Oceana, a Washington-based marine conservation organization, said in a statement that Unilever plans to replace squalene with a plant-based substitute. Products with new formulations containing the squalene substitute are expected to hit shelves in April.
L'Oréal, meanwhile, decided to replace shark squalene in 2006. All of its skin care products contain a plant-based substitute, and the company plans to replace the shark oil used in some 12 remaining makeup formulas, including eight Shu Uemura lipsticks, by yearend, the firm said.
Squalene, which is used as an emollient in creams, lotions and glosses, is found in large quantities in the livers of deep-sea sharks, which are often caught for that reason and whose numbers are declining as a result, according to Oceana. The vegetable version can be obtained from olives, which — alongside the conservation benefit — come at a lower price, the organization said.
According to Oceana, other beauty firms, including Beiersdorf AG, Boots the Chemists, The Estée Lauder Cos.' La Mer brand, Groupe Clarins, Henkel, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Sisley, also have decided to stop using animal-based squalene or have never used it.
"Oceana is satisfied to see that some of the biggest names in the cosmetics industry are recognizing their corporate social responsibilities and choosing not to contribute to the extinction of these important animals," said Rebecca Greenberg, a marine scientist with Oceana and the shark campaign coordinator, in the statement.
In Europe and the U.S., demand for "olive squalene" has skyrocketed in the last few years, according to Sophim, a Peyruis, France-based cosmetics ingredients supplier, which is increasing its capacity to meet larger orders. Alexis Margnat, the company's managing director, warned that demand might exceed supply if all companies switch to the olive version.
That being said, he added that Sophim's shark squalene ingredient remains a big business in Asia.