Amyris' squalane alternative in Asia pushing boundaries

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Squalane is made from shark liver oil. Jupiterimages/ Images
Squalane is made from shark liver oil. Jupiterimages/ Images
Amyris has collaborated with Dowell, a personal care ingredients supplier, to distribute its sugar-based squalane, a renewable alternative to the controversial material, in the Republic of Korea.

The renewable ingredients developer uses its industrial synthetic biology platform to convert plant sugars into a variety of molecules, flexible building blocks that can be used in a wide range of products.

Dowell is a Korean supplier of ingredients for the beauty and other personal care industries in Asia and Amyris says the collaboration is a move to double squalane sales in 2014.

"This partnership with Dowell expands our network of distributors in Asia, allowing South Korean formulator’s access to a stable supply of squalane produced from sustainable raw materials,"​ says Amyris chief business officer, Zanna McFerson.

Squalane is one of the highest quality emollients on the market due to its sensorial profile, biocompatibility and consistently robust composition. Until recently, it could only be sourced from shark liver or olive oil.

It is naturally present in the skin lipid barrier, preventing moisture loss while restoring the skin's suppleness and flexibility. Squalane has been favoured for cosmetics due to its moisturizing properties and ability to penetrate the skin.

A call for more alternatives to squalane in Asia

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 squalane as that of the more expensive plant alternative, unbeknownst to the large multinationals.

A Pu Qi factory in China’s Zhejiang Province was recently found to have been slaughtering about 600 whale sharks every year to make oil for cosmetics and health products.

The company has been supplying the oil worldwide for the likes of lipsticks and skin care products, according to Hong Kong based marine conservation organization WildLifeRisk.

The main on-going use of animal squalane 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.

In light of these findings, Nouvian tells this publication that the 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.

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