The smell of Coconut Oil to me is like a sun with a smiley face. It reminds me of home, the gentle waves of the sea shore, and the warm breeze softly touching my face. Uhmmm, not really…Although Coconut Oil is often associated with the tropics, it makes me remember home and my childhood in a different way. Oddly, it reminds me of the Holy week or the “Semana Santa” in the Philippines. It is the time of the year when older ladies would make coconut oil—better known in Ilonggo as “lana” or in Tagalog as “langis ng niyog”—from scratch. They extract coconut milk from grated coconut meat (of course from coconut trees grown in their backyards), and boil the milk until the oil separates from the cooked coconut meat. The cooked coconut meat is often used as toppings in Filipino desserts. The oil on the other hand is applied to hair to encourage healthy and shiny hair. It is also believed that coconut oil made during the holy week can ward off evil spirits, and so it is often used by traditional healers as therapeutic oil.
This shows how coconut oil is revered in the Philippines. Even without the knowledge of its chemical properties, and the scientific reasons why it has numerous health benefits, our ancestors considered it is the “miracle oil”. But what makes coconut oil special compared to other oils, and what is the difference between Refined Coconut Oil and Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO)?
In soap making, Coconut oil is an ideal oil because it has high levels of medium chain fatty acid which makes it unique compared to other oils (Soya, canola, etc.) that have more long chain fatty acid. The most dominant carbon chain or fatty acid found in many coconut oils is Lauric acid, which in soapmaking produces a hard soap with fluffy and stable lather. But the way that the coconut oil is processed matters. For example, Fractionated Coconut Oil, although it contains medium chain fatty acid, has had its Lauric Acid removed. It produces soap with different characteristics than those that are made from Refined Coconut Oil and VCO.
Refined Coconut Oil, sometimes referred to as RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorized) Coconut Oil, is commonly found in grocery stores and widely used in different industries like food and beverage, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, etc. It undergoes refining, bleaching and deodorizing to eliminate the impurities the oil has accumulated from the different stages of oil extraction. The process starts by drying the coconut kernels or copra under the sun (most common method used) until dryness level is achieved. Oil is then extracted, and is referred to as Coconut Crude Oil. But the oil is not fit for human consumption until it go through the RBD process as explained above. RBD Coconut oil can still be chemically processed further to produce Hydrogenated Coconut Oil and/or Fractionated Coconut Oil.
RBD Coconut Oil has a long shelf life because it has been decontaminated through the RBD process. It also has milder to zero coconut scent which is preferred by some people especially when used in cooking. However, this oil has lost many of its essential nutrients during the RBD process, although it is still healthier compared to Hydrogenated Coconut Oil or other types of oils.
Unlike RBD, VCO is prepared without chemicals using less processing. There are various methods that use either boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, mechanical centrifuge, or enzymes to extract the oil. Through these processes, the VCO stays closest to its natural form.
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is more expensive than RBD Coconut Oil because the process of oil extraction yields less oil from fresh coconut milk. (See more at: http://coconutoil.com/what-type-of-coconut-oil-is-best-how-to-choose-a-coconut-oil/#sthash.UNGNoCCi.dpuf )
The boiling process is what I described in the first paragraph (the traditional way used by older women in the Philippines). Fermentation, on the other hand, involves leaving the coconut milk to ferment (for at least 24 hours) until the oil separates from the milk. The fermentation process produces VCO that has the highest level of anti-oxidants.
VCO has significantly higher anti-oxidant properties than RBD Coconut Oil, while it still maintains the fresh coconut scent and taste. It also retains more nutrients like Vitamin E because it has not undergone a rigorous extraction process. It has superior anti-oxidant properties that help it to have a longer shelf life than RBD Coconut Oil.
It is also worth mentioning, that there is no such thing as “extra virgin” coconut oil. It is the same as Virgin Coconut Oil, the word “extra” is only used as a marketing gimmick by large corporations.
Cocobliss Naturals use Virgin Coconut Oil because while producing an ideal bar of soap, it has skin loving vitamins and minerals that are otherwise not found in RBD Coconut Oil. We believe that less processing results in an oil that is better for your skin.