Have you ever noticed that there are several types of coconut oil available? There is RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) coconut oil (which can be purchased at different melting temperatures), organic coconut oil, expeller pressed coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil, monoi de tahiti, and virgin coconut oil. It’s enough to make you dizzy. What is the difference? In this article we’ll take a look at coconut oil processing and try to sort out what is available to cosmetic creators.
The coconut oil that is easiest and cheapest to obtain is RBD coconut oil. RBD stands for Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized. RBD coconut oil is first removed from coconut meat (copra) using chemical solvents. After the oil is removed it is then subjected to a process of refining, bleaching, and deodorizing. This processing method removes most of the solvent from the oil, and produces an oil which is white, stable and odorless. However, it also produces an oil that has also lost some of its original characteristics, such as vitamin E, antioxidants, and its sweet, subtle fragrance. RBD coconut oil also contains trace amounts of the solvent that was used to remove the oil. RBD coconut oil is usually sold as either coconut oil 76ºF, or coconut oil 92ºF. Coconut oil normally melts at 76ºF. Coconut oil with a melting point of 92ºF has been refined, bleached, deodorized, and hydrogenated. The hydrogenation causes it to be firm up to 92ºF. RBD oil is an economical oil to use in soap and cosmetic making and can be used to make everything from soaps and lotions to lipsticks and balms.
Cold-pressing and expeller processing are more natural methods of removing coconut oil from the coconut plant. The term "cold-pressed" generally means that the oil was removed from coconuts without chemicals and with a minimum of heat. Sometimes cold-pressed coconut oil is called virgin coconut oil. Cold-pressed coconut oil can either be removed from dried copra (coconut meat) or fresh coconut milk (the liquid that is inside fresh coconuts).The term "expeller pressed" is also used by many suppliers. Expeller pressed coconut oil is also removed from the coconut without chemicals, but expeller pressing usually involves more heat that cold-pressing. Cold-pressed coconut oil, due to the fact that it is processed with a minimum of heat, retains most of the nutrients originally present in the oil. Expeller processed oils are extracted at higher levels of heat, and this heat destroys some, but not all, of the nutrients originally present in the plant. Cold-pressed and expeller pressed coconut oils can be organic, meaning that the coconuts are grown without pesticides, and the oil is produced without chemicals. Cold-pressed and expeller pressed coconut oils can be used in the same way as RBD coconut oil.
Fractionated coconut oil is coconut oil that has had some of its naturally occurring fatty acids removed. The resultant oil is a light oil that is non-greasy and is absorbed readily into the skin. It is sometimes sold under its technical name which is caprylic/capric triglyceride. Fractionated coconut oil is usually used as a massage oil, or as a light oil in lotions, creams, and other cosmetic products.
Monoi de tahiti oil is coconut oil which has been infused with gardenia flowers. It is a luxury all by itself. When buying this oil, be sure to look for the seal of certification to be sure you are getting the real thing. Authentic Monoi de tahiti must meet specific standards as outlined in French decree 92-340. Specifically “Monoï of Tahiti is the product obtained by the maceration of flowers of Tiaré in the Copra oil refined, extracted from coconuts collected in the geographical surface of French Polynesia at the ripe nut stage, on grounds of coral origin. These nuts must come from the coconut “Nucifera Coconuts” and the flowers from Tiaré from the vegetable species “Gardenia taitensis” (Flora of Candolle) of Polynesian origin”(quoted from the Institute de Monoi at www.monoi-institut.org). Authentic Monoi de Tahiti oil is made by soaking at least ten tiare blossoms for at least ten days in 1 liter of coconut oil. Monoi de tahiti oil is used by Polynesian women as a skin and hair moisturizer. It can be used as is, or as an ingredient in any cosmetic product which uses coconut oil.