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Are You Using Shark Liver Oil on Your Face?

Uncovering the ugly truth behind shark-harvested squalene – and spotlighting a cruelty-free alternative

Written by: 100% PURE®

I bet you’re probably wondering, what in the world is squalene? It’s a buzzword that we’ve all seen on many skin care products, as well as a similar term: squalane. You’ve perhaps wondered once or twice what the ingredient does and where it comes from, but its origins are still a bit murky. The truth is, this prevalent ingredient in traditional cosmetics is actually sourced from sharks' liver! Yes, you read that right – from those cold-blooded alphas of the ocean (with an undeserved bad reputation).

Squalane is regularly and inhumanely harvested from shark livers – so much so, that a high volume of sharks actually die in the name of some of those fancy products – all of this adding to the eventual disappearance of our ocean's most vital apex species. And some of these beauty brands are still proudly touting the term, ‘cruelty free’. Let’s dive into squalene vs. squalane, why the beauty industry is so intent to rely on this cruel ingredient, and how we use a safe, cruelty-free alternative that works better for your skin.

Squalane Vs. Squalene

Let’s backtrack a little to the -lane vs. -lene mystery. Squalene (the kind not derived from shark liver) is actually native to our skin. It’s fatty and rich and helpful for keeping our skin supple and moisturized. The problem is, our own natural squalene supply starts to rapidly decline in our early 20’s and by middle age, its virtually non-existent. Why is this a big deal? Squalene is instrumental in securing the skin’s moisture barrier while also fighting that pesky little thing called aging. Basically, if we want to have any hope of aging like Cindy Crawford, Halle Berry or Jennifer Lopez, it’s kind of something we need.

Unfortunately, our troubles don’t end there. Squalene in beauty products is said to be highly unreliable and can actually do more harm than good. Say hello to clogged pores, greasy skin and oxidized makeup if your cosmetics contain this moody ingredient.

Enter squalane: the cruelty-free, shelf stable, bigger and better version of squalene. It is derived from squalene but becomes squalane through a process of hydrogenation. This allows it to behave well on our skin and play nice with our other skin care must haves, like oils and hyaluronic acid, locking in H2o for long lasting hydration.

The Shark Story

We’re not sure how shark-derived squalene was discovered, but it was originally used primarily in the South Pacific as a cure-all remedy. Sharks, especially deep-sea sharks, possess a high volume of oil for buoyancy. One of the major issues with this type of environmental destruction is that the types of sharks targeted for squalene are larger and come of age slowly. This means that as their populations swiftly decline due to cosmetic harvesting, they are not able to replenish at the same rate, causing a severe drop in large shark populations not just in the South Pacific but on a global scale.

While we’ve had this image of sharks as terrifying creatures and the villains of the deep, they are actually a fundamental part of the sea and vital to ocean life as we know it. Here are some of the ways sharks are significant:

  • Since sharks are the primary predator of the ocean, they help maintain other populations of sea creatures.

  • Intimidation and culling by sharks help to prevent overgrazing, helping to maintain seagrass and coral reefs.

  • Shark feed on their own, removing old and diseased members of their shark families that helps eliminate the risk of outbreak.

  • Sharks are a pillar to the oceanic ecosystem and without them, ocean life are at risk of collapse!

Ultimately, we know that a product which puts our environment at risk is simply not worth the damage and pain it inflicts on this noble species. There are many safe and humane ingredients that deliver the same potency without harm, such as rice bran or sugar cane, or our personal favorite – olive sourced squalane, which we use in 100% PURE products.

Olive Squalane

If you’re already familiar with our brand, you know we strive to provide the most wholesome ingredients utilizing the power of plants and delivering on transparent, effective cosmetics. We hate that sharks are being targeted for their oil and want to reduce that however possible. We hope to spotlight this injustice and work towards a solution by supporting Shark Stewards who's mission and work is to establish key shark sanctuaries, pass legislation banning shark fishing and shed light on this important cause.

We will continually do our part to better the beauty community, by including olive derived squalane in our formulas. More sustainable for the ecosystem, this olive substitute is also better for your skin. In addition to all the same benefits popularized by shark squalene, such as improving skin elasticity and mimicking skin’s natural oils for easy absorption, olive squalane is completely shelf stable in comparison to the cruel and temperamental alternative. Cruelty-free olive squalane helps to boost cell regeneration which aids in eliminating age spots and scars, tightening the skin and maintaining a youthful appearance.


Helping to soften rough skin, repair sun damage and heal skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, here are a couple of our favorite 100% PURE products that feature olive squalane:

Green Tea EGCG Concentrate Cream

Amazingly potent and antioxidant-rich, this cruelty-free cream helps protect and repair from environmental damage. In concert with green tea and yerba mate, the olive squalane in this moisturizer is instrumental in fortifying the skin’s moisture barrier and soothing the skin.

PRO TIP: This cream has a sister in the form of our Green Tea EGCG Concentrate Serum. Start with the serum and layer on the cream for ultimate hydration and repaired skin clarity. Don’t forget to top off your serum + moisturizer routine with a sunscreen: Tomato Lycopene SPF 20 is a great option – and also features olive squalane!

Fruit Pigmented 2nd Skin Concealer

What would you guess is the first ingredient in concealer? For our competitors, it might be water or dyes, but for our vegan and cruelty free 2nd Skin Concealer, its olive squalane – one of the primary reasons this concealer feels like your real skin. It works with real fruits to deliver nutrients to one of the most sensitive areas of your face to enhance your beauty at skin and cell level.

By choosing the path of sustainability and cruelty-free squalane, we hope to spotlight this injustice towards sharks. We also support organizations like Shark Stewards, whose mission and work is to establish key shark sanctuaries, pass legislation banning shark fishing, and shed light on this important cause. Keep up with us here for more important cruelty-free features!

We carefully hand-select products based on strict purity standards, and only recommend products we feel meet this criteria. 100% PURE™ may earn a small commission for products purchased through affiliate links.

The information in this article is for educational use, and not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as such.

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