Sharks use oil in their livers to help regulate their buoyancy. Sharks that live in deeper water tend to have more oil in their livers. One of the main components of shark liver oil is a compound called squalene.
Squalene and its derivative squalane can be found as ingredients in cosmetic products, ranging from anti-aging cream to lip gloss. Sharks, especially deep-sea sharks, are targeted for the high concentration of squalene found in their livers.
Many of these sharks are slow growing and mature late in life making it difficult to recover from exploitation. As a result, many shark populations are declining in the name of beauty. However, alternative squalene sources exist, including olive oil, rice bran, wheat germ and amaranth seeds.
Oceana successfully persuaded the Vermont Country Store and Unilver to discontinue the sale of shark squalene.
Oceana's Europe office has more information on shark products: https://eu.oceana.org/en/our-work/sharks/overview