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Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil – Which Should You Buy?

Explore vegan coconut oil for enriched hair and skin

When it comes to refined vs. unrefined coconut oil, you may have heard it all already. But from cold pressed to centrifuge, extra virgin to hexane extracted – what does it all mean? Not to worry! We’re here to answer all your questions about the refined vs. unrefined coconut oil disparity.

It’s worth noting that in the debate between refined vs. unrefined coconut oil, there is no inherent evil. Coconut oil in general is an amazing non-toxic alternative to chemical-filled lotions and moisturizers – if you know what to look for. Both refined and unrefined oils have their purpose and you can find cruelty-free, sustainably sourced versions of either.

So let us break it down and help you find the most skin quenching, earth loving coconut oil for your beauty goals.

Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil: What’s the Difference?

While both refined and unrefined coconut oil can be used for cooking and beauty, there are a few key differences you should be aware of before you buy. Refined and unrefined coconut oil look, smell, taste, and can even feel different – so it’s important to understand which type you’ll actually need.

Refined coconut oil is extracted from dried coconut meat. This means it has a reduced coconut aroma and a mild taste. If you’re in the market for refined coconut oil, keep an eye out for its natural golden glow. If its pure white, it means the oil has been refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD). The process of bleaching and deodorizing coconut oil involves using harsh chemicals that you don’t want to consume or put on your skin.

On the other hand, unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin coconut oil, maintains its robust, tropical, coconutty aroma and flavor. Because it has been either cold pressed or extracted via a centrifuge (we’ll get into that in a moment) from fresh coconut meat, it’s naturally pure white and occasionally has a chunky texture.

When looking at refined vs. unrefined coconut oil, you’ll find that both types come in solid or liquid forms. Liquid refined coconut oil should still have its golden tint, while unrefined coconut oil is clear in its liquid form. We recommend using coconut oil as a solid because liquefied coconut oil can feel a little greasy. On the flip side, you can heat solid coconut oil or rub it in your hands to create an emulsion for a less slippery feel.

Uses Of Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil

A couple key differences come into play from a chemistry standpoint.

For starters, refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point (at 400°F) than unrefined coconut oil (at 350°F). And since refined coconut oil is virtually tasteless, it’s the go-to version for organic cooking and baking.

If you’re looking for that island-fresh taste, you can sautée unrefined coconut oil at lower temperatures.

From a health and wellness standpoint, coconut oil enthusiasts have touted benefits from improving damaged hair and encouraging lusher eyelashes, to relieving itchy eczema and moisturizing skin. We’ll touch more on that a little further on.

Processing Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil

Perhaps the most important element to consider when weighing the pros and cons of refined vs. unrefined coconut oil is how they’re processed. You want to avoid coconut oil extracted using harsh chemicals. Let’s check out the processes one by one.

For starters, refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point (at 400°F) than unrefined coconut oil (at 350°F). And since refined coconut oil is virtually tasteless, it’s the go-to version for organic cooking and baking.

  • Cold Pressing
    With cold pressing, fresh coconut meat (also known as copra) is hand-scooped from the shell. Then, it’s pressed until it excretes oil. Cold pressing is the purest form of extraction, and often the priciest. It’s used to create unrefined coconut oil.
  • Centrifuge
    In centrifuge extraction, fresh copra is spun at a high speed, first extracting the milk. Then, the speed is increased to extract the oil. This process leaves the oil with a powerful tropical coconut scent and flavor.
  • Expeller Pressing – Coconuts are placed in barrels and pulverized with an expeller, a machine that literally smashes whole coconuts. Coconut oil is then extracted using a chemical solvent called hexane. This process is typically used to create refined coconut oil.
  • Steam Extraction – A more healthful extraction method than its expeller cousin, refined coconut oil can be extracted from dried copra with steam. The heat eliminates most nutrients, but the oil remains rich in medium chain fatty acids.
  • Other Chemical Extractions – If you’re buying cheap, refined, deodorized, and bleached (RBD) coconut oil, this is probably the method used. Steer clear of RBDs.

Find The Source: Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil

You want to ensure that your coconut oil is responsibly sourced. Coconut trees are an important component of ecosystems in Asia-Pacific locations, not to mention a crucial source of income for the surrounding populations.

#1: Kapuluan

The raw beauty company Kapuluan plants a coconut palm in Southeast Asia for each item you purchase, while directly impacting the livelihood of the local coconut farmers with income.

#2: Nutiva

Nutiva also strives to make an impact by dedicating 1% of sales to support sustainable agriculture. They specifically support the small farming communities in Southeast Asia from which they get their coconut oil. In 2015, Nutiva sponsored the planting of 100,000 coconut seedlings. Most of their products are non-GMO, USDA certified organic, and vegan.

#3: Dr. Bronners

Lastly, you can always trust Dr. Bronners to supply you with Fair Trade, non-GMO, vegan, organic beauty supplies. They specialize in pure, additive-free cleaning products, and have been doing so since 1948!

Refined Vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil For Glowing Skin And Hair

Let’s get right down to it, shall we?

When it comes to refined vs. unrefined coconut oil for hair and skin, unrefined coconut oil is the undefeated champion. While refined coconut oil is still a contender in its own right, it simply undergoes too much processing to maintain its natural nutritional benefits.

Pure, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, and vitamin E. It also retains lauric acid, which gives unrefined coconut oil its desirable antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Because it undergoes no processing from heat or chemicals, it stays rich in all those invigorating nutrients your skin and hair love.

And regardless of the processing, unrefined coconut oil is created from fresh coconuts as opposed to the dried copra used to create refined coconut oil. This means that unrefined coconut oil contains polyphenols and phytonutrients, which may encourage your cardiovascular system and fight disease.

So for vegan, organic cooking and baking, refined coconut oil is a fantastic option. But when it comes to your hair and skin, lather up some virgin coconut oil and commence hydration for a softer, more luxurious look and feel!

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