Fractionated Coconut Oil Vs Virgin Coconut Oil

Fractionated vs virgin coconut oil

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

No way! We can't just base on that and say 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 Virgin Coconut Oil
Type Refined, man-made Unrefined, natural
Content Purely medium-chain triglycerides Less than 1% short-, 50–64% medium- and 35% long-chain triglycerides
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 80–90% saturated, 8–10% unsaturated
Melting point 14 to 25 °F (-10 to -4 °C) 76 °F (24 °C)
Smoke point 320 to 350 °F (160 to 177 °C) 350 °F (177 °C)
Color in liquid state Colorless Colorless
Color in solid state Snowy white Snowy white
Odor Odorless with a subtle pungent smell
(When packaged as Liquid Coconut Oil, it may give off a delicate coconut scent)
Scent of coconut
Uses Skin care products, hair care, massage oil
(When packaged as MCT Oil, it can help boost your athletic performance. Also, hospital uses MCT oil to treat certain health issues. When packaged as Liquid Coconut Oil, you can cook your food with it.)
Skin care, hair care, food for health benefits
Shelf life Up 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. Lower quality one 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. 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 35–75% ~ 8%
Capric acid Medium-chain 25–45% ~ 6%
Lauric acid Medium-chain 0–33% ~ 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 (plus some lauric acid that occurs only to certain brands sold in the name of Liquid Coconut Oil and MCT 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 (the 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, then virgin coconut oil that gives half of its content to lauric acid is your best choice. This is because lauric acid is an exceptionally powerful germ killer.

With some 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 several other fatty acids (such as 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

If you have both types with you now, try rubbing a dab of each on your skin. You would have felt that fractionated coconut oil seeps in faster.

This is because fractionated coconut oil comprises 100% MCFAs. MCFAs are so small and light that they can effortlessly and quickly penetrate your skin cells to moisturize your skin. This makes you feel less greasier on your skin.

Virgin coconut oil, on the other hand, is more viscous and hence, absorb relatively slower into the skin. Why? Because of the presence of about 35% LCFAs.

However, virgin coconut oil can defend you against harmful germs more effectively. Thanks to its more complete set of antimicrobial compounds as mentioned moments ago.

For your infoUpon application, friendly bacteria on your skin will help to break down the triglycerides into fatty acids. They achieve that by eating up the glycerols that tie the fatty acids together.

As a result, lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and other fatty acids (as well as their monoglycerides) are released to form an army of antimicrobials that layer over your skin to combat and kill any invading bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and other germs right on the spot.

So, what is your focus?

If you have dry skin 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.

If you want to have the best of both worlds – use fractionated coconut oil first to hydrate your skin followed by virgin coconut oil to get you protected.

You can also mix them both together to form a "hybrid" before application. I do this sometimes. They blend with each other very well since fractionated coconut oil is actually a subset of virgin coconut oil.

The rate of absorption for this hybrid would then be somewhere in between fractionated and virgin coconut oil. And the antimicrobial properties, of course, will be much better than fractionated coconut oil alone.

Please be warned that this mixture is not fit for consumption anymore since you can't eat fractionated coconut oil that is made solely for skin care. But if it's the edible version called MCT oil, then of course, you can eat.

Speaking of that, if you want to keep it simple and make your life easier, just use virgin coconut oil for both skin care and consumption. For that matter, virgin coconut oil does a pretty good job as a "one size fits all" solution.

I know 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 do with virgin coconut oil.

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 effortlessly 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. However in tropical regions like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore etc where the surrounding temperatures are mostly above 76 °F (24 °C), it's not surprising to see virgin coconut oil storing in narrow-mouth bottles.

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

4. Cooking

Different companies produce liquid coconut oils (edible type of fractionated coconut oil) that have different smoke points, ranging from 320 °F (160 °C) to 350 °F (177 °C). Virgin coconut oil, in general, has a more stable smoke point at 350 °F (177 °C).

What does that tell you?

If you get a liquid coconut oil that smokes at 320 °F (160 °C), its chemical structure will break down earlier than that of virgin coconut oil. And its health properties will be destroyed. In this context, virgin coconut oil is better for use in cooking.

Of course, if your liquid coconut oil can withstand up to 350 °F (177 °C) before it smokes, just like virgin coconut oil, then we'll have to look at how your food will be affected in terms of flavor.

For your infoBoth are not suitable for high heat cooking where temperatures range between 450 °F and 650 °F (232 °C – 343 °C)

To me, virgin coconut oil can help to enhance the flavor of my food, making it tastier and more delicious. What about you? Do you like the natural coconut scent virgin coconut oil carries?

If you think the coconut odor virgin coconut oil gives off is too strong for your liking, then use liquid coconut oil that emits a lighter, more delicate scent.

5. Life Span

Because fractionated coconut oil comprises 100% saturated fatty acids (all its MCFAs are saturated), it can stand against oxidation very effectively, even when heated (of course, below its smoke point).

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 and skin care 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.

Which 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 @ $11.39 (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 @ $10.25 (Amazon)

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

MCT oil 32 oz by Viva Naturals

32 oz @ $23.74 (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 @ $15 (Amazon)

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

For the same amount with relatively much lower price, virgin coconut oil gives you more health benefits. It offers you stronger protection against health-damaging super germs too.

That said, 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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31 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!

  6. Great article thanks. During the processing of fractionated oil does it involve anything more than temperature and water do you know please?

    • Hi Sarah, the esterification process that combines medium-chain (caprylic and capric) fatty acids with glycerols to form medium-chain triglycerides may involve the use of dehydrating agent or molecular sieve to catalyze the reaction and remove any unbound water molecules. Because of this, some chemicals from the agent or sieve may seep into the oil. But I believe it's only in trace amount (if it does seep) which should not pose any threat to our health.

      As for what kind of chemical agent or sieve the manufacturer would use, that you'll have to check with them if you happen to buy fractionated coconut oil from them since different manufacturers may use different chemical agents or sieves for esterication. You can take a look at the infographical process of making fractionated coconut oil on Can You Eat Fractionated Coconut Oil if you want to.

  7. Hi, wondering if you know if the fractionated type would work in flea repelling and prevention on our dogs or would we need to use regular EVCO? Can't quite tell from the article.

    • Hi Chris, use extra-virgin coconut oil (EVCO), which actually is virgin coconut oil. They're essentially the same. This is because virgin coconut oil has lauric acid and other antimicrobials that can help to get rid of and prevent fleas, ticks and other parasites on dogs and cats, and other pets. Fractionated coconut oil carries only caprylic and capric acids which are not powerful enough to ward off parasites.

  8. Thank you for this post - It's a helpful, straightforward explanation of the differences between the two oils (I kept forgetting what 'fractonated' meant anytime I was at the store). 😀
    As a licensed massage therapist for the last 2 decades, though, I'd like to add that plenty of MTs do use virgin coconut oil. I actually LOVE that it hardens at room temperature, because that way it never gets knocked over and stains carpets or clothing, and it's easy for me to melt the exact amount I need in my hands, as I go. LMTs actually do worry about the anti-bacterial properties and overall health benefits of the products we use on our clients' bodies [well, most of us, anyway; some bargain basement 'spas' use jugs of generic mineral oil :0 ]. We typically choose high-quality oils or blend a couple to get the amount of glide we want (e.g., coconut, almond, grapeseed, apricot, jojoba, avocado). It usually just comes down to the therapist's personal preference to work with and the type of massage they're doing at the time.
    We're trained in massage school to think of the skin as an organ that absorbs everything you put on it, good or bad - obviously, not at all to the degree as pouring it down our throats, but still not *completely* dissimilar to consuming it. Largely for that reason, I think that many of us are biased in favor of oils that we could use in food. There are definitely excellent massage-only products; Biotone's deep tissue creme was a necessity for me, until I discovered I could use plain cocoa butter, to similar effect (you may notice a trend in my own preferences toward solid-until-needed oil 😀 ).
    I found this page because I was trying to figure out exactly what fractionated coconut oil was for, but I've been happily using virgin coconut oil in my practice, as well as on my own skin and hair, and in my food, for years now. Vive huile coco!
    Much love and thanks for all the awesome info!

    • Hi Rianne, you've made a great point by saying that hardened virgin coconut oil (at room temp) never gets knocked over and stains carpets or clothing, and it's easy for you to melt the exact amount you need in your hands, as you go.

      Thank you so much for adding so much invaluable information to this article. 😀

    • I'm so sorry, Archana. No matter how busy I was, I shouldn't have overlooked your query. I tried my best to make sure no stones are left unturned when responding to comments. But the fact is, I goofed. I feel you and I sincerely apologize for holding you up for six months. Very, very sorry about that.

      Answering your question...

      You can make fractionated coconut oil at home provided you have the necessary apparatus for hydrolysis, fractional distillation and esterification. Visit Can You Eat Fractionated Coconut Oil? and scroll down till the section Is it Good to Eat Fractionated Coconut Oil? There's an image describing the process of making fractionated coconut oil.

  9. Hi. Love this article. Do you think fractionated coconut oil is better for hydrating dry, frizzy hair than ordinary coconut oil? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me. Bern

    • Hi Bernadette, yes, in my opinion, since fractionated coconut oil carries only medium-chain fatty acids which can permeate cells quickly. You can try out on your own and see how your hair fares.

  10. I use essential oils faithfully and haven’t been able to make a decision on which coconut oil to use with them as a carrier oil. Your article was on spot and completely helpful and easy to understand, thank you.

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