Now when I dress up in drag…

…and put on my makeup I won’t have to feel guilty about it*. At the continued pestering of Oceana both Unilever and L’Oreal have promised to stop using shark liver oil, also known as squalene, in their cosmetic products.

*You can figure out if I am joking or not

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

5 Replies to “Now when I dress up in drag…”

  1. Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus oil has been used for cosmetics for years, so the issue of fish products in makeup isn’t new. And, for what it’s worth, I’m glad that there’s another source for the same type of substance. If women only knew what they were really putting on their lips!

    Still, just to play Devil’s Advocate, there are lots of sharks taken in (more-or-less) sustainable fisheries, such as spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias. Most of the harvest is only the muscle tissue. If someone can use what would otherwise be discarded, then why is that such an unsustainable use of a fishery resource? The problem lies in when unsustainable shark harvests are used, and I’m guessing that the firms that refine the squalene aren’t as particular as they should/could be. In that light, and to preclude anyone from harvesting illegally, I’m fine with the abandonment of shark-derived squalene.

    Interesting post, Craig… thanks!

  2. Well, there are tons of Dogfish taken all the time for food and other problems. The ‘sustainable’ part isn’t really cut-and-dried though; as a former Canadian Government fisheries biologist, there was some concern about harvests of dogfish. Sure, it seems as if there’s a never-ending supply, but because we have no great idea of what state the stocks are in, it’s hard to tell.
    There are several characteristics of dogfish that put up ‘red flags’ when an assessment of their sensitivity is made; long lifespan, slow growth and a small number of live young per female.
    Yes, I agree that it’s good to have all the parts of the fish used, but don’t be so quick to call it ‘sustainable’. Remember, we once thought that the Atlantic Cod was inexhaustable as well. :)

  3. I certainly agree with Jonathan, sustainability refers to the population or species, while using all the parts a critter is more of an efficiency or being utilitarian.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more, Kevin — I didn’t mean to imply at all that “full utilization” equated with “sustainability” in the slightest. And, for good measure, I agree with Jonathan in that there have been questions raised in both the U.S. and Canada about the sustainability of NW Atlantic spiny dogs, hence my parenthetical caveat. My point was that too often there’s a backlash against a given product, regardless of whether it’s from a sustainable resource or not, and that maybe there’s something that should be applauded in the fuller utilization of a resource that’s already being harvested. Unfortunately, both ideas are rarely discussed in scientific forums.

    Still, I’m glad to see that someone’s paying attention… Cheers, gents!

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