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Coconut Oil - RV, FCO and Refined...what's the difference?

When I first began formulating my own bodycare products many years ago, I was also exploring an all raw food diet and vegan philosophy. Not surprisingly I only ever chose raw, certified organic, virgin coconut oil as my go to product. The thought of using something 'processed' wasn't on my radar and it took many years until I started to see the research into coconut oils coming out into the wider information funnels, and believe me, there is just a tonne of stuff out there now. It's a labyrinth of conflicting information, so I won't add to that, but instead I'll attempt to keep it simple.

FCO and Raw Virgin Coconut Oil

Firstly, what's the difference between RV Coconut Oil (raw, virgin), Fractionated Coconut Oil and Refined Coconut Oil?

  • RV Coconut Oil (above right) is cold pressed coconut flesh. I choose to support certified organic industry as much as possible, so I chose a product that had gone through that certification. This product hardens at cool temperatures and has a pleasant coconut aroma and the taste is mild to medium. Overusing it isn't pleasant so it's best to err on the side of minimalism when using it in recipes like raw food bites, cakes and drinks.

  • Fractionated Coconut Oil / FCO (above left) goes through a heating process (fractionation, similar to distillation) to extract the long chain fats from the medium chain fats. The result is that this oil is liquid in cool temperatures and has virtually no aroma. Sometimes this product is marketed as 'MCT Oil', but read the label as some MCT contains Palm Oil, which I avoid because of its negative farming processes. I also research the way it has been fractionated so that it has been a physical process and not a solvent one. I actively limit my contact with chemicals, so I'd definitely make sure that I am using a safe FCO. Lastly, the FCO I choose is a Certified Organic product.

  • Refined Coconut Oil is very similar to the raw coconut oil but it has been steam heated to remove impurities and will still have a faint coconut aroma and go solid at cool temperatures. Again, check that the process of refining does not involve chemicals as well. I have used this in formulations in the past, however I choose to use either raw or fractionated in my products now.

But hang on, isn't coconut oil comodegenic?

You've probably read that RV coconut is comodegenic, and it would be if you slathered it on like a cream, however the amount used in MEM's formulations is so small that it can't clog your pores, and in conjunction with the other ingredients, it forms useful and beneficial bonds that remove dirt and pollution without stripping the skin's protective mantle. The result of using these kinds of cleansers is like a 'reset' for the oil producing glands in your skin and can help to balance and regulate your sebum (body's oil) production.

In some skincare preparations like the Powdered Cleansers, Powdered BodyWash and Body Scrubs, RV coconut oil is used in a small but effective amounts, and when mixed in with the botanical powders and salts, it acts as a gentle cleanser for your skin (and the plumbing 😉). But why have I chosen RV instead of FCO for these formulations? Because of the nutrient profile of RV. It's packed with natural antioxidant qualities, essential fatty acids (the caprylic and capric antioxidants) and lauric acid, which is significantly lowered in the FCO process.

Lauric acid is a long chain fatty acid that helps to plump up and effectively hydrate cells. RV has mild analgesic (pain relieving) effects, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities, Vitamins A, C and E and assists in promoting skin healing. Because it also helps to reduce and counteract oxidative stress from UV exposure, it is also a great ingredient to be using everyday when you live in a sunny climate or involved in an outdoor-rich lifestyle. You only need a little of it, in regular usage, to achieve the benefits. Raw Coconut Oil was chosen for the new protective cream 'Shield' (along with plenty of other UV protective ingredients) because of those qualities.

You'll find FCO in some of my skincare, bodycare and oralcare products (like the new PEARLING OIL and DEEP PEARL Holistic Dental Care products). This is a specific choice to give you the healthy option of coconut oil without the plumbing issues during cold weather. FCO won't clog up your pipes like straight RV coconut oil would, as FCO stays in liquid form in cold temperatures. It's also in some of the Facial Oils and Multipurpose Body Oils because it absorbs rapidly leaving the skin soft and smooth. It enables some of the more volatile oils (that need to be diluted for use) a quicker access to the deeper dermal layers and pretty much acts as a vehicle component while still being a beneficial active ingredient. In both situations you'll find application onto clean, damp skin produces the best outcome.


I hope that helps to clarify concerns about the various coconut oils and how they are used. FCO is also one of the best oils to use when learning Botanical Perfumery as it has no smell, or colour, and therefore helps you to interact with the beautiful botanicals authentically, getting a genuine 'read' on their energy profiles and all those mysterious, mystical, gorgeous messages coming through. It's so good to use with babies and those with very sensitive skin, so choose it or Jojoba as your diluting agent when using some of the Aromatherapy oils and enjoy the true scent of your blends.


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