“I notice that you guys mention “unrefined” and “cold pressed” a lot when you’re talking about oils. What is the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil for hair? Can you please explain what the difference entails and what, if anything, it should mean to me?”
Natural oils are great for your hair and skin as well as to cook and eat with but not all of them are created equal. The terms “Cold Pressed, Unrefined, Refined, Virgin, Organic and Raw” all refer to how the oil was processed or the source of the oil and they mean a lot. First, to understand these terms, you need to understand how natural fruit oils are made. To get oil out of a source, a plant has to be processed either mechanically (unrefined) or with chemicals and heat (refined; though some refined oils are processed chemical-free). We’re going to focus on the mechanical extraction as that is where those buzz words come in and these are far superior oils in general.
EXPELLER PRESSED OILS (MECHANICAL EXTRACTION)
Expeller pressing squeezes or “mills” the oil straight out of, say an avocado, through a mechanical press and without heat or chemicals. Expeller pressed oils can sometimes cause natural heat to occur during the friction of the extraction but there is no outside heat source used to extract the oil. Usually soft fruits and nuts like olive, walnuts and avocado are processed through expeller pressing.
COLD PRESSED OILS (MECHANICAL EXTRACTION)
Despite the name, cold pressed oils are oils that have been expeller extracted in a controlled temperature setting. Heat can be created during all of this friction if the source of the oil is coming from a pit or shell, as the laws of basic physics still apply, but the heat is minimal, never an outside source and never rises above 120?F (49?C) and cannot ever for any oil to be considered cold pressed. This means that cold pressed oils retain most of their subtle flavor, color and nutritional value which is then passed on to your hair and skin.
WHAT DOES UNREFINED AND REFINED MEAN?
Unrefined oils are minimal heat processed oils (cold or expeller pressed) that have not been bleached or deodorized after extraction. Refined oils have been bleached and or deodorized for example a scented coconut oil like Moni
Under the unrefined umbrella you have “raw”/”pure” or “virgin” and “extra virgin” oils which indicates how many times the fruit was pressed to get the oil out and that they have not been refined. Extra virgin just means that the oil is extracted from the first pressing only (which is why extra virgin olive oil has such a beautiful, fragrant taste). Most “raw”/”virgin” oils are cold pressed. HINT: If you taste your oil and it does not have a taste (ex: coconut oil does not taste like a coconut) then your oil is refined. Unrefined oils tastes like they fruit they are extracted from.
This simply means that the oil was created from a plant grown by farmers or in areas that don’t use pesticides or chemicals.
Though the pressing terms are standard, do note that these umbrella unrefined terms are not standard. Some companies call their oil “extra virgin” because it has been processed with minimal extraction (mechanically or chemical). Depending on the country your oil came from your labels could mean different things.
With that, the best oil or butter you can buy for your food, hair and skin will always be an organic, cold or expeller pressed oil that is raw or extra virgin to virgin (oil close to its natural form is always best). For cooking, both refined and unrefined oils do have their advantages so play around with what works for your taste buds.