Coconut Oil

What is it? The oil pressed from the meat of coconuts. Depending on the ambient temperature where you live/store your coconut oil it can be either liquid (in temperatures above ~24°C/75°F) or solid (in temperatures below ~24°C/75°F).

You can also purchase fractionated coconut oil, which is coconut oil that has been modified so that it’s always liquid, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Fractionated coconut oil and coconut oil are not interchangeable.

Coconut oil contains ~48% lauric acid; this saturated fatty acid is a big part of what gives coconut oil its gorgeous slip. Lauric acid melts around 43°C (109°F) and feels quite thin and slippy on the skin, while palmitic acid melts around 63°C (145°F) and stearic acid melts around 70°C (158°F), and both of those feel much more substantial and buttery (you’ll find high concentrations of these buttery fatty acids in Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter). That high lauric acid composition is why coconut oil so readily tips between solid and liquid, melting around 25°C (77°F), and why we call it an oil rather than a butter.

INCI Cocos Nucifera Oil
Appearance When solid, coconut oil is a chunky white fat.

When coconut oil has melted, it’s a clear liquid.

Texture Coconut oil is a solid soft white oil that quickly liquifies on contact with skin. If you live somewhere with an ambient temperature above 24°C/75°F then it’ll be a liquid oil. Once melted it’s an extremely smooth oil with excellent slip/lubrication properties.
Scent Delicious! The virgin stuff smells like piña coladas and will leave you thinking you’re on a tropical vacation. It smells incredible. The RBD (refined/bleached/deodorized) variety smells like nothing.
Absorbency Speed Average
Why do we use it in formulations? In soap coconut oil contributes incredible bubbly lather that’s nearly impossible to get with other oils, which is why coconut oil is in nearly every single soap recipe you’ll find.

In body products I love to use it for its incredible scent and for its glide; coconut oil is so slippery that it pairs beautifully with stiffer, slower-melting fats (like shea butter). It’s also lovely in lip products for great slip.

Approximate Melting Point 24°C/75°F
Do you need it? Yeah! It’s super versatile and smells amazing.
Refined or unrefined? I have both; I use the refined/bleached/deodorized stuff for soap (it’s much cheaper), and the virgin variety for everything else.
Strengths Delicious scent, great slip on the skin thanks to its high lauric acid content.
Weaknesses It’s a bit thin to be a great moisturizer in very dry climates, and too much take a product from feeling pleasantly “slippy” to oily.
Alternatives & Substitutions You’ll want an oil that is high in lauric acid and not too high in palmitic or stearic acid. Babassu oil and palm seed/kernel (not fruit!) oils both fit this bill 🙂
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, coconut oil should last at least two years; its high saturated fat content makes coconut oil quite resistant to going rancid. If you live somewhere temperatures can fluctuate above and below 24°F (75°F) I recommend storing your coconut a wide-mouthed tub (rather than a narrow-mouthed har) so you can still get to it if it solidifies.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Virgin coconut oil is one of a few ingredients that will scent a final product; it smells amazing when paired with honey-scented golden beeswax and chocolatey unrefined cocoa butter!
Recommended starter amount 250mL (8fl oz) unless you’re using it for soap, in which case I would get at least 1L (34fl oz) of the refined & bleached variety.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier; my favourite coconut oil is the “traditional” coconut oil sold by Baraka.

Some Formulations that Use Coconut Oil


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Posted on

August 25, 2016