Sharks Without Livers
We are not a fan of the use of shark liver oil in personal care products or dietary supplements that can often be found in face creams, liquid supplement and even otc (over the counter) remedy ointments.
Shark liver oil or squalene as it is sometimes called is a raw material that has been used for centuries as a folk remedy by fishermen for all manner of ailments from respiratory tract problems, skin problems, and for lymph node swelling. Shark liver oil can come from over 100 species of deepwater sharks.
An unusual fact regarding the use of shark liver oil is its supposed ability to predict the weather. The local folks from Bermuda have for many centuries placed SLO in a glass bottle, whereby the oil will switch from a clear golden color like cooking oil to a milky white with the atmospheric weather change. Seems like no one knows exactly why this happens apart from also noticing that electrical changes in the atmosphere affect the shark’s liver and alert the shark to move out to deeper water before a bad storm.
Why is Shark liver oil or squalene oil used in personal care? Well for one in it is a great penetrating carrier (brings active materials to the deep layer of the epidermis) that blends well with other oils and nutrients. It also is a good moisturizer that does not leave a greasy feeling on the skin. These facts are true of most squalene (botanical and animal source) with the molecular formula C30H50.
Other constituents found in squalene include Vitamin A, and D, omega -3 fatty acids, triglycerides, glycerol, ethers and fatty alcohols. A constituent unique to Shark Live Oil squalene not present in botanical sources is a lipid called alkylglycerols. This lipid is founded in mother’s milk and also in the bone marrow.
Alkylglycerol is the chemical that was thought to have anti-cancer and immune enhancing properties, however, no studies to date have proved this. Additionally, a Japanese study found some shark liver oil supplements to be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (Cancer causing agents).
I believe that Shark Liver Oil is a raw material that has seen it’s time come and go, especially with the many superior sustainable and kinder alternatives available. I relate the use of shark liver in personal care to the use of Ambergris (Whale upchuck) or Civet musk (a foul-smelling secretion extracted from the anal gland of a cat like species) in traditional perfumery.
So what are the alternatives to Shark Liver Oil Squalene? there are several such as amaranth seed, rice bran, wheat germ, and my favorite olive. For personal care olive squalene wins hands down, it is relatively stable and the fatty acids profile in olive squalene is the closest an oil can get as far as similarity to human sebum (The important protective fatty layer on the skin).
Why I am so hard on Shark Liver oil for use in personal care or nutritional supplements?
The most important reason is that deepwater shark populations are severely endangered, and it is not right see the end of a species for the sake of our wrinkled faces… especially when squalene can be made from botanical alternatives.
Oceana – the worlds largest ocean environmental advocacy sums it up by stating;
“Nearly all shark species are experiencing severe population declines -some are at population levels less than 1% of their numbers just 35 years ago. Sharks are generally slow-growing and long-lived and breed late in life, making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and slow to recover from decline. While all shark populations are experiencing declines, deep-sea sharks are the most vulnerable to overexploitation and take the longest time to recover, if they recover at all.”
More about Oceana can be found at www.oceana.org.