Squalane: What some suppliers may not be telling you...

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Despite various cosmetic companies investing in more sustainable alternatives to shark liver oil (squalane), one expert believes that there are still issues with supply in that some specialised producers are passing off shark squalene as that of the more expensive plant alternative, unbeknownst to the large multinationals.

In a recent presentation; ‘Marine sourcing: opportunities and sustainability challenges​’, the founder of Bloom Association, Claire Nouvian informed cosmetics professionals that the industry is the world’s greatest buyer of animal squalene oil and that while some may think that they are investing in plant-based alternatives; “suppliers can mislead as to the nature of the squalane they are selling.​”

The main on-going use of animal squalene today is said to be down to financial reasons in that plant squalane (olive oil) is 30 per cent more expensive than that of the moisturizing, non‐greasy substance of the deep sea shark liver (8 to 12 euros per kilo), some of which are now in danger of extinction.

Perhaps not as sustainable as companies think..

A study carried out by Bloom and investigative journalist Romain Chabrol​ found that around 90 per cent of world shark liver oil production feeds the needs of the cosmetics industry, which corresponds to 2.7 million deep-sea sharks caught every year.

Following blind tests on the products of major cosmetics brands, results showed that companies were sometimes misled by their suppliers; "Although Western cosmetic corporations have taken a sharp turn in favour of plant-based squalane, the industry is still largely supplied by animal squalene.​”


In regards to regulation, Nouvian tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that although steps have been taken by the European Union to ban targeted deep‐sea shark fisheries back in 2010, the move away from waters subject to those regulations is still ideal for unscrupulous fleets; offering a cheap workforce, no social protection, weak or in existent regulations or enforcement.

"Current labeling regulations do not demand that the origins of the squalane be indicated (Council Directive 76/768/EEC),therefore consumers willing to buy ethical products cannot choose creams containing only plant based squalane simply because the labelling norms for cosmetics do not demand differentiation between squalane of different origins."

In light of these findings, Nouvian tells this publication that the cosmetics industry can get on top of the matter by insisting that blind and random tests of squalane be carried out, as this will put pressure on suppliers to stand by where they are saying the squalane comes from.

"Lobbying the EU commission to get specification of origin required on labeling and trade code, and / or communicating with consumers will also be a huge help in clearing up these matters​," she concludes.

The founder of Bloom Association presented a talk on this matter at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit​, in Paris last week.

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