What are the Different Coconut Oil Options?

The different types of coconut oils.

Coconut oil has a strong taste and smell. I do not like the taste of coconut in my food, but I love the way it smells. I am not alone in my distaste for coconut, but no one can dispute all the healthy qualities that coconut oil possess. It is one of the most popular oils used in North American, Asia, and the Caribbean. While it has a lot of saturated fat contained within it, that does not negate its health benefits.


Coconut oil has been used for various reasons by diverse cultures for thousands of years.

Coconut oil plays a prominent role in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, which is a traditional healing method in India.

The locals in Panama drink coconut oil to build their immunity to illness. It has long been believed that coconut oil can speed up recovery.

The natives of Papua, New Guinea cook with coconut oil and use it for hair and skin. It is also used as a topical ointment for injuries.

Traditional healers in the coastal jungle of South and Central America use it as medicine and a superfood.

Coconut oil is used for hair, cooking, and healing aches and pains in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

Coconut Oil Nutrition Fact Chart

A chart depicting the health benefits of coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil does not contain carbs, protein, or cholesterol. It does contain many good elements, such as natural antioxidants like phenolic acids and polyphenols. One tablespoon of coconut oil has 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fats.

Partially hydrogenated coconut oil, even if it is unrefined, it not healthy because it has fatty acids that become trans fats.

Types of Coconut Oil

A glass bottle of coconut oil with fresh coconuts.

While coconut oil may seem like all the rage, you should learn a little more about it before you jump in. There are different kinds of coconut oil on the market, but they are not all good for you.

Crude Coconut Oil

This is the most basic form of coconut oil, which is processed from desiccated coconut meat. While this is industry-grade coconut oil, if it is not refined, it will not last long. It has a powerful smell and color that makes it useless for cooking and cosmetics.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

A look at unrefined coconut oil with fresh coconuts.

Unrefined coconut oil is also called raw coconut oil. It is made from fresh, raw coconut meat. The oil is extracted through either a wet-mill or quick-dry process. Wet-mill is when the meat is processed into coconut milk that is boiled, strained, and fermented. The milk and oil are separated through a centrifugal process.

Quick-dry is when the coconut meat dries quickly and the oil is mechanically squeezed from it. Since the oil is not subjected to high temperatures, the enzymes remain whole and the oil keeps its flavor. There is no bleaching or preservatives added to the oil, which is clear as a liquid and white when solid.

Refined Coconut Oil

A bottle of refined coconut oil with fresh coconuts.

This type of oil comes from dried coconut kernels, known as copra. Oil from copra must be treated for contaminants, which are produced as a result of the desiccation process. As a result, the oil is subjected to high heat and treated with additives and preservatives. This oil does not have a lot of flavor but a higher smoking point making it perfect for cooking. If you buy refined coconut oil, you want one that used centrifuge or friction. This type of oil does not have chemical preservatives.

Hydrogenated Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil can be partially hydrogenated. It is solid and used for capsules or for baking. Hydrogenation needs high heat and high pressure. Nickel and hydrogen molecules are added. It has a long shelf life and is not easily oxidized. It contains trans fats.

Organic Coconut Oil

A jar of organic coconut oil in a rustic setup.

To be considered organic, coconuts must grow without pesticides or be genetically modified. Only coconut oil with the USDA organic label is certified as organic. It is the least harmful and holds on to most of its nutritional value.

When coconut oil is derived from a mechanical extraction process but does not involve chemical or solvent extracts, it is expeller-pressed. High heat and pressure are used to extract the oil. The heat breaks down the fatty acids and removes much of the beneficial elements of coconut oil. It is perfect for cooking because it does not have a strong taste and has a higher smoke point.

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionation is when the different fats are separated from the oil using graduated temperatures. The fatty acids in coconut oil have different melting points. The fats that have higher melting points are separated from the ones that have a lower melting point. Fractionated coconut oil is the oil that turns into a liquid during this process. It does not contain lauric acid, which has many health benefits.

RBD Coconut Oil

This is refined, bleached, and deodorized coconut oil and it is the worst possible oil. This oil has a long process that includes purification. The crude oil that is extracted is treated with alkali which removes fatty acids. After that, it is subjected to steam and vacuum removing all flavors and odor. It is filtered with carbon to remove the yellow color. It is used in cosmetics and food.

100% Pure Coconut Oil

This is a confusing term because of two completely different types of coconut oil. One is 100% pure natural oil which means it has only minor treatment to retain its purity. The other is 100% pure refined oil, which is not truly considered pure. This oil has had its beneficial fatty acids stripped away.

Homemade/Native/Traditional Coconut Oil

Jars of homemade coconut oil.

You can extract your own coconut oil. It is yellow and has a strong smell and taste. Coconut milk can be boiled until all the water evaporates leaving only the oil and some solid matter behind. You can also ferment coconut milk for two days to release the oil, which is then heated to remove moisture. The oils are safe, but will not last long.

Coconut Oil For Skin Care

A woman applying coconut oil onto her skin.

You should always test a small amount of coconut oil on the same body part for a few days to make sure you do not have any adverse reaction to it. Most people tolerate it well, but you never know how you will react to it.

Coconut Oil for Face Washing

You can wash your face with coconut oil. You can use it as is, or add some oils. Coconut oil dissolves the natural oil your skin produces, which is full of grime and dirt. The impurities found on your face are washed away.

You can use different essential oils with the coconut oil that might be beneficial for your skin. If you have oily skin, you might want to use tea tree oil. If you have dry skin, you can try geranium oil, or lavender oil, which is great for all skin types. You can add 1 to 3 drops of the essential oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and mix well.

Coconut Oil for Moisturizing

A woman moisturizing her skin with coconut oil.

Coconut oil is a great moisturizer for your skin. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties to it. Some studies have shown that those with dry and flaky skin have seen improved skin with the use of coconut oil

You can put it directly on your face, or make soothing body butter. To make a body butter, add one part coconut to one part shea butter to one part cocoa butter, and one part jojoba oil plus 10 to 20 drops of essential oil.

Coconut Oil for Acne

Believe it or not, studies prove that coconut oil is 15 times more effective in fighting off acne-causing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide, a popular antibiotic medication for acne. It has antibacterial properties and lauric acid that reduces swelling and inflammation.

Applying coconut oil directly to acne can help heal and promote antioxidant enzymes. It may not erase your acne completely, but it can prevent it from getting worse.

Coconut Oil for Stretch Marks

A pregnant woman rubs coconut oil on her stretch marks.

Many feel that coconut oil is great for stretch marks, especially those caused by pregnancy. It can improve the collagen cross-linking and improving lipid barrier function which is beneficial to scar reduction. For this to work, you must apply coconut oil to the stretch marks on a regular basis.

You can make your own salve by combining one part coconut oil, one part shea butter, half part apricot kernel oil, and just a pinch of ginger root. You simmer them together and strain the blend through cheesecloth. You can rub this balm on your stomach or other areas to moisturize and improve the elasticity of your skin.

Coconut Oil for Hair

A woman applying coconut oil on her hair.


Many Asian countries use coconut oil as a conditioner for hair. Some studies have shown that coconut oil can help increase protein in damaged and healthy hair. It is able to penetrate deep into the hair to help reduce split ends. Coconut may reduce dry scalp and dandruff thanks to its antiseptic properties. It is simple to apply directly to your hair or make a hair mask by adding a few drops of essential oil to the coconut oil. You can choose lavender, cedarwood, rosemary, peppermint or sandalwood essential oil. You can follow it with an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Appearance and Storage

An opened jar coconut oil with fresh coconuts.

When coconut oil is at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it becomes oil. At temperatures below that, it turns to a solid that is soft, creamy, and a little lumpy.  You can easily change the state of your oil by heating it or cooling it. It does not have to be stored in the refrigerator but it should be kept away from direct sunlight. It has a shelf life of about two years, or longer.

Refined oils can be used in cooking. Those that have not been treated for cooking, turn dark yellow when it reaches high temperatures. That means it is rancid and should be thrown away.

Food Grade vs. Cosmetic Grade: What Kind of Coconut Oil is The Best?

When you want to use coconut oil for cooking, refined oil is the best because it has a smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Refined oil does not have the benefits of unrefined coconut oil, but it is ideal for cooking.

When looking for coconut oil for hair and skin, you should use unrefined oil because they retain nutrients and fatty acids.

When you buy coconut oil, you should look at the bottom of the far. You want to make sure there is no yellow or brown tint to it. It typically means that the oil was heated too much and becoming rancid. It is also a poor quality coconut oil.

If you are cooking with no heat or low heat, you should use organic, cold-pressed, and virgin coconut oil. If you want to cook with high heat, you can use virgin oil and expeller-pressed oil.

No matter what you want to do with the coconut oil, you should avoid chemically processed, hydrogenated, and RBD coconut oils.

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