The Difference Between Extra Virgin and Fractionated Coconut Oil

January 10, 2016 Silvana Pure

What’s the Difference Between Extra Virgin and Fractionated Coconut Oil?


We love our coconut oil. Rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and penetrating fatty acids, it’s one of the most hydrating and plumping oils we can use. That’s why we have it in our products.


A Little Bit About How Oils are Extracted

You may already know that no oils are created the same way. The main difference lies in how they are extracted from the nut, fruit, vegetable, or seed. (For coconut oil, it’s extracted from the meat of the coconut.)

In general, there are three basic ways this is done:

  • With heat: Manufacturers apply heat to the source material, which separates the oil over time. Picture olives piled in the sun, or palm fruits boiled in water, after which the oil is skimmed from the surface.
  • With chemicals: The nuts or fruits are ground or rolled up, and then washed with a chemical solution that releases the oil. These processes usually include heat as well, as the oil is heated to separate it from the chemical solution.
  • By pressing: A mechanical press actually presses the oil out of the source material. The result is thought to be purer and less contaminated than that which results from other types of extraction.

Once the oil is extracted, it is then usually refined in some way to get rid of impurities. Though mass produced coconut oil may go through a number of processes, we have two main alternatives to choose from:

  • Unrefined: The oil is filtered to remove large particles, but is subject to no additional refining.
  • Refined: The oil is exposed to chemicals, heat, or other materials to remove impurities.


What is Extra Virgin Oil?

For our products, we prefer as little processing as possible, as we want an oil that’s as close to the original source material as we can get. Oils labeled “virgin” or “extra virgin” are typically unrefined, meaning they haven’t been exposed to chemicals that can potentially linger behind to get on your skin, or that may damage some of the natural components of the oil.

To be clear: Refined oils aren’t necessarily exposed to chemicals but some may be treated with only heat or clays to filter and purify the oil. But on the whole, virgin oils are the least processed of all available oils, maintain more of the natural components, and usually test higher for things like antioxidants and nutrients.

In a 2009 study, for example, researchers compared the antioxidant capacity of virgin coconut oil with oil that had been refined, bleached, and deodorized. They found that the virgin coconut oil had a higher antioxidant capacity than oil that had been significantly processed.


What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?

The extra virgin oil, because of its natural composition, doesn’t fit the bill. Since coconut oil is such a superior moisturizer, we didn’t want to leave it out of our formulas. So we needed an alternative.

Fractionated coconut oil, also called “liquid coconut oil,” fit our requirements. Basically, it is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature, and extends the product’s shelf life.

There are three basic types of fatty acids—short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain. Long-chain fatty acids have more carbon atoms, which means they require higher temperatures to melt. Fats that are solid at room temperature have longer chain lengths—thus, coconut oil.

One of the fatty acids that’s mostly removed in fractionation is lauric acid—a type of “healthy” saturated fat found in high quantities in coconut and palm kernel oils. It’s a great fat to have in skin care because it’s so moisturizing, as well as being a powerful antibacterial and antiviral substance. Removing it, though, gives us the liquid product we need to use in our products.

Once the lauric acid and other long-chain fatty acids are gone, you’re still left with a lot of good stuff, including medium chain fatty acids like capric, caprylic, myristic and palmitic, all of which retain their super-moisturizing capabilities. You also still have the natural antioxidants, which protect from premature aging, and nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, which help maintain collagen production.

Fractionated coconut oil is completely soluble with other oils, which makes it the perfect carrier oil, capable of ushering other oils into the skin. It is also extremely light, and absorbs quickly into the skin without clogging pores. You’re left with a soft, smooth feeling that won’t exacerbate oiliness or leave you feeling greasy.


Enjoy the Moisturizing Benefits Either Way!

In other words, we’ve got the benefits of coconut oil in each of our products so no one has to go without it’s great benefits!