Fractionated Coconut Oil Vs Virgin Coconut Oil

Fractionated coconut oil sucks... just because it is not as natural as virgin coconut oil?

No way! We can't simply base on such fact and say that fractionated coconut oil is bad. That's outright unfair to fractionated coconut oil, don't you think?

I would say each has its own benefits on health and skin, and in other aspects. But whether their benefits apply to you or not will depend on what you're looking for. Why not we compare their properties side by side first so that you can make a better decision on which one to choose for your needs?

Properties Fractionated Coconut Oil (aka MCT oil, Liquid Coconut Oil) Virgin Coconut Oil
Type Refined, man-made Unrefined, natural
Content 100% medium-chain fatty acids Less than 1% short-, 64% medium- and 35% long-chain fatty acids
Also known as... MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil or liquid coconut oil Unrefined coconut oil or Extra-virgin coconut oil
Degree of saturation 100% saturated 92% saturated, 8% unsaturated
Melting point 14 to 25 °F (-10 to -4 °C) 76 °F (24 °C)
Smoke point 320 °F (160 °C) 350 °F (177 °C)
Color in liquid state Colorless Colorless
Color in solid state Snowy white Snowy white
Odor Odorless Scent of coconut
Uses Skin care products, hair care, massage oil, medicine, special diet for athletes Skin care, hair care, food for health benefits
Shelf life Several months to 5 years 2 years

It seems that the only common characteristic between fractionated and virgin coconut oil is their color.

For your infoHigh quality fractionated coconut oil should look colorless. Low quality may appear yellowish due to the moldy impurities or other colored contaminants not completely removed in the manufacturing process.

Other than that, everything else is different. And their differences mean that their uses and benefits on your health and skin will be different.

1. Health Benefits

Let's zoom in on the fatty acids both fractionated and virgin coconut oil carry because these are the key components that determine how much health benefits you can gain from the oils.

Name of Fatty Acid Size Fractionated Coconut Oil Virgin Coconut Oil
Caproic acid Short-chain 0 ~ 0.5%
Caprylic acid Medium-chain 60–75% ~ 8%
Capric acid Medium-chain 25–40% ~ 6%
Lauric acid Medium-chain 0–10% ~ 50%
Myristic acid Long-chain 0 ~ 17%
Palmitic acid Long-chain 0 ~ 8%
Stearic acid Long-chain 0 ~ 3%
Arachidic acid Long-chain 0 0 – 0.5%
Oleic acid Long-chain 0 ~ 6%
Linoleic acid Long-chain 0 ~ 2%

Fractionated coconut oil composes mainly of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are indisputably very much healthier than long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs).

But that doesn't mean fractionated coconut oil is relatively better for your health. Look at the types of fatty acids it carries – caprylic and capric acids (with only a few percent of lauric acid and that occurs to only certain brands sold in the name of liquid coconut oil).

It's true that caprylic and capric acids convert very quickly to energy, and they do not require the release of insulin (that inhibit your body from burning fat) to transport them into cells, unlike long-chain fatty acids and carbohydrates. For these reasons, taking MCT oil (an edible version of fractionated coconut oil) can help reduce your body fat and boost your exercise performance.

For your infoFractionated coconut oil comes in 3 different names – Fractionated coconut oil for skin care and other external uses, MCT oil for use in hospitals and as special dietary supplement, and Liquid coconut oil for cooking.

Do you work out a lot and need to max up your performance? Are you seriously overweight that you need to burn lots of excess body fat? Then you need this fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil to be exact).

But if health is a much greater concern to you, virgin coconut oil that gives half of its content to lauric acid is your best choice since lauric acid is an exceptionally powerful germ killer. With little or no lauric acid in fractionated coconut oil, you'll have to depend largely on your own body's immune system to fight off any hardcore invading microorganisms.

Of course, caprylic and capric acids do hold antimicrobial properties too, but they're good at fighting certain strains of bacteria and viruses only, unlike the broader range of bacteria and viruses (such as HIV, measles virus, sarcoma virus, influenza virus, leukemia virus, H. pylori, chlamydia pneumoniae etc) that lauric acid covers.

To top it off, virgin coconut oil contains 7 other fatty acids (caproic, myristic, palmitic, stearic, arachidic, oleic and linoleic acids) with each targeting different types and strains of parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi, giving an extra boost to your immunity.

What's more, after energy conversion you're left with little caprylic and capric compounds to kill germs if you were to take fractionated coconut oil. Hence, fractionated coconut oil can't protect you like what virgin coconut oil does.

For your infoVirgin coconut oil also contains trace amount of fat-soluble nutrients such as iron, vitamin E and vitamin K. You can't find them in fractionated coconut oil because of the high temperature process it has gone through that destroys the nutrients. Though these nutrients do not benefit you much since they come in very small quantity, a little more from virgin coconut oil is better than none in fractionated coconut oil, agree?

2. Skin Benefits

When it comes to skin benefits, I can't side with virgin coconut oil too much because fractionated coconut oil, to be honest, is more popular in the skin care aspect, particularly in the massage therapy industry.

Virgin coconut oil is rarely in use for massage therapy because of its composition of LCFAs, which make the oil more viscous than fractionated coconut oil. Which means, fractionated coconut oil gets absorbed relatively faster by your skin. Thanks to its 100% MCFAs that are so small they can effortlessly and quickly penetrate your skin cells and moisturize your skin. This makes you feel less greasier on your skin.

In fact, virgin coconut oil is good for skin too. It's true that it does not penetrate your skin as fast as fractionated coconut oil, but it protects your skin from harmful germs very much better than fractionated coconut oil. Again, because it comprises a set of 10 antimicrobial compounds as mentioned moments ago.

Upon applying virgin coconut oil to your skin, friendly bacteria on your skin will eat up the glycerols that tie the fatty acids together and then release lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and other fatty acids (as well as their monoglycerides) to form an army of antimicrobials layering on your skin to combat and kill any invading bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and other germs right on the spot.

Defending your skin against germs is not what the massage therapists focus on. Their job is to primarily make your skin smooth so they can perform the massage on you and make you feel relax quickly.

So what is your focus? If your skin is dry and you need some oil treatment to wet your skin so it looks supple and bouncy, use fractionated coconut oil. But if you're not so particular about getting the oil absorbed quickly and all you want is protection against health-detrimental germs, then you need virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil will still get absorbed by your skin though, it's just that the rate of absorption is relatively slower.

You can actually use both – apply a thin layer of fractionated coconut oil followed by another thin layer of virgin coconut oil. Putting on thin layer is to prevent your skin from getting saturated and becoming oily.

I'm not so particular about the absorption rate, which is why I use virgin coconut oil for skin care since I'm already having it as food. You might feel a little awkward to have something that goes into your mouth putting on your skin too or vice versa. But that's what you can also do with virgin coconut oil. You can't eat fractionated coconut oil that is made for skin care.

3. Convenience

Anytime you need fractionated coconut oil it is always there for you to use, even in places where temperature falls below 32 °F (0 °C). This means that you can refrigerate the oil and it'll still remain as liquid. And when you need to use it for skin care, cooking, or add it to your food you do not need to warm it. Just take it out and you're ready to use.

I say that because virgin coconut oil begins to turn cloudy at temperature below 76 °F (24 °C) and becomes as hard as rock as temperature falls way further. Chiseling is one way to get the oil out of the jar for use (not kidding, I've done that stupid thing before and it messes up my kitchen top). Of course, there is a better solution to use the hardened oil – warm it, but it takes quite a while.

If time is a critical factor to you, you would fall in love with fractionated coconut oil.

The low melting (or freezing) point also gives fractionated coconut oil an edge over virgin coconut oil in massage therapy. It remains in liquid state in an air-conditioned room. It'll drive the massage therapists banana if they were to use virgin coconut oil.

For your infoThis low melting (freezing) point of fractionated coconut oil enables it to be packaged in narrow-mouth bottles that you can simply pour out or spray out the content with a pump. Virgin coconut oil, on the contrary, is normally kept in jar that got a big mouth for easy scooping.

So, would you choose fractionated over virgin coconut oil just because fractionated coconut oil provides greater convenience for you?

4. Cooking

When you cook with liquid coconut oil (the edible form of fractionated coconut oil), you must try to keep the temperature below 320 °F (160 °C) because at this point the oil will start to smoke and its chemical structure will break down. When it breaks down, it means every bit of the oil's healthful properties will be destroyed.

Virgin coconut oil has a relatively higher smoke point @ 350 °F (177 °C). However, both are not suitable for high heat cooking where temperatures range between 450 °F and 650 °F (232 °C – 343 °C)

Both are good for low to medium heat cooking, with virgin coconut oil slightly advantageous since it can withstand relatively higher heat. Also, virgin coconut oil can help to enhance the flavor of your food, making it tastier and more delicious, but that's provided you like the natural coconut scent it carries, like me.

If you really can't stand the coconut odor that is intrinsically and uniquely present in virgin coconut oil or you want to preserve the original flavor of the food, then use the tasteless and odorless liquid coconut oil for cooking.

5. Life Span

Because fractionated coconut oil comprises 100% saturated fatty acids (all its MCFAs are saturated), it can stand against oxidation very effectively. If left unopened and there is zero moisture inside the container, you can keep the oil for as long as 5 years or even longer. But once you open it for use, as long as you really handle it very well and keep it away from any potential contact with moisture, bacteria and other germs, the life span of the oil can still hold up to 5 years before it goes rancid.

On the other hand, virgin coconut oil may not last up to 5 years due to its natural inclusion of unsaturated fatty acids (about 8%) that may start to oxidize over time. Its shelf life is normally given as 2 years. But again, if you handle it properly even after opened, it can last a few months more.

But honestly, I've never kept virgin coconut oil for that long. In about 2 weeks a jar of 23 oz (680 ml) would be gone. Even fractionated coconut oil that we use regularly for massage purpose lasts for only a few months and not more than a year.

If you're serious about using them for your health or skin care, you wouldn't store them for that long, unless you really buy them in gallons and have to stock them up for quite some time. But I would not suggest doing that. Just buy the amount you need for 3 to 6 months and replenish your stock as soon as they're almost finish. That way you can make sure the oils are still in pretty good condition. That's what I do.

6. Price

Don't think that fractionated coconut oil is cheap just because it is synthetically made. It is produced via a very complex industrial process. This involves money, so it's not cheap though. This is why sometimes you can see fractionated coconut oil selling at a higher price than virgin coconut oil for the same volume. For example...

Fractionated Coconut Oil Virgin Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil 16 oz by Premium Nature

16 oz @ $11.99 (Amazon)

Note: For external use only. Not for consumption. (Price may vary at Amazon's discretion.)

Virgin coconut oil 16 oz by Viva Naturals

16 oz @ $8.51 (Amazon)

Note: For both consumption and external use. (Price may vary at Amazon's discretion.)

MCT oil 32 oz by Viva Naturals

32 oz @ $39.50 (Amazon)

Note: For both consumption and external use. (Price may vary at Amazon's discretion.)

Virgin coconut oil 32 oz by Viva Naturals

32 oz @ $13.73 (Amazon)

Note: For both consumption and external use. (Price may vary at Amazon's discretion.)

For the same amount with pretty much lower price but yet virgin coconut oil gives you very much greater health benefits and stronger protection against health-damaging super germs, I don't see why you should use fractionated coconut oil unless you really have a specific purpose like massage therapists who need it as a carrier or massage oil, or bodybuilders who need MCT oil to help reduce their body fat without losing their hard-earned muscle mass.

That's my take, what's yours?

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You May Also Like to Find Out...

  1. Where can You Buy Virgin Coconut Oil?
  2. Virgin Coconut Oil Health Benefits
  3. How to Take Coconut Oil for Health Benefits?
  4. How to Lose Weight with Coconut Oil?
  5. Benefits of Coconut Oil for Skin
  6. How to Apply Coconut Oil to Skin?
  7. Can Coconut Oil Cause Acne?
  8. Does Coconut Oil Cause Diarrhea?
  9. Coconut Oil Drawbacks
  10. Side Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil

References

  1. Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
  2. Nutrition Facts of Coconut Oil
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17 thoughts on “Fractionated Coconut Oil Vs Virgin Coconut Oil

  1. This was one of the most helpful articles on coconut oil that I have read... I use both EVCO, and new to MCT oil. I think I can now use them with more understanding... I bought MCT oil for body fat reduction, but now will also use it as a carrier oil for aromatherapy when fast absorption is desired, and EVCO when more anti-microbial properties are desired... A lot of good, usable information that clarifies ... Thank-you!!!!

    • Hi Chris, thanks for your compliment. I tried to give as much as my experience tells. You'll definitely have your own experience with MCT oil or extra-virgin coconut oil (EVCO) which may or may not be the same as mine.

      But do be aware of MCT oil as it contains solely medium-chain triglycerides which may produce a much quicker and stronger diarrhea-like symptoms than EVCO, which explains why some athletes get GI symptoms with MCT oil and thought that MCT oil breaks their performance instead of helping them improve their performance. The key to using MCT oil or EVCO is to gradually increase its intake to allow your body to adapt to its bowel-stimulating effect.

  2. Great article! I was looking for info on the difference between both oils and how lauric acid fights bacteria and found it here.

  3. Great article here, lots of really helpful information. But don't forget to notify people that Virgin coconut oil can clog pipes etc if not property disposed of. Thanks again for the great article 🙂

    • Hi Halle, thanks for your reminder. Virgin coconut oil does clog pipes when the pipes are cold as the oil solidifies below 76 °F (24 °C). Just run hot water through the pipes to melt the hardened oil.

      Just in case anyone thought that virgin coconut oil will clog arteries or other blood vessels as it does to pipes. Nope. All our blood vessels are well kept in body temperature way above 76 °F (24 °C). Which is why virgin coconut oil is able to provide health benefits for us.

  4. Thank you for this article! I currently use unrefined extra virgin coconut oil in the kitchen for cooking and on my hair, MCT oil in my diet, and fractionated cosmetic grade in the bathroom for my skin and face! It looks like i'll be putting some of the extra virgin coconut oil in the bathroom for my face to see if it works visibly differently than the fractionated! This article was very helpful for plotting uses! 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for this helpful comparison! I've been using fractionated coconut oil mixed with various essential oils on my face every morning because it absorbed quickly and didn't leave me feeling greasy (or make my bangs greasy), then cleansing my face and applying EVCO before bed every night. Then I began seeing articles and blogs denouncing the use of fractionated coconut oil. Thanks to this article I now know why my skin looks and feels so much smoother and healthier and much less wrinkled and the fractionated oil seems to play a part in that. I am on the backside of "middle age" and coconut (both fractionated and extra virgin), jojoba oil, plus a host of other essential oils, have made a huge difference!

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