Coconut Oil – A Nourishing, Versatile Carrier Oil

A Brief Guide to Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has become widely known as a multi-use oil that should be present in everyone’s home. Dry skin? Use coconut oil! Troublesome hair? Use coconut oil! Out of creamer for your coffee? Use coconut oil!

What people may not be aware of, however, is that there is another type of coconut oil that isn’t sold in the cooking oil aisle of the grocery store. We are talking about fractionated coconut oil. One of the main differences between these two oils is that coconut oil is solid at room temperature, while fractionated coconut oil remains liquid.

Why does this matter? When using coconut oil as a carrier oil, it needs to remain liquid so that you can easily apply it to the skin and mix it well with other essential oils.

The differences between the types of coconut oil are in the types of fatty acids they contain. There are three types of fatty acids: long, medium, and short-chain. Long-chain fatty acids have a higher melting point, causing the oil to be solid at room temperature.

Fractionated coconut oil has had its long-chain fatty acids removed through hydrolysis and steam distillation. Without long-chain fatty acids, the oil remains liquid.1

coconuts in tree

The History of Coconut

The humble coconut, known botanically as Cocos nucifera, has been used throughout history for many purposes. Coconuts got their own common name in the 1700s from the Portuguese. The name comes from the Portuguese word “coco,” which means head or skull. This name was inspired by the three holes present on the coconut, which causes it to look like a face.2

First, the coconut comes from the palm family and is commonly harvested for its hydrating water and delicious flesh.

Some other common uses for the coconut include extracting oil from the kernel (flesh), taking charcoal from the shell, and making rope from the outer husk. The plant has also been used to make instruments, cutlery, and baskets.

The coconut grows plentifully in many tropical regions around the world, including South America, Central America, Africa, India, Polynesia, and Asia. This versatile plant has been used throughout history to treat wounds, heal illnesses, and creates beauty products. In fact, uses coconut oil in Ayurvedic medicine dates back to as early as 1500 BCE.

Coconut Uses Around the World

Originally, coconut oil was extracted by boiling the milk of the coconut. This was then used as a sunscreen, conditioner, moisturizer for dry skin, and treatment for lice. In Southern Asia, coconut oil was added to hair products to keep hair shiny and moisturized.

On the other hand, in the Philippines, coconut oil was used to provide joint pain relief and relax muscles. In Samoa, mothers frequently applied coconut oil to the skin of young children, believing it would help them grow strong bones and promote healthy skin.

In Jamaica, coconut oil was believed to benefit heart health.3

In India, it was often used to make candles. In Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil was used to keep skin healthy and blemish-free and reduce chances of infection or illness.

Although the health benefits of coconut oil were widely known in these countries for thousands of years, the plant didn’t gain popularity around the world until much later.

The benefits of coconut oil gained recognition in Europe and the United States, however, this popularity was soon challenged by the American Soybean Association in the 1980s.

In an attempt to drive out the competition, tropical oils were targeted for increasing the risk of heart disease due to the presence of saturated fats. With this claim, the popularity of coconut oil plummeted and was replaced by soybean oil.

Later studies began to show that the saturated fats in coconut oil were actually not detrimental to heart health, and its popularity began to rise again.

Today, coconut oil has hundreds of uses and can be found in almost every supermarket and health food store. Though fractionated coconut oil is less well-known, it is widely used in the aromatherapy community because it makes an excellent carrier oil that is odorless and less prone to rancidity. 

coconut

Chemical Properties

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel (flesh) of the coconut by a variety of different processes, including cold extraction, centrifugation, fermentation, and hot extraction.4

  • Cold extraction, also referred to as “cold pressed” is a process that consists of filtering (removing impurities), milling (grinding into a paste), and then pressing (pressure that forces the oil out without heating). Once the oil has been removed, it goes through another filtering process.5
  • Centrifugation is a process in which the oil is separated by means of high-speed spinning. First, coconut milk is derived from the flesh. If left to sit, the oil would eventually naturally separate. The process of centrifugation speeds up this process. As the centrifuge spins, the oils move towards the center and can then be collected.6
  • Fermentation is a process that allows the oil to separate naturally. First, coconut milk is made from the flesh. Then the milk is left out to naturally ferment. During this process, the oils separate and remain as a layer on top of the fermented milk. They can then be collected.7
  • In the hot extraction process, coconut oil is extracted from the milk by heat. At a particular temperature, the proteins destabilize and release oil. The oil is then filtered out through a cloth.

Fractionated coconut oil is, quite literally, a “fraction” of coconut oil, wherein the long-chain fatty acids are removed through a process of hydrolysis and steam distillation.

The main component removed during this process is lauric acid, leaving behind capric acid and caprylic acid triglycerides. The resulting oil is colorless, odorless, and remains liquid even when refrigerated.

Capric acid and caprylic acids are known to absorb quickly into the skin, contain antimicrobial properties, stimulate hair growth, and repair damaged hair.

coconutsUses for Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated coconut oil is an ideal carrier oil, perfect for mixing with a wide variety of other essential oils to make massage oils, facial oils, and hair treatments.

By mixing essential oils with a carrier oil, you ensure that the concentrated essential oils don’t irritate sensitive skin. By using a liquid form of coconut oil, the essential oils you apply to the skin will be easy to apply and evenly distributed. 

Skincare

Fractionated coconut oil is extremely moisturizing, so it’s perfect for individuals suffering from dry, flaky skin. It can be added to homemade body oils, lotions, scrubs, and moisturizers.

Additionally, the oil can be applied topically on dry areas without leaving a greasy residue. It is lightweight and absorbs quickly into the skin, so it’s an ideal oil to use year-round.

Top Uses for Skincare

Some of the best ways to use fractionated coconut oil for skin care are highlighted below. 

  • Mix a few drops of lavender essential oil with fractionated coconut oil and use as a relaxing massage oil. For an even more relaxing effect, lightly warm the oil before using.
  • Use as a gentle moisturizer.
  • For an anti-aging, nourishing facial moisturizer, mix a few drops of elemi and rose essential oils with fractionated coconut oil. Apply a few drops of this mixture to your face before bedtime to wake up with rejuvenated skin.
  • Add Epsom salt, lemon essential oil, lime essential oil, and grapefruit essential oils to fractionated coconut oil and use as an invigorating natural body scrub. 
  • Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to fractionated coconut oil and add to a warm bath. Relaxing in this bath will allow your skin to soak up all of the healing properties of the oils used. For added relaxation, use a personal essential oil diffuser like Zen or Ocean MONQ
  • To heal minor wounds mix a few drops of tea tree essential oil with fractionated coconut oil and apply to the affected area.
  • To reduce the appearance of stretch marks, add a couple of drops of neroli and frankincense essential oils to fractionated coconut oil and massage directly onto stretch marks.
  • Use fractionated coconut oil as a natural shaving cream. The moisturizing qualities of the oil will ensure a smooth shave and leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated.
  • Add a few drops of fractionated coconut oil to a cotton pad and gently wipe over skin to remove makeup.

Haircare

Fractionated coconut oil is not only good for moisturizing your skin but can also bring life back to dull, dry, or damaged hair. Fractionated coconut oil can be used as a natural conditioner or used to control frizzy hair and detangle knots.

The top tips for using coconut oil to boost hair health are highlighted below. 

  • For a fresh, floral-scented way of getting rid of knots in your hair, mix a few drops of jasmine and ylang-ylang essential oils with fractionated coconut oil and comb through the hair.
  • For thick, healthy, lustrous hair, mix a few drops of rosemary or cedarwood essential oils with fractionated coconut oil and use as a natural conditioner.
  • Instead of mixing with other essential oils, simply use a small amount of coconut oil as a natural conditioner. It has incredibly moisturizing properties on its own.

Safety and Precautions

Fractionated coconut oil, is often only safe for topical use. However, there are particular forms of this oil, often marketed as “liquid” coconut oil or MCT coconut oil that is formulated for internal use. Be aware of which you are purchasing before attempting to use this oil for cooking or other internal uses.

Fractionated coconut oil doesn’t have the typical coconut scent. Some coconut essential oils may actually be coconut fragrance oils, which do not have the same healing and moisturizing properties. Be sure that you are purchasing true coconut essential oil before using the oil topically.

Though fractionated coconut oil is safe for topical use, a patch test should still be used to ensure you don’t have any allergic reactions.

coconut and palm

Conclusion

Coconut essential oil is the perfect carrier oil to have on hand. It has so many nourishing properties on its own and is safe for those with sensitive skin.

When mixed with a variety of other essential oils, it strengthens their healing properties and makes them easy to apply to the skin.

Fractionated coconut oil can be used in a wide variety of homemade beauty and skin care products, such as conditioners, moisturizers, lotions, body scrubs, makeup removers, massage oils and more.

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to your typical beauty products, fractionated coconut oil should be a staple in your collection.


Kiri Rowan

By Kiri Rowan

Kiri Rowan is a writer, photographer, and traveler with a strong interest in alternative medicine. She helps friends, family, and other travelers treat their symptoms with essential oils and medicinal plants.

Favorite MONQ blend: Vibrant

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers.

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