Squalene could help oxidize pollutant gases in the environment, early research suggests


Researchers from the U.S. and Denmark examined what happens when squalene in human skin was exposed to ozone.

Photo © iStockphoto.com

Photo © iStockphoto.com

Researchers in the U.S. and Denmark have found that squalene could potentially play a role in increasing the activity of certain types of reactive species that can ultimately help oxidize pollutant gases. The explorative study was published in the journal Science.1

In the study, subjects were exposed to ozone in a climate-controlled, stainless-steel chamber. Following this exposure, researchers noted high concentrations of hydroxyl (OH) radicals in subjects. They further noted that when the ozone reacted with the lipid squalene in the subjects’ skin, it led to the formation of 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one (6-MHO). This 6-MHO “subsequently generates OH efficiently through gas-phase reaction with ozone,” which could create a protective effect.

In a press release, PhytoGaia Sdn Bhd (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), a palm-phytonutrient ingredient supplier, commented, “What is significant is that they discovered the ozone’s reactions with the oils and lipids on our skin, particularly squalene, result in the creation of our own personal oxidation fields of protection.”

In human skin, squalene is believed to act as a singlet oxygen quencher, helping protect skin surfaces from lipid peroxidation that results from exposure to UV light and other oxidative stressors. It could be that squalene not only has a positive effect on helping reduce oxidative damage to the skin caused by free radicals but that it could also have a positive effect on pollutant gases like ozone.

In the press release, PhytoGaia notes, “In actual surroundings, even without human presence, ozone can also react with squalene in settled dust, skin flakes, and clothing that has been oil-soiled by skin. This reaction produces 6-MHO and affects the OH oxidation field.”

Ariati Aris, PhytoGaia’s scientific affairs specialist, added, “This is a remarkable discovery, but since it’s the first of its kind, more needs to be looked at to support additional exploration into the potential effects on human health. Squalene may have beneficial extra characteristics since it not only supports healthy skin and hair but also has the potential to oxidize indoor chemical pollutants. It’s not just for cosmetic purposes; it also influences the environment and human health in a good way.”


  1. Zannoni, N.; Lakey, P.S.J.; Shiraiwa, Y.W.; et al. The human oxidation field. Science. 2022, 377 (6610), 1071-1077. DOI: 10.1126/science.abn0340
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