Widely used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, coconut oil is considered one of the best carrier oils on the market.
While many people may already be familiar with coconut oil and its many uses, there are different types of coconut oil, suited to different purposes.
Fractionated coconut oil is growing in popularity, though some may be unsure of the differences between regular coconut oil and fractionated coconut oil.
What is Fractionated coconut oil?
Extracted from the fruit of the Coconut tree, coconut oil is rich in fatty acids, with a thick and oily consistency. These fatty acids are smaller molecules and are generally composed of powerful substances, including lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid.
Coconut oil can be extracted in a variety of ways, but most commonly through boiling. The white flesh of the coconut is ground and pressed to produce milk, which is then boiled until only the oil is left unevaporated.
Coconut oil is available in three varieties, refined, unrefined and fractionated.
Fractionated coconut oil is made from the fractionation process used to separate fatty acids with high liquefaction points, keeping the oil in liquid form.
The fractionation process
The fractionation process involves some of the fatty acids, particularly those that solidify quickly, being separated or removed from the coconut oil.
Lauric acid and long-chain fatty acids have higher melting points compared to caprylic acid and capric acid. This means they become solid quicker when cooled.
During the fractionation process, the coconut oil is heated above its melting point, then left to cool down at room temperature.
The fatty acids that solidify (long-chain acids), which represent a ‘fraction’ of the entire volume of the oil, are then removed from the liquid.
What remains are two medium-chain fatty acids, capric acid and caprylic acid. This gives fractionated coconut oil a heavy saturation level, giving it a longer shelf life and improved stability.
The whole process can take several hours.
Uses and benefits
Coconut oil can be used for numerous purposes, including hair care, lotions, soaps and as a carrier oil in skincare and aromatherapy. It is a versatile carrier oil, that mixes well with essential oils, butters and creams.
While typically used as a carrier oil, coconut oil is packed with minerals and nutrients that can be good for the skin. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties, making it an excellent disinfectant. It’s also anti-inflammatory.
The key difference between regular coconut oil and fractionated coconut oil is that coconut oil is rich in several medium-chain fatty acids, while fractionated coconut oil consists of two medium-chain fatty acids.
Despite having low amounts of fatty acids, fractionated coconut oil provides numerous benefits, especially for cosmetic use. It is less viscous and works better than regular virgin or extra virgin coconut oil to mix easily with other essential oils for various applications.
Using fractionated coconut oil as a carrier oil can help your essential oils go further. Due to its lower viscosity, it dilutes essential oils faster, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of essential oils safely, though you should always check with a dermatologist first to ensure it’s safe to use. A clear and odourless substance, it doesn’t interfere with the fragrance of your essential oils.
Regular coconut oil can sometimes be too oily for the skin to absorb, which may result in blocked pores and potential acne breakouts. Fractionated coconut oil can be a good option for people with oily skin. It is lightweight, easily absorbed and non-greasy. This also makes it a popular option as a massage oil.
With hydrating properties, fractionated coconut oil can help your skin look smoother and healthier. It can be used on its own as a moisturiser, or as a treatment oil to soothe and rejuvenate dry or irritated skin. It can also be used with homemade soaps, bath salts, body and foot scrubs, and can be good for smoothing and conditioning hair.
A benefit many people find with fractionated coconut oil is that it stays an oil, while others can harden over time if stored in cold temperatures. While regular coconut oil solidifies when kept at room temperature, the fractionated version keeps its liquid form.
Buying fractionated coconut oil
When buying coconut oil, make sure it is clearly labelled as regular or fractionated, as the two offer different benefits and uses.
While fractionated coconut oil offers many benefits, it’s more processed than regular coconut oil. Lauric acid is one of the most beneficial fats in coconut oil. Most fractionated coconut oils contain little to no lauric acid, so remember to keep in mind that it does not offer the same health benefits as regular coconut oil.
Regardless, fractionated coconut oil is an extremely versatile product and has a long shelf life, making it a handy product to keep stocked in your home.