Unrefined vs Refined Coconut Oil For Hair: Which Is Best?

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Read our full disclosure policy here.

In this article, we will look at the benefits of coconut oil for hair and delve into the difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil to examine which one is best for your hair.

Unrefined vs Refined Coconut Oil For Hair

Written by Michelle Casey

Unrefined coconut oil is better for hair than refined coconut oil. This is because unrefined coconut oil is not as processed and therefore doesn’t include any additives. Unrefined coconut oil is also more nutritionally dense and retains natural enzymes usually lost through processing.

Benefits Of Coconut Oil For Hair

Coconut oil, sourced from the flesh of the coconut, has been widely used in Africa, Asia, and South America for hundreds of years.

In recent years, coconut oil has soared in popularity further afield with claims it can improve brain function, increase metabolism and slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.

Here are 7 benefits of using coconut oil on your hair:

Coconut Oil Offers Protection

Grooming your hair every day can result in wear and tear. Continuous washing, brushing, and styling damages the hair and leaves it fragile and susceptible to breakage.

Heat styling and chemical treatments cause the hair cuticle (the outer part of the hair) to open which means it can’t protect the central parts of the hair shaft (the cortex).

This results in a loss of some of the fibrous proteins contained within the cortex which makes your hair thin, fragile, and susceptible to damage.

Coconut oil is one of the only oils that can be absorbed deep into the hair shaft and help repair the cuticle and cortex.

In fact, a study conducted demonstrated that the use of coconut oil as part of a hair care routine can actually reduce this loss of protein from the cortex and keep it healthy and strong.

This therefore also makes coconut oil great for high porosity hair, but might not suit those with low porosity hair.

Encourages Hair Growth

The damage your hair undergoes on a daily basis from washing, styling, weather, and pollutants can impede the growth of the hair as it becomes worn and tired.

Using coconut oil regularly as part of your hair care routine can help support hair growth by keeping the hair healthy. It reduces protein loss and damage when wet and adds moisture.

This means less breakage and provides your hair with a protective layer against weather and environmental damage.

Dandruff Treatment

Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties which means it can be used to help treat the growth of the yeast on the scalp which results in dandruff.

Lice Treatment

A study conducted in England found that coconut oil combined with aniseed oil was extremely effective in treating lice. Another study found that coconut oil was more effective than other chemical-laden treatments.

Reduces Hair Loss

In extreme cases, chemical treatments, pollution, heat styling, and overwashing can lead to hair loss. Coconut oil nourishes the hair from the inside out to give you healthy strong hair which minimizes hair loss.

Sun Protection

Coconut oil provides hair with some level of protection from the sun. Some studies have found that it can give a sun protection level of factor 8.

Natural Detangler

Coconut oil is useful to work out knots in the hair. A small amount applied gently to the knotted section and then combed out will detangle without damaging or breaking the hair.

What Is The Difference Between Unrefined Vs Refined Coconut Oil?

Unrefined Vs Refined Coconut Oil

The difference between unrefined coconut oil and refined coconut oil is the processing they undergo.

Unrefined coconut oil is often referred to as “virgin” or “extra virgin” coconut oil. It refers to oil derived from fresh meat of the coconut that has been cold-pressed.

This means it may have undergone minor treatment to retain smell, purity, and taste using natural methods.

The oil is 100 % pure coconut oil with no harmful solvents or chemicals used in the process. As well as virgin or extra virgin, it may also be labeled as unrefined, raw, or cold-pressed.

Refined coconut oil refers to oil that has been through chemical and heat treatment during or after the extraction process.

This oil may vary in quality as a result of the quality of the original material, the severity of the extraction process, and the chemicals used during the process.

This processing results in the oil being odorless and clear.

Also Read: Amazing Benefits Of Cactus For Hair

Unrefined vs Refined Coconut Oil For Hair: Which Is Best ?

When deciding whether to opt for refined or unrefined coconut oil in order to get maximum effect for your hair, it is widely believed that unrefined coconut oil is, by far, the best way to go.

It begins with a better quality product, in that it is fresh coconut meat, pure and simple. It does not undergo extensive treatment, like excessive heat or chemicals.

All of this means that the final product has an intact nutrient profile so the consumer can enjoy all the benefits expected of coconut oil- primarily antioxidants and Vitamin E. The only downside of this is that it can come with a higher price tag.

Try one of these two premium coconut oils:

Green Origins Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Green Origins Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

This oil is produced using only top-quality organic coconuts, grown and handpicked in the Philippines. It is a pure and unrefined product that has been cold-pressed to retain its beneficial nutrients for your hair.

Check Price on Amazon

Piura Organic Extra Virgin Raw Coconut Oil

Piura Organic Extra Virgin Raw Coconut Oil

This oil is 100 % natural and unrefined. It is responsibly sourced directly from farmers. Bursting with nutrients, it is a really beautiful multi-tasker.

Check Price on Amazon

If your budget is a little tight, or you’d really prefer an oil without the coconut smell, choose a good quality refined coconut oil. Try to make sure it has not been chemically processed and opt for organic or steam refined products.


Facts About Unrefined Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconuts. The sourcing method means that it has no impurities and is cleaner compared with refined coconut oil.

It can be extracted naturally or mechanically. Heat may be used as part of the extraction process or it may not, and it uses either wet or dry methods.

The majority of unrefined coconut oils on the market use the dry and expeller-pressed methods of extraction.

This involves more heat than the cold-pressed method which uses very little heat.

The cold-pressed method involves the coconut milk being pressed out of the coconut meat using temperatures that never go above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

This method produces a pure and superior oil that is nutrient-dense (with vitamin E and antioxidants) and less compromised. For this reason, it can be more costly.

The expeller-pressed method involves a lot of friction and pressure which results in higher temperatures-these can go up to 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is also a difference in whether the oil was extracted using wet or dry methods. Unrefined coconut oil tends to come from the wet method.

This is when both coconut milk and coconut oil are pressed out of the fresh coconuts then these are separated. Whereas the dry method refers to pressing the oil out of the dried coconut flesh (copra).

High-quality unrefined coconut oil should be colorless and retain its natural taste and smell.

Facts About Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil undergoes more processing. This oil is made using dried coconut flesh known as copra.

Copra is produced by sun-drying, smoke drying, kiln drying, or hybrid solar drying the coconut meat. This process is considered somewhat unhygienic due to the length of the process of drying out in a tropical humid climate.

As a result, the oil extracted needs to be refined for human use.  The oil can be expeller-pressed and distilled.

Alternatively, a heated hydraulic press can be used along with chemicals to extract and refine.

The latter method yields higher outputs and is quicker and cheaper. Coconut oil that uses this refinement method is called RBD oil (refined, bleached, and deodorized):

1.Copra is pressed

Then, one or all of the next steps take place in the manufacturing process in order to refine the oil.

2.Degumming

The crude coconut oil is stirred with a degumming agent so that any gums can be removed. The gums can have an effect on the texture and quality of the oil. The oil is then added to water to separate gums from the oil.

3.Neutralizing

Sodium hydroxide is added to the crude coconut oil. This creates a soap that is oil-laden with free fatty acids. Next, the oil is washed again with water, to remove the soap and the free fatty acids. This is to reduce the risk of the oil becoming rancid.

4.Bleaching

 The oil goes through an activated clay filter. Although this part is called bleaching, no actual bleach is involved in the process.

5.Deodorizing

Heat is used to remove any coconut odor and taste from the coconut oil.

Coconut oil produced by this method of extraction is considered to be of lower quality. The process of refinement uses hydrochloric acid, solvents, and steam to decontaminate the end product.

At best, the oil loses its natural antioxidants that give virgin coconut oil its authentic flavor and aroma. At worst, residual solvents and chemicals may remain in the oil.

5 Ways To Use Coconut Oil For Hair

Before Bleaching Hair

Bleaching can be very damaging for your hair so it’s a good idea to use coconut oil before you start the process. The oil will help protect your locks from harsh chemicals and reduce potential damage to your hair.

Read: How To Use Coconut Oil Before Bleaching Your Hair

Before Coloring Hair

Coconut oil can be used as a deep conditioning strengthening treatment before hair coloring. It has the ability to smooth the cuticle whilst protecting your hair from the dye. Furthermore, it can even help enhance color absorption.

Read: How To Use Coconut Oil For Hair Coloring

As A Pre-Poo Treatment

Applying coconut oil to your hair before washing can give it protection from the damage it sustains during washing.

Your hair is at its most vulnerable when wet due to structural changes that take place when it absorbs water.

An application of coconut oil to the hair prior to washing (leave it in for about 30 minutes) can reduce the amount of water absorbed by the hair shaft and make it less open to damage.

Read: How To Pre-Poo Low Porosity Hair

Before Straightening Hair

Coconut oil has healing properties which make it great as a pre-treatment for hair straightening.

As coconut oil is able to penetrate the hair shaft, it can protect hair from split ends and frizz caused by heat damage.

Read: How To Use Coconut Oil For Hair Straightening

As A Sealant

An application of coconut oil after washing your hair makes hair smoother and softer which results in a reduction of friction caused by brushing and styling. This means your hair is less likely to be damaged from snagging and breakage.

Read: Sealing Hair For Length Retention

Moisturizing Sprays Containing Coconut

If you’re not keen on lathering your hair with coconut oil or you have fine hair, a coconut oil spray may work better for you.

Biolage All-In-One Coconut Infusion Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray

Biolage All-In-One Coconut Infusion Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray

Infused with coconut oil, this product is designed to enhance shine, fight frizz, detangle and give your hair heat protection. The vegan formula is perfect for all hair types. Enjoy healthy soft and more resilient hair with this coconut oil-infused product.

Check Price on Amazon

Palmers Coconut Oil with Monoi - Strong Roots Spray

Palmers Coconut Oil with Monoi – Strong Roots Spray

Great for showing some love to hair that has been a little neglected or damaged. Made with high-quality ingredients and at a pocket-friendly price, this product promises to deliver results.

Check Price on Amazon

There you have it- coconut oil has many benefits for hair. But it is the unrefined coconut oil that is able to retain all its nutrients that really packs a punch for your hair and its health. If your budget allows it, invest in the pure and natural unrefined version- your hair will thank you for it.


Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.