Coconut Oil has exploded in popularity in the past few years, touted as a superfood and healthy fat not only for cooking and consumption, but for beauty uses as well. Used as a natural make up remover, hair mask, and even teeth whitener, Coconut Oil has hundreds of uses, and it seems, just as many types of labels.
Organic, non-organic, refined, unrefined, cold pressed, centrifuge, virgin, extra virgin...what exactly do all these labels mean and how does one choose the best type of Coconut Oil? Is all Coconut Oil the same? We've taken the liberty to decode these labels below, so you can make an informed decision when buying Coconut Oil and know which types of Coconut Oil to steer clear from.
Organic Coconut Oil vs. Non-Organic Coconut Oil
Organic Coconut Oil is grown without the use of pesticides and has not been genetically modified. Although coconuts have a hard shell and are not a high-risk food when it comes to pesticides, it is always best to go organic, due to the type of fertilizer used during the farming process or other post-harvest applications. Be sure to look for the USDA-Certified Organic label, which will confirm that no pesticides were used when growing the coconuts used for the oil.
Bottom line: choose organic Coconut Oil when possible.
Refined Coconut Oil vs. Unrefined Coconut Oil
Refined Coconut Oil undergoes heavier processing than unrefined Coconut Oil (also called virgin Coconut Oil), and may have additives and preservatives. Due to this, refined Coconut Oil can be less nutritious, and is deodorized or even bleached to give the oil its white coloring. Unrefined Coconut Oil is processed as little as possible, contains no additives, is flawlessly white when solid, and clear when liquid—it is Coconut Oil in its most natural state.
Refined Coconut Oil is typically extracted from older, dried coconut kernels called copra, while unrefined Coconut Oil is extracted from freshly picked coconuts, and processed within one to two days.
Bottom line: unrefined Coconut Oil is always best when applying it to your skin or hair.
How is Coconut Oil processed?
Cold pressing is a method used to extract the milk or oil from the coconut, and does not use heat. The less heat that is applied during the extraction process, the less harsh the processing method is on the oil. While cold-pressing extracts the least amount of Coconut Oil compared to expeller pressing (below) and is also a very expensive process, this method is the only one that can produce the highest quality of Coconut Oil. Cold pressed Coconut Oil is considered raw, and all nutrients are retained in the oil.
Centrifuge extracted Coconut Oil is made from freshly pressed coconut milk. The oil is then separated from the milk using centrifugal force and no heat. This process helps to retain most of the antioxidants and antibacterial content, and ensures that the Coconut Oil retains more vitamin E and fatty acids than any other extraction process.
Expeller pressing is a process used to extract the oil from coconuts using high pressure and heat, usually used when making refined Coconut Oil. As this process is heat-based, this changes the chemical structure of the fatty acids found in the Coconut Oil, stripping away most of the nutritional benefits, natural fatty acids, and pretty much all the stuff that makes Coconut Oil oh-so-good for you.
Bottom line: It is best to go with organic, unrefined, cold pressed, centrifuge extracted Coconut Oil.
Food Grade vs. Cosmetic Grade Coconut Oil
If you are cooking at high temperatures with Coconut Oil, choose refined Coconut Oil, as it has a high smoke point at 400F – 450F. For all other beauty and cosmetic purposes, unrefined Coconut Oil is the way to go. Since unrefined Coconut Oil contains the highest content of nutrition and fatty acids, not only is it better for your skin and hair, but it lasts much longer than regular cooking grade Coconut Oil.
For cosmetic purposes, we do not recommend to use grocery store level Coconut Oil, as most Coconut Oils are unlabelled, meaning they are likely chemically processed, hydrogenated oils. Who wants to put that on their skin or hair? Not us!
If you are still unsure, check the bottom of the clear jars of Coconut Oil at your local grocery store. If you see a yellow or brown tinge at the bottom of the jar, this is a sign of poor quality oil and potential rancidity, which can be the result of excess heat during processing.
Still have questions about the different types of Coconut Oil available? We're happy to help at firstname.lastname@example.org.