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Could your skincare regime be endangering sharks further?

One ingredient in popular skincare items is regularly sourced from endangered, deep ocean dwellers.

Shark fin soup has racked up serious blame for the depletion of shark populations around the world. But even if you aren’t eating sharks, there’s still a possibility that your daily habits are contributing to the great endangerment of the species.

Inside the liver of sharks is a sought-after oil called squalene. Known for its hydrating and restorative properties, at least 2.7 million sharks are hunted each year for their stores of squalene, which find their way into an array of cosmetic products.

The rich oil’s properties increase moisture in skin, help to reduce fine lines, and work to prevent wrinkles – making it the perfect ingredient for high-end anti-aging products.

Its slippery texture adds hydration to lipsticks and eyeshadows, as well as sunscreen and hair conditioner which makes them all easier to apply. Yet this coveted oil, when derived from sharks, comes at a severe cost to marine environments.

How common is shark squalene in cosmetics?

Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer outright. Reports by Paris-based marine conservation group BLOOM suggest that 90 percent of all squalene derived from sharks is sold on to the cosmetics industry.

Despite reserves of the oil existing elsewhere in nature, like in olives, wheat germ, and sugar cane, the process of extracting squalene from plants is lengthy and expensive.

By contrast, shark livers are huge, making up 25 percent of the animal’s body weight. Lacking a swim bladder – which other fish use to stay afloat – shark livers produce a large quantity of squalene to help sharks maintain their buoyancy.  Once caught, the organ is removed for its precious oil before shark carcasses are thrown back into the sea – all within the span of a few minutes.

In a test on 72 different creams containing squalene, BLOOM’s researchers found that 1 in 5 products had sourced the oil from sharks. Shockingly, none of them had specified this on the label. This can make avoiding shark-sourced squalene a tricky (but not impossible) task.

Why and how should we avoid shark-sourced squalene?

Overfishing continues to threaten the overall health of our oceans. At Thred, we’ve highlighted how the presence of sharks is critical for maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems.

Sharks, as apex predators, play a vital role in the food chain, but they also help their surrounding environment recover from extreme climate events – something us humans could desperately use help with.

To avoid wiping out these valuable undersea warriors, the simplest step to avoiding shark-derived squalene is by being wary of misleading labels and thoroughly researching ingredients used by our most-loved brands.

Be sure to purchase from cruelty free manufacturers, where you can be guaranteed that absolutely no animals are harmed for the sake of your youthful-looking skin. For squalene in particular, look no further than The Ordinary, whose serum is listed as 100 percent plant-derived.


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While changing our own buying behaviours can reduce the demand for shark-sourced beauty products, pressuring lawmakers and local MPs to ban the sale of shark-based products in our home countries can make a wider impact.

Even better, make noise on social media. Gen-Z knows the internet better than anyone, and with all marketing teams focused on harnessing our custom, we have the power to stop brands from using ingredients that cause unnecessary harm to animals and our planet by calling them out in the most public of spaces.

Demands for this sought-after oil look unlikely to drop, but when squalene sourced from plants offers identical quality and properties as oil from an endangered species – the choice is easy.

As consumers, we have the option – and the responsibility – to make sure that the products we’re buying are produced in a sustainable way. All it takes is a digging a little bit further for that information.


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