Blog: Cosmetics and Shark Squalene

Eli Roth and Reese Halter

On Monday at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles, I joined Will Haynes to shoot “Shark After Dark” digital segments for Discovery’s Shark Week, which airs at the end of the month. We worked around host Eli Roth and his guests, and had a lot of fun.

My friend and colleague Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, call sharks “doctors of the sea” because sharks keep the oceans healthy by culling old, weak and sick prey. Sharks help ensure that coral reefs maintain their vibrancy.

One of my factoids that shocked Haynes was that each year sharks kill six people and people kill 100 million sharks. Since 2000, over 1.5 billion sharks  about 90 percent of most shark species  are gone.

The insatiable demand for shark fin soup is a huge culprit. If you eat shark fin soup then you are eating methymercury, which has accumulated and biomagnified in sharks from burning gigatons of subsidized coal. Since the 1950s, the oceans have tripled in mercury poisoning to over 80,000 metric tons. Mercury is in everything.

Methylmercury is a sticky poison. When it enters the human body, methylmercury accumulates and attacks the central nervous system. It promotes hideous diseases like Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Sharks are also pillaged for squalene, which comes from shark’s liver oil. Squalene is rich in carbons, which are easily absorbed by human skin with no trace of lingering residue.

Squalene oil provides sharks buoyancy, enabling them to float or sink to the bottom of the ocean where at least 50 kinds of sharks make their own light.

Today, 100 million shark livers are used in paints, lubricants, candles, leather, tanning and the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry.

Squalene is also found in plants like amaranth seeds, wheat germ, rice barn and olives.

Up until recently, shark liver oil has provided the cosmetics industry with inexpensive squalene for lipsticks, bath oils, moisturizers, lip balms, sunscreens, eye makeup and other personal care products.

The French NGO Bloom reported last year that one in five of tested cosmetic products had shark squalene.

UK-headquartered LUSH is one company that refused to ever use squalene in any of their wide array of cosmetics.

Take time to scrutinize all the ingredients in personal care products that you buy. Consider purchasing only plant-based cosmetics.

Refuse to ever eat shark fin soup or buy anything with shark liver oil in it. If the sharks die, we die.

Please support the essential conservation work of Sea Shepherd  because they are protecting the “doctors of the sea”  the sharks.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter is the author of “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”