Evolving Wellness

Holistic, Natural, and Green Approach to Optimal Wellness

How to Choose A Coconut Oil: Comparing Best and Worst Brands

Our understanding of fats and oils, what is healthy and what isn't has been greatly changing over the past few years and decades. One of the products that has generated a lot of questions and interest is coconut oil. Today it has become one of the most popular superfoods and recommended oils for raw and cooked consumption. With this product's increased popularity came many brands with wide ranging quality. It seems everyone wants a piece of this market's share, but not all are equally optimal for our health or our wallet. In this essay, I will share with you how to pick the best coconut oil, what brands are recommended, or not recommended and address commonly asked questions about coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Basics

Unrefined coconut oil is a non-hydrogenated, cholesterol free and trans fat free product. It is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are broken down efficiently by the body, providing an immediate source of energy. This is one of the biggest differences in what sets it apart from other saturated fats, making this an optimally healthy saturated fat. It has been linked to aiding numerous health conditions, including Alzheimer’s and has numerous beneficial properties like being anti-bacterial. See the following article I wrote, for a full overview of the benefits of coconut oil.

Its flavor, aroma, versatility and health benefits are all outstanding. It is one of the best oils to use for cooking, as it does not denature into harmful compounds at high heat. It can be used as a spread, in cooking, baking and makes outstanding raw, vegan desserts.

To add to its already impressive benefits, coconut oil can also be used topically on our skin and hair. Instead of soaking ourselves with synthetic lotions, full of questionable ingredients, coconut oil can be easily used on the face and body to nourish and moisturize our skin. It can also nourish our scalp and hair, and be used as a massage oil. It absorbs quickly and nurtures our skin exceptionally well.

How to Choose the Best Coconut Oil

There are two different kinds of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Refined is normally considered regular and it has virtually no coconut taste or aroma. It produces oil from dried copra (not fresh coconuts) and the oil typically undergoes various levels of being deodorized and bleached. Unrefined is normally considered virgin (extra virgin in the US) and it possesses a fresh coconut taste and aroma. It is typically made from fresh coconuts, but processing techniques will still vary in determining the product's final quality.

For the most health benefits coconut oil should be purchased in the unrefined or (extra) virgin form. It is even more beneficial to choose a variety that is organic and raw. Refined coconut oils can be treated with various chemicals, and processed with very high heat, thereby compromising the health benefits of this product.

Refined oils are cheaper, but the unrefined are worth the extra price.

Coconut oil is processed normally using expeller-pressed or cold-pressed technology. Expeller pressing is a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts oil from seeds and nuts. The temperature reached during pressing depends on the hardness of the nut or seed. The harder the nut or seed, the more pressure required to extract the oil, which in turn creates more friction and higher heat. Oils that are cold pressed are expeller pressed in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 49ºC or 120ºF degrees. In this sense, it is more beneficial to choose a cold pressed oil, as the more heat that is applied to the food item, the more the nutritional benefits are normally compromised and the more the quality of the food is degraded.

Be sure to also examine the label of your coconut oil. Some coconut oils will try to sound great on the front, while they hide a list of contaminated ingredients that the oil could have come into contact with on the back.

The color of the coconut oil should be fairly white, and the aroma sweet and pleasant like fresh coconuts (unless it is the refined oil, which is devoid or scent or flavor).

Here are detailed overviews of 8 different coconut oils I have had personal experience with:

1. Maison Orphee Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties Available: Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined)
  • Made from fresh coconuts
  • First Cold Pressed
  • Non-deodorized
  • ECOCERT fair trade certified
  • Smoke point is 374F / 190C

Company Origin: Quebec, Canada

Coconut Origin: Philippines

Price: $12 – $15 per 16oz (454g) = $0.75 – $0.94/oz

Availability: Mostly Canada – Health food and online stores

Comments: I have used several jars of this oil and it has been of a consistent superior quality. It has excellent qualities; tastes and smells delicately of fresh coconuts; and is white and pearly in appearance. There are no foul odors or any problems detected with this oil. It is extracted from fresh coconut flesh. The pulp is grated, cold-pressed and filtered. It comes in a glass jar.

To learn more visit: MaisonOrphee.com

2. Artisana Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties Available: Raw, Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined)
  • Raw
  • Made from fresh coconuts
  • Cold Pressed
  • Non-deodorized
  • Non-hydrogenated

Company Origin: California, United States

Coconut Origin: Southeast Asia

Price: $12 – $15 per 16oz (454g) = $0.75 – $0.94/oz

Availability: US and Canada – Health food and online stores

Comments: Artisana is committed to natural, raw and organic foods, minimizing the impact on the Earth, and supporting small, organic farms. I have used several jars of this company's oil and have been extremely pleased with each one. It has everything I would want in a coconut oil with it being raw, organic, virgin and coming in a glass jar. It smells pleasantly of fresh coconuts, and is white and pearly in appearance.

To learn more visit: ArtisanaFoods.com

3. Heartland Gold Coconut Oil – Not Recommended

Varieties Available: Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil & Organic Coconut Oil

Features

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined) variety
  • Refined variety
  • Expeller-pressed without any harmful chemicals, additives or preservatives
  • Nitrogen flushed and induction sealed to preserve freshness.

Company Origin: Toronto, ON, Canada

Coconut Origin: Unknown

Price:

  • Refined = $13 per 16oz (454g) = $0.81/oz
  • Virgin = $19 per 16oz (454g) / $30 per 32oz (908g) = $1.19/oz - $1.25/oz

Availability: Mainly Canada – a few health food and online stores

Comments: In my early days of coconut oil use, I made the big mistake of buying a big jar of this product’s refined version, unfortunately being lured in by a great sale price. Seeing that it was organic, and not realizing back then the vast difference between coconut oil varieties, I decided to give it a try. Having tried the unrefined, virgin oils prior to this, experiencing this oil was very unpleasant. Not only was this oil completely devoid of any fresh coconut aroma, it actually had a strong chemical scent. I don’t know if that was due to the processing, or the type of plastic jar it was in, but either way it smelled horrible. The oil comes in a black, plastic container.

Even though the company has the other, virgin option available, I would not buy any of their products again, nor recommend them. Aside from the reasons listed, the lack of information about this company or product is perhaps one of the most troubling aspects. There is no company website, phone number or address listed on the product, nor is any information available on the Internet. The product simply lists Toronto, ON, Canada and a postal code. So the customer really has no idea, where this product came from, what conditions or quality it was processed in, or anything about this company, and no way to contact the company either. Highly not recommended product.

To learn more visit: None available

4. Nutiva Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties Available: Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined)
  • Made from fresh coconuts, not dried copra
  • Cold-processed
  • Chemical-free
  • Unfermented
  • Unbleached
  • Undeodorized
  • Unhydrogenated

Company Origin: California, United States

Coconut Origin: Southeast Asia

Price: $10 – $12 per 15oz (425g) = $0.67 – $0.80/oz (Gets cheaper with larger sizes)

Availability: US and Canada – Numerous grocery, health food and online stores

Comments: I have used several jars of this oil and have been very happy with it always. Nutiva appears to be a company that takes its food production and quality seriously. The coconut oil has proven to be consistently excellent, smelling of fresh coconuts and being white and pearly in appearance. There are no foul odors or any problems detected with this oil. It is also available in a glass jar. Nutiva used to also offer an even higher quality raw, centrifuge pressed, organic coconut oil that also came in a glass jar, but it is currently unavailable. One of the other pluses about this product and company is their apparent transparency and abundant information provided for the consumer. See here for a detailed review of this coconut oil.

To learn more visit: Nutiva.com

5. Omega Nutrition Coconut Oil – Not Recommended

Varieties Available: Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil & Organic Regular Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined) variety
  • Refined variety
  • Expeller-pressed

Company Origin: Bellingham, WA, United States

Coconut Origin: Philippines

Price:

  • Refined = $10 per 16oz (454g) = $0.63/oz
  • Virgin = $16 per 16oz (454g) = $1.00/oz

Availability: US and Canada – some grocery, health food and online stores

Comments: I purchased the Omega Nutrition Organic Regular oil, which was the very first coconut oil I purchased a few good years ago. It wasn’t until I tried the unrefined varieties from other companies that I realized what I was missing. Needless to say I never purchased this product again and would not purchase their virgin variety either. I do not enjoy that their products come in plastic jars, specifically the type of plastic they use, which seems to smell of chemicals on its own. I much prefer the glass packaging for both health and environmental reasons. The oil itself was devoid of taste and aroma, as refined oils go and didn’t leave me with any positive experiences. It was cream in color, and simply reminded me of a lard-like product.

To learn more visit: OmegaNutrition.com

6. Spectrum Coconut Oil – Not Recommended

Varieties Available: Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil & Organic Refined Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined) variety
  • Refined variety
  • Expeller-pressed
  • Organically bleached
  • Deodorized

Company Origin: California, United States

Coconut Origin: Unknown

Price:
Refined = $6 per 14oz (396g) = $0.43/oz
Virgin = $12 per 14oz (396g) = $0.86/oz

Availability: US and Canada – Numerous grocery, health food and online stores

Comments: Prior to 2012, this oil has several times caught my attention at the health food stores, as it is normally the lowest priced one. After a thorough look at the ingredients, I was dismayed to see all the possible contaminants that this product could contain, like various animal products. I also do not want an oil that is bleached or deodorized, or uses cheap, large-scale methods of production. If one also takes the time to learn a little bit about the company and its affiliations, Spectrum is a common "mega company" that is in it for primarily for profit, not human health or environmental sustainability. It has a very industrial and market-driven approach, along with a disconnect between what is marketed and what is offered for real consumer health. This is a company that will provide you with a cheap, good sounding product, not a high quality one.

During the winter of 2012 I was sent a review sample of the organic, refined variety. As per my previous experience with refined coconut oils, there is no fresh coconut aroma or taste, but at least the oil had no detectable chemical scent or flavor. I would personally still not purchase from this company for reasons mentioned above, but if you choose to, I only recommend you get the organic, virgin one, which is at least of a higher quality then their refined version. Either way, do not expect this brand to provide, or be a reflection of a good, high quality coconut oil. You can see the detailed review of this coconut oil here.

To learn more visit: SpectrumOrganics.com

7. Carrington Farms Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties: Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined)
  • Cold-pressed
  • Chemical-free processing

Company Origin: New Jersey, United States

Coconut Origin: Philippines

Price:

  • $15 – 18 per 54oz (1531g/1.5kg) = $0.28 - $0.33/oz (from Costco)
  • $23 - $27 per 54oz (1531g/1.5kg) = $0.43 - $0.50/oz (from other retailers)

Availability: Costco in US and Canada (other retail locations to come)

Comments: This coconut oil was brought to my attention by some readers who were questioning its quality versus the price they saw it for in Costco. The price did seem really unbelievable for the product characteristics so I decided to look into it further. After researching on the company site, contacting the company and trying some for myself, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This coconut oil definitely has all the right basic attributes to rank it as a higher quality coconut oil, and it is unrefined, maintaining its natural nutrition content, flavor and color. It smelled and tasted great—as I would expect based on previous experience with other, similar quality oils, without being overwhelming. It seemed identical to some of the other recommendations above. Upon being in touch with the company VP, I learned that each 14 g tablespoon contains approx 6.2 g of lauric acid, 1 g of caprylic acid and 800 mg of capric acid. I was also assured that all steps of the production process are chemical free. The ultra low price point appears to come from two factors: one being its bulk distribution, and two being its bulk distribution through Costco.

Its main downside at this moment, is the plastic packaging. It would make this an even better recommendation, if there was a glass option provided. As I shared this with the company, the answer just like from Nutiva in the past, came down to minimizing costs. We can be assured however that the packaging is BPA and hexane free. In the end, while we cannot expect this to be the highest quality choice on the market, it offers consumers one of the highest quality options at the cheapest price.

To learn more visit: CarringtonFarms.com

8. Alpha DME & Premium Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties: DME Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil and Premium Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

Features:

  • Organic
  • Virgin (unrefined)
  • Raw
  • Made from fresh coconuts, not dried copra
  • Centrifuged (DME)
  • Cold-pressed (Premium)
  • Chemical-free (unbleached & undeodorized)
  • Unrefined
  • Unhydrogenated

Company Origin: British Columbia, Canada

Coconut Origin: Solomon Islands (DME) and Philippines (Premium)

Price:

  • Premium: $13 – 17 per 15.2oz (450ml) = $0.86 – $1.12/oz (common price range with larger sizes being cheaper)
  • DME: $20 - 27 per 15.2oz (450ml) = 1.32 - 1.78/oz (common price range with larger sizes being cheaper)

Availability: commonly found in health food stores and online stores in Canada, as well as select locations throughout the US.

Comments: This coconut oil has often caught my attention in local health food stores, as it is one that has a very high reputation within the natural health industry. And indeed when one learns about Alpha's coconut oils, especially the DME variety, it is obvious to see why. The company takes great pride in being a leader in not just coconut oil, but natural health and this is reflected in all of their products. What else is outstanding about their coconut oils is that the company offers lots of transparent information and education for the consumer about the oil, instead of leaving them guessing. Everything is explained and shared from where the coconuts come from to a step by step understanding of their processing to become oil.

DME: Alpha's DME coconut oil definitely stands in a class of its own. DME stands for "direct micro expelling" meaning that the coconut oil is pressed from the fresh coconut directly on-site where the coconut was grown. It is pressed using a manual, cold-press centrifuge process and produces small batches of the highest, freshest quality coconut oil. The "micro" part refers to a small scale family and community involvement in making the product and it is thus also certified fair trade.

Premium: Alpha's Premium coconut oil is also a superior natural and raw oil, which consistently has held its high quality reputation. The main difference between it and the DME is that unlike the DME oil, it is produced in a more common industrial setting where it is cold-pressed. (The temperature does not exceed 40ºC/104ºF degrees.) The coconuts are shelled by machine and pared by hand, then sent into grinders.

I finally had the pleasure of trying both of the oils and their taste and texture definitely does not disappoint. They are pearly white oils that are fresh smelling, with natural coconut overtones in both taste and scent. The DME appeared to me to be just a hint more sweet and robust smelling, but other than that they were both equally enjoyable to use. Both products come in plastic or glass options, with us hopefully always opting for the glass packaging. In terms of their price, this is definitely one of those examples where we get what we pay for. The higher price is connected to the highest quality of coconut oil available, and with the DME option a direct support of the local communities from which the coconuts come from, who need it the most.

To learn more visit: AlphaHealth.ca

9. Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil – Recommended

Varieties: Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil GOLD label and GREEN label (Organic and non-organic Refined Coconut Oil WHITE label)

Features:

  • Made from fresh coconuts, not dried copra
  • Organic
  • Virgin
  • Hand-made (gold label)
  • Expeller-pressed (green label)
  • Chemical-free (unbleached & undeodorized)
  • Unrefined
  • Unhydrogenated

Company Origin: Wisconsin, United States

Coconut Origin: Philippines

Price:

  • Gold Label: $15 – 20 per 16oz (473ml) = $0.94 – $1.25/oz (common price range with larger sizes being cheaper, ex: $0.59/oz)
  • Green Label: $25 - 30 per 32oz (946ml) = $0.78 - $0.94/oz (common price range with larger sizes being cheaper, ex: $0.36/oz)

Availability: commonly found in health food stores and online stores in the US, as well as select locations throughout Canada.

Comments: Tropical Traditions is one of the initial coconut oil providers when the coconut oil market began to get infiltrated with this product. The company has a strong commitment to family farming, no GMOs, organic and high quality, natural food standards. They have developed a high reputation for quality coconut oil, and offer many food products aside from oils, which reflect their high standards. The company offers two top of the line coconut oils: the gold and green labels. Both of the recommended oils are packaged in glass jars.

Gold Label: This is the company's top rated oil and features the highest quality when it comes to the type of coconut used and processing methods. For this oil, fresh, organic coconuts of the finest quality are used, and hand-pressed by local Philippine families in small batches according to traditional methods. This oil is slightly heated before packaging. It is rated to have the highest levels of antioxidants and nutrition benefits of all the coconut oils from Tropical Traditions.

In terms of taste, this oil definitely tastes very different from most of the other recommended examples above. Its coconut flavor and aroma are so faint, that I would go as far as saying that they are barely, if at all detectable. It is very neutral tasting and smelling, with a slightly unique (not bad, not good) tone to it, when consumed raw. It works excellent for cooking, with no noticeable coconut flavor or scent. The coconut oil is pure white in color and very smooth in texture.

Green Label: This is the company's second in line top choice. Like the gold label it is made from fresh, organic coconuts. Unlike the gold label, it is expeller-pressed, using large-scale processing methods.

In terms of taste, this oil had a more noticeable coconut flavor and aroma, both of which were very pleasant. Even though I realize that the gold label is of a superior quality, I personally prefer this one for any raw use. For cooking purposes, there were no major differences, with this one also having barely any detectable coconut scent or aroma.

White Label: Tropical Traditions has two other types of coconut oil that are refined. One is organic, the other choice is not. These are part of their white label line. While Tropical Traditions assures that these are refined without the use of any chemicals, I still do not recommend either one as we are simply missing out on the full spectrum of benefits that coconut oil can provide. These oils are devoid of all taste and aroma, and cream colored. There is no reason in my opinion to go with these choices, when so many better choices exist that offer us the nutrition and health benefits of the coconut oil in its most natural form.

To learn more visit: TropicalTraditions.com

Note to Consumers

With the increasing surge of coconut oil popularity in the last few years, and continuing to this day, numerous companies have been started (especially in North America) simply to be distributors of coconut oil. This is one of the main reasons why so many different ones exist, each trying to claim that their coconut oil is the best one. What we need to realize as conscious and discerning consumers is that many of the companies are using the same coconut oils, or coconut oil producers, and simply using a marketing company to brand the product to their liking. Private label companies are used to create a product that looks and sounds unique, but is often identical to ten others that are doing the same thing.

Therefore if one is interested in investing their health and money on a coconut oil, I highly recommend you visit the company's site and get to know what the particular company is all about. The more information they share the better. Your starting point should be a virgin, organic oil BUT you should also know where the coconuts used for the oil came from, how they were processed, what part of the coconut (fresh coconut meat or dried copra) was used, etc. There is no rule for small versus big companies. Some small companies are providing very low quality products, but likewise some big companies are providing very low quality products. Look for a company that walks its talk, and is not simply trying to say the right stuff.

FINAL TIP: There are many coconut oils on the market today, and it is impossible to cover them all in this article. (There is also no need.) To pick a high quality product, make sure that your coconut oil is at the very least ORGANIC and VIRGIN. At best, the product should also be certified RAW and come in GLASS packaging, as well as share detailed information on its website about its source and processing methods.

There is no need to nitpick amongst similar brands either. Find an organic, virgin oil from a company you can trust, feel good about and is convenient for you to purchase.

Questions and Answers

Can a coconut oil quality be determined by the product's scent/smell/aroma or taste?

No. The only thing that is certain is that REFINED (non-Virgin) varieties will have NO scent or flavor. These should be avoided for the reasons listed in the article above. However, unrefined, virgin varieties will have scents and flavors that will vary from mild to strong hints of the traditional coconut scent and flavor. It is not possible to tell which is a higher quality from scent and flavor alone. A stronger scent or flavor does not necessarily mean a better product. Typically the highest quality coconut oils have an obvious, yet gentle, not strong coconut scent and taste. Remember too that each person's sense of scent and taste varies so it is not always a good indicator to go by what a particular oil smelled or tasted like to someone else. It may be very different for you.

Coconut oils are so diversely priced from $5 to $30 for a roughly 16oz jar. Why would I pay more if I can get a jar for $5?

Typically, the saying "you get what you pay for" holds valuable truth. If we are interested in optimal health, then we are not looking for the cheapest product, but the highest quality product. The good news is that with coconut oil's increasing popularity, prices have come down and are very competitive with many organic, virgin, raw oils costing around $10-$15 per roughly 16oz jar. This is the typical ballpark area one should be expecting for a good quality oil. Bulk options and distributor specials can also significantly reduce costs. Several oils are superior in quality and/or sustainability characteristics and therefore justify higher (over $20/16oz) price tags.

Where should I buy my coconut oil from?

As mentioned in the availability sections above, one can find virgin, coconut oil today at every natural health food store, and nearly all major grocery stores across North America. (Selection and availability varies widely across other continents and specific countries.) See what your local or online stores carry with respect to the selection and prices.

Due to coconut oil's excellent stability, it is not necessary to have it be refrigerated, therefore one can also easily and conveniently purchase virgin coconut oil from the many trusted and reputable online merchants. My most common recommendations (or personally used choices) are listed below. They tend to have great selections, quick shipping and low free shipping minimum purchase requirements.

In the US:

In Canada:

Which is better cold pressed or expeller pressed?

Cold pressed is best, but most cold pressed can still be expeller pressed just in a temperature controlled environment. It also appears that US labeling laws may not be adhering to proper cold pressed standards anyway, so just because an oil says it is cold pressed does not automatically make it fully true, or of the better quality that a truly cold pressed oil would be.

What does RBD stand for and how is it made? I see it mentioned around coconut oils often.

RBD stands for REFINED, BLEACHED, DEODORIZED. This is one of the lowest quality types of coconut oil one can get. It is a heavily processed product, and will typically contain toxic or chemical compound residues, as well as provide a nutritionally inferior product.

According to Wikipedia:

The dried copra is placed in a hydraulic press with added heat and the oil is extracted. This "crude" coconut oil is not suitable for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with further heating and filtering. Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil has no coconut taste or aroma. RBD oil is used for home cooking, commercial food processing, and cosmetic, industrial, and pharmaceutical purposes. RBD coconut oil can be processed further into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to increase its melting point, producing some trans-fats in the process.

Aside from the chemical processing methods and/or solvents used, how is RBD different nutritionally from Virgin coconut oil?

Thus far, research appears to share that the fatty acid composition is not that different in refined versus unrefined varieties of coconut oil. However, the refining process will normally strip away some of the other nutrients, such as antioxidants. Some refined oils are also hydrogenated, which introduces a whole slew of nutrition and health problems. Physician and author of The Coconut Miracle Dr. Bruce Fife, explains the role of polyphenols, which are rich in coconuts and their antioxidant effect inside the body by inhibiting the oxidation of cholesterol. Through this mechanism, coconut oil can reduce the development of atherosclerosis and the risk of cardiovascular disease. The polyphenols however become damaged during the refining of the oil and one should not expect as positive health results as with a virgin oil.

Aren't the refined coconut oils the best options for cooking purposes?

They are often marketed that way. However, for optimal health we only want to use ORGANIC, VIRGIN coconut oil whether we are eating it raw or cooking with it. When we use the coconut oil for cooking we are still consuming it and need to consider why we would be interested in putting an inferior product into our system. Virgin coconut oil can be used to cook any meal. People often make a bigger deal about its scent and taste than it needs to be. During cooking the coconut oil flavor is largely neutralized and not an issue to blend with any meal. If anything, it brings out a better flavor in the meal itself.

I heard on a show, news or program, or read on another site recommendations for some of the oils you do not recommend. How am I supposed to make sense of that and know who to believe?

We have to understand that everyone's approach to health and definition of health is different, therefore opinions will vary. My approach is from the angle of OPTIMAL HEALTH and I only recommend what I feel or have researched to be the best - no excuses, no sacrifices, no moderation, no being paid by some company to give a particular view. In the mainstream, health is often approached from the traditional, mainstream view. I do not promote or support this view, so everything that is expressed through my writing and research comes from the holistic, natural and optimal health view.

I invite each person to get clear on their own personal definition of health, what it means to them and their priorities, and then seek information or sources that support these paradigms, not compromise them.

How can coconut oil benefit my skin and hair?

Coconut oil makes an excellent moisturizer and infuses our skin with valuable nutrients. Generally, you can use the coconut oil simply on skin or hair as a moisturizer, however the best way to nourish our skin and hair is always from the inside out. So eating a whole, natural, highly plant-based diet that includes high quality coconut products will do wonders for our overall health including the quality of our skin and hair. Using it externally then further helps, and NOT using harsh chemicals on our skin and hair, such as the various commercial hair products, body washes, etcetera, further helps so that you are not undoing the good done.

Which brands of coconut oil are best for topical use - skin and hair?

The same ones that you would pick to ingest. This means ORGANIC and VIRGIN. There aren't coconut oils specifically designed for cooking and others for body use. (There can be, but it would be simply for marketing purposes.) Your skin is a living organ and absorbs most of what we put on it, therefore it is important to also put the purest, highest quality on your body, as you would into your body.

Remember too that the healthiest hair, skin and nails are made from the inside out, so first and foremost we should focus on our overall diet and make sure that we are only putting in high quality, whole, natural and mainly plant-foods, not processed foods into our bodies.

How do I use coconut oil on my skin or hair?

On your skin, you can use coconut oil just like a typical cream or moisturizer. Take a small amount and massage a thin layer of it onto your skin (body or face) as needed. Coconut oil typically absorbs very well if a thin layer has been used.

On your hair, some people just massage it into their scalp and not wash their hair for at least a few hours (if not day). Some people also work coconut oil into their hair. It all depends on your personal preference and need.

How much coconut oil should I be eating daily?

This depends on your personal needs. Even though coconut oil can help with healthy weight maintenance and weight loss, if you are overweight or obese, it may be best to limit all oils, and eat a largely fresh produce, plant-based diet. If you would like protection or healing for Dementia or Alzheimer's, research suggests about 4 teaspoons a day as a good dose, however other research shares to consume anywhere from 1 to 3 tablespoons a day for various health protecting and healing effects. Potential treatment is also being examined with coconut oil for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), drug-resistant epilepsy, brittle type I diabetes, and type II (insulin-resistant) diabetes.

If one is interested in various health benefits, a tablespoon a day whether on its own, or used in various meals would be a general guideline. Some people can easily enjoy and benefit from more. For best health, other oils (ex: canola, corn, etc.), heavily fried or processed foods should always be avoided.

How should one consume coconut oil? For health benefits, can you simply take a spoonful of the oil?

Coconut oil (organic, virgin) can be consumed in numerous ways. It can be eaten by the spoonful, especially if one wishes to increase their consumption of it daily. However it can also be easily mixed into most meals. Coconut oil can be added to smoothies, raw or baked desserts, hot grain cereals, spread on foods, or used to cook anything with it.

What if I don't like or enjoy the smell or taste of coconuts?

While coconut oil can be a beneficial and healthy food, it is also not an essential one. Some people may choose not to eat coconut oil at all. Going to a refined version because it is flavorless/scentless is not a good solution where your health is concerned as the refining process strips or denatures some of the key nutrients. Also refined oils may be bleached and/or deodorized with various chemicals. They also do not use fresh coconuts, rather old, dried copra, which has its own problems. So we have to make a decision of whether we want the oil for the full health benefits and no harm, or not. During cooking, the flavor and scent of coconut oil is greatly neutralized and need not be an issue at all. It is really in its raw form that the flavor or scent is most pronounced (ex: if someone is eating a spoon of the oil, or using it in a raw dessert).

We have to understand that the nature of real, pure, natural coconut is the smell/taste it has. When we want its benefits without its natural characteristics we are essentially asking for a refined/processed product. It is like asking to have the benefits of blueberries, without the blueberry taste or smell, etc. Our society can refine and package any food into a product today, even into pill form, but this is far from good for us, or optimally healthy for our body. Our bodies weren’t meant to work optimally on refined foods and we see the consequences in our society today with the weight, disease and allergy problems we have.

Some virgin coconut oils are stronger in flavor/scent, while others are more gentle. Try experimenting with several varieties to perhaps find one that you can enjoy, without it being an unpleasant experience. Yes, anyone can use the refined coconut oils that are devoid of the coconut taste/smell if they feel that is the only way they can consume coconut oil, but I cannot make that recommendation for such oils to others in good faith. Companies can claim whatever they want today about their products, and some refined products are definitely better than others. But as an evolving human society, refined is refined, and it doesn’t matter how well it is done, it is still not nature’s whole product or ideal for our body. Finally, one needs to consider based on personal standards if the benefits of eating the oil are worth any of the possible risks or harm of the refined oil.

How should I store my coconut oil and does it have a long shelf life?

Coconut oil does have a long shelf life, due to the fact that it has a very stable fat content and is not prone to quick oxidation like many other oils. It can store for months, if not years under the right conditions. Some people choose to keep their coconut oil in the refrigerator, though this depends normally on whether one lives in a hot or cold climate. Typically, coconut oil is stored at room temperature.

Are there other brands you recommend or don't recommend?

Below you will find brands that I have compiled some information about based on feedback and questions from others over the past few years. I have not tried any of the brands below personally, but have put forth a recommendation for the ones that I would be comfortable buying and consuming myself for optimal health. There are some that I also know enough about not to recommend. Any oils below that I did not feel I had enough data or experience with to recommend either way, are left without a recommendation (positive or negative).

Remember that while gathering information from other sources online, including this site can be valuable and helpful in making any decisions, in the end each person must take accountability for the personal choice they are making based on their personal standards, research and priorities.

  • Aunt Patty’s Coconut Oil

    • Organic, RBD - NOT Recommended
    • Organic, Virgin, Raw - Recommended
    • Company Origin: Eugene, OR
    • Glass jar
  • Bali Sun Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil - Unclear/Insufficient Data

    • Company Origin: Thailand
    • Fair Trade
    • Cold Centrifuge Processed
    • Glass jar
  • Barlean's Organic, Virgin, Raw Coconut Oil

    • Company origin: Ferndale, WA
    • Coconut origin: Philippines
    • Fair Trade, Cold Pressed
    • Plastic jar (black)
  • Crystal Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Company origin: Canada
    • Coconut origin: Vietnam
    • Cold-pressed
    • Glass jar

Just wanted to warn everyone about CRYSTAL COCONUT Oil, a Canadian-Vietnamese company located in Ontario, coconuts from Vietnam. I received a 5 gallon pail today and OMG! Its smells really really BAD, like Chemical/Soapy smell! So i gave them the benefit of doubt and tried a tablespoon in a stirfry and SAME THING!, when the oil started to heat up, it gave off this horrible smell of chemical! So i give it another try and taste the final meal, and it TASTED so horribly Chemical, i threw the stirfry out! So just a warning to all you customers looking for VCO at a cheap price: You Get What You Pay For!!!!!

I have recently found Carrington Farms VCO at my local Costco for 16.99$ for 3.3 lbs. This oil is Delicious smelling and tasting! The coconuts are from the Philipines and is a wonderful product. Its quality is in my opinion as good as Nutiva’s. Now here’s the best thing about this Oil, it calculates to $5.15/Lb!!! At this price you are getting very high quality VCO and at lower cost than ANYWHERE on the Net or from any store in North America!

Richard Sangster ~ Nov 27, 2012

  • Dr. Bronner’s Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil - Recommended
    • Company Origin: California
    • Coconut Origin: Sri Lanka
    • Fair Trade
    • Expeller Cold Pressed White Kernel and Whole Kernel
    • Glass jar

We just cooked with Dr.Bronners. for the first time this morning (cold pressed whole kernel). It was delicious even the kids didn’t mention the coconut flavor which was minimal (maybe the garlic masked it?) Previous brand used was Spectrum and did not like it at all. I LOVE dr b’s.

Stefanie ~ Nov 24, 2012

  • EcoIdeas Coco Natura Organic, Virgin, Raw, Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: ON, Canada
    • Cold Centrifuge Processed
    • Glass jar
  • Fresh Shores Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: Dr. Mercola
    • Cold Pressed
    • Glass jar
  • Garden of Life Organic, Virgin, Raw Coconut Oil - Recommended

    • Company Origin: US
    • Glass jar
  • Grace Foods Virgin Coconut Oil - Insufficient Data

    • Company Origin: Jamaica
    • Glass jar
  • International Harvest Organic, Virgin, Raw Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: Mount Vernon, NY
    • Coconut Origin: Mexico
    • Cold Centrifuge Processed
    • Glass jar
  • Jarrow Formulas Coconut Oil - Not Recommended

    • Organic Refined and Organic Virgin options
    • Company Origin: Los Angeles, CA
    • Coconut Origin: Phillipines
    • Expeller-pressed from the dried flesh
    • Plastic jars (black)
  • Kelapo Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: Florida
    • Coconut Origin: Sri Lanka
    • Fair Trade, Cold Pressed
    • Glass jar (amber) and plastic jar options

I have been using Kelapo for about a year and really love the product. Believe it is good source as it is virgin, unrefined, and cold-pressed. I like the fact that it comes in a brown, glass bottle, which, even though coconut oil doesn’t go rancid, can’t hurt the product. Being a fair trade product is also a plus. You really have to look at what you’re buying closely to be sure that it meets all of the requirements for the best quality.

Laura ~ Jan 15, 2013

  • Klassic Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: ON, Canada
    • Coconut Origin: Philippines
    • Fair Trade, Kosher, Unrefined, Unbleached and Non-Deodorized
    • Glass jar
  • LouAna Coconut Oil - Strongly Not Recommended

    • Plastic jar
  • NOW Foods Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil - Insufficient Data

    • Company Origin: Bloomingdale, IL
    • Cold Pressed
    • Glass and plastic jar options
  • Nature’s Way EFA Gold Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Coconut Origin: Philippines
    • Cold Pressed
    • Plastic jar
  • Ojio by Ultimate Superfoods Organic, Virgin, Raw, Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: Moorpark, CA
    • Cold Centrifuge Processed
    • Glass jar
  • Soma Nordic Cocosa Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil - Recommended

    • Company origin: Denmark, Sweden
    • Glass jar
  • Spring Valley - Walmart Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil - Not Recommended/Insufficient Data

    • Plastic jar
  • Tiana Organic, Virgin, Raw Coconut Oil - Recommended

    • Company Origin: UK
    • Fair Trade, Cold Pressed
    • Glass jar
  • Trader Joe’s Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Cold Pressed
    • Glass jar
  • Vitacost Organic, Virgin Coconut Oil

    • Company Origin: Lexington, NC
    • Cold Pressed
    • Plastic jar
  • Wilderness Family Naturals Organic, Virgin, Raw Coconut Oil - Recommended

    • Company Origin: Silver Bay, MN
    • Coconut Origin: Philippines
    • Centrifuge extracted and Cold Pressed options
    • Glass jar
Published May 16th 2011
Updated May 25th 2014
Evita Ochel
Author Evita Ochel
Evita is a consciousness expansion teacher. Her diverse passions and expertise include being a writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, web TV host, and author of the book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition. Her health oriented teaching focuses on natural, whole, plant-based and organic nutrition for optimal health and longevity. Her spiritually oriented teaching focuses on consciousness expansion and heart-centered living for optimal joy and inner peace. Evita is also the creator of several online publications: Evolving Beings, Evolving Wellness, Evolving Channels and Evolving Scenes, as well as Healthytarian—a lifestyle for the well-being of the mind, body and spirit.

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