up its own mind.

If you had to compare it to another product, Dermalogica's Pre Cleanse Oil-Busting Emulsifyer ($65.50) is quite similar in that you apply it with dry hands onto your dry face, but The Ordinary's Squalane Cleanser is less than a quarter of the cost.

If you enjoy the feeling of oil/balm cleansers, there's a good chance you're going to like this one. People who love the squeaky clean feeling of a gel or foam, not so much.

At the very least, The Ordinary's Squalane Cleanser is an excellent makeup remover and could very easily slot into your double cleansing or triple cleansing routine as the oil cleansing product if that's your thing.

It's also $13.50 and we like that a lot.

You can find out more about The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser on The Ordinary website and DECIEM website.


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