Hemi-squalane is the buzzy ingredient taking over the haircare world. It’s part of a larger (and growing) movement in the haircare industry to add ingredients typically used on the skin to haircare products—and it just may solve some longstanding dilemmas you've had in your routine.
If you love the way silicone makes your hair look and feel but are hesitant to use it because of all the side effects (excess buildup, not water-soluble, difficult to wash out), hemi-squalane will be the hair oil of your dreams. But don’t just take our word for it: We consulted board-certified dermatologists, trichologists, and a hair expert to give you the 411 on how hemi-squalane can benefit your hair. Keep scrolling to read all about this game-changing lightweight oil.
Meet the Expert
- Gretchen Friese is a BosleyMD-certified trichologist based in Denver, Colorado.
- Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of the La Jolla Dermatology and Laser Surgery Center.
- Jennifer Korab is a hairstylist, Pureology national educator, and the owner of Renaissance Salon in New Jersey.
- Veronica Joseph is an IAT Practitioner and the owner and founder of Luxju Natural Hair Products.
- Dr. Orit Markowitz, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City and the founder of OptiSkin.
What Is Hemi-Squalane?
Hemi-squalane is a lightweight oil ingredient that’s a natural alternative to silicone. To put it scientifically, it "is a non-polar hydrocarbon that comes from the fermentation of sugar-based plants," Friese explains.
Hemi-Squalane for Hair
Type of ingredient: Moisturizer
Main benefits: Lightweight, won't weigh hair down, controls frizz
Who should use it: Hemi-squalane is suitable for most hair types, though those with fine hair may want to use less to avoid weighing hair down.
How often to use it: It can be used daily.
Works well with: Hemi-squalane works great alone or as part of the formula for hair serums and oils.
Don’t use with: There currently aren’t any scientific studies that show ingredients hemi-squalane interacts negatively with.
Benefits of Hemi-Squalane for Hair
In South Korea, treating your hair and scalp like your skin is a not just a trend, but a way of life, and it seems that the beauty industry in the U.S. is slowly catching on. "We’re seeing more sophisticated formulas used in hair care that have traditionally been used in skincare," Shirazi says. "I see it as the new 'It' ingredient as part of the 'skinifcation of hair' beauty trend."
While there haven’t been any specific studies of hemi-squalane’s benefits on hair, Markowitz explains that there are still many positives of this natural ingredient: "There haven't been any scientific-based studies for this product for hair specifically, but the science-based studies do show that it's a nice emollient product."
Absorbs quickly: Thanks to its super lightweight texture, hemi-squalane absorbs into your hair almost immediately.
Helps control dry, frizzy hair: One of the biggest benefits of hemi-squalane is its ability to help tame frizz, without the extra grease or heaviness on your strands or scalp. "It sort of prevents water loss, and perhaps can reduce some hair frizz without leaving the scalp too oily," Markowitz adds.
Prevents breakage: Hemi-squalane coats your strands, making your hair less prone to breakage and split ends. "It also has the ability to maintain a persistent emollience for hair," Shirazi says.
Lightweight: According to Korab, hemi-squalane has a thin, water-like consistency that won't weigh hair down.
Biodegradable: Hemi-squalane is a great choice for those looking for a natural alternative to silicones. "Unlike silicone, it is biodegradable and doesn’t build up over time," Shirazi says.
Spreads easily: Like some silicones, hemi-squalane spreads well and can coat your hair efficiently while using less product.
Hair Type Considerations
Hemi-squalane is a great hair ingredient for most hair types, but people with dry or frizzy hair are probably going to see the best results after using it. "I would say hemi-squalane is a great ingredient for a normal, healthy scalp. It could be potentially a nice emollient product for the scalp to give it perhaps a richer luster and less frizzy quality to the hair," Markowitz says. But she also adds a warning: "Hair types that may not benefit from this are people with seborrheic dermatitis or who have sort of natural buildup and scaliness of the hair. Putting an additional ingredient on the hair that would seal in would probably create further worsening of buildup. And it doesn't have any anti-inflammatory properties, so I wouldn't recommend it in this hair type.”
And if you have fine hair, you may want to proceed with a bit of caution. Friese explains that people with fine, thin hair may not want to use it, or should be very careful as to how much they are using because it can weigh down the hair.
Hemi-Squalane vs. Squalane vs. Squalene
While the names may be similar, there is a slight difference between squalane and hemi-squalane. The major similarity is that they are both natural. "Squalane and hemi-squalane both can be derived from sugarcane," explains Joseph. However, hemi-squalane boasts a lower molecular weight, giving it a more lightweight feel than squalane, making it the perfect option for people who are worried about their hair being weighed down or too greasy.
So where does squalene fit in? "Squalene (with an -e) is a lipid produced naturally by our skin, but also found in olives, rice bran, sugarcane, and shark livers. It’s a natural antioxidant and emollient that locks moisture into the skin and hair as well as helps to repair and protect it," says Shirazi. "Natural squalene must be hydrogenated into squalane, a more stable molecule, in order to be used in skincare and hair care products."
How to Use Hemi-Squalane for Hair
While hemi-squalane for hair has a ton of benefits, you want to be sure that it’s derived from a reputable source. "There are environmental concerns with the production of animal-derived squalene; in addition, plant-derived hemi-squalane may contain mineral oils, petroleum, and paraffin," explains Joseph. "It is important when sourcing products with squalane that they contain cruelty-free and 100% plant-based ingredients."
Once you’ve found the right product, Friese recommends using it alone once a day to help de-frizz and smooth your hair. "Work a tiny bit of the oil through damp, clean hair daily or as needed," she says. "A very small amount can be applied to dry hair to control frizz. Using too much can really weigh the hair down, so you want to be careful."
The Best Products with Hemi-Squalane
Shirazi recommends this serum, as well as Seen's dermatologist-developed line of shampoos and conditioners overall, for people who want to reduce frizz and keep hair smooth. It’s fragrance-free and formulated with sugar-derived hemi-squalane.
This lightweight, smoothing serum is another of Shirazi's recommendations. It’s best used before any sort of heat styling or whenever you want shiny, frizz-free hair. Notable ingredients include sustainably sourced hemi-squalane, niacinamide (see, more skincare ingredients in hair), and charged lemon protein.
Korab, Shirazi, and Friese all recommend this affordable, lightweight oil. Work through damp hair daily, or add a few drops to your moisturizer to supercharge your skincare routine.
This fragrance-free oil is another affordable option recommended by both Friese and Korab. Its watery texture helps it to spread easily through your hair and can also be used on the face and body—we love an oil that can do double (or triple) duty.