Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fractionated coconut oil

I admit it - I do love fractionated coconut oil. It is very light weight, colourless, odourless, and won't stain fabrics. What's not to love about it?

Fractionated coconut oil is coconut oil that has been fractionated - wow, that was helpful! - that is to say it has had a number of the fatty acids removed, leaving behind the 53 to 55% caprylic fatty acid (C8) and 36 to 47% capric acid (C10). It is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT), that is very light weight. You'll often see fractionated coconut oil abbreviated to FCO and the INCI is caprylic/capric triglyceride.

It is highly saturated, so it has a great life span of at least 2 years! Some companies use fractionated coconut oil and call their products "oil free" because it really isn't considered a proper oil like rice bran or sunflower oil, but it's still comedogenic to some skin types (as high as 2 on a scale of 1 to 4). Because it is made up of low molecular weight fatty acids - the caprylic and capric acids - it is actually absorbed into our hair and skin easily.

The main reason to use fractionated coconut oil is the moisturization it offers. This isn't an oil that contains polyphenols or anti-oxidants or other bonuses. It gets into your hair and skin and moisturizes deeply, which is a good thing.

Try fractionated coconut oil in any formula for a very light feeling but moisturizing oil. It's great in a body milk or light lotion. I use it in pretty much everything because, combined with rice bran oil, I can get a light feeling from oils that might feel heavier on your skin.

It's great in a leave in conditioner - at 2 to 4% you'll get all the benefits of coconut oil for your hair without the thickening - or regular conditioners at up to 8%.

It's fantastic in a body spray or lotion you might use after the shower because it won't stain fabrics. And you can use it at 100% in massage oils - just add a little fragrance or essential oil and you've got yourself a great massage!

WATER PHASE (you can use 76% water if you don't have the hydrosols!)
56% water
10% aloe vera
10% hydrosol of choice
2% sodium lactate or other humectant
2% hydrolyzed protein

8% fractionated coconut oil
2% cetyl alcohol
2% IPM
4% Polawax, e-wax, or BTMS (or your own emulsification system!)

0.5% to 1% preservative
1% fragrance
2% cyclomethicone

Join me tomorrow for fun with virgin coconut oil!


Roseann said...

Hi Susan! I am curious to know the consistency of this leave in conditioner with coconut oil? I would love to give it a whirl with some Argan oil but not sure what type of container to have ready when I pour? Is it like a lotion consistency or more liquidy?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm guessing you're referring to this link rather than the lotion in the post? The leave in conditioner is very watery - you can pour it out like water. I package it in a spray bottle and it works well.

Leonor Arocha said...

Hi, i'm studying skin care, I would like to know if capril caprilic triglicerid is a performance ingredient or funtional ingridient, and if it is a big molecule than can not permit the absortion of other ingrdients, or not? Thank you

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Leonor. I have no idea what you mean. Can you please rephrase your comment? I'll be happy to help as I can!

Marika said...

"just add a little fragrance..."

No please! Avoid using fragrance oils, use only essential oils, especially in massage! Fragrance oils are bad, full of nasty chemicals and are not natural. One of the worst thing one can do is use fragrance oils for anything but adding a few drops for making the water for cleaning the floors smell better.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Welcome to the blog, Marika. I disagree with everything you say, and encourage you to take a look around the blog further to learn more about chemistry. A lot of the components found in fragrance oils are essential oils.

Can you provide some links to back up your statements? Why shouldn't you use them massage? What are these harmful chemicals? Why are they harmful? What will they do to our bodies? Why is it the worst thing you can do to use fragrance oils? And what does "worst thing" mean? Why are essential oils better? What do they contain that are good or not bad for us? Which ones in particular?

I pride myself on offering an evidence based blog, and I've provided what information I can. As Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence! Can't wait to see what you send me. (Email is good -

Israel said...

BWAHAHAHA! Owned. I often want to ask questions like these in response to opinions taking a hard-line "all chemicals are bad" position. I like to point out that, if we're looking at all the facts, the choice of fragrance vs essential oil -or "natural" vs synthetic, in general- is often a fairly complex issue with many different factors to consider; really, it goes back to the rule of thumb that "always/never" generalities VERY rarely hold true. While it is true that some fragrance oils CAN have some pretty undesirable components/properties, this is usually just a sign that you need to find a better supplier....and this is coming from someone who formulates exclusively with essential oils! There are circumstances when it makes sense to go the natural route, such as in my case where specific essential oils are used for their skin beautifying effects as well as their fragrance, also making the finished product more desirable to its intended market demographic. That still doesn't mean that quality fragrance oils with a solid molecular composition should be summarily dismissed. They can even be the "environmentally friendly" option, such as with bio-identical synthetics used to match the scent of rosewood, sandalwood, or other species under threat from over-harvesting for essential oil production.

Stephanie H. said...

Hi Susan-
I'm wondering if the "MCT" ( that I purchase from my health food store to make salad dressing is the same thing as the FCO that I like to use in making lotions and sprays. If not, wonder what this ingredient can bring to our products that FCO cannot?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Stephanie. I think it is. I'm basing this on the nutritional information showing that it is composed of the two medium chain triglycerides. I think the only difference is that one is food grade (and probably a lot more expensive), and the other is cosmetic grade.

Fred jones said...

I am not sure if you have touched on this subject or not. I am interested in using FCO as a perfume oil I was wondering what ratio of FCO to EO would I need to accomplish this?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan

I'm seeking some clarification about Fractionated Coconut Oil. I have tried asking one of my suppliers, but they didn't seem too happy with the question and brushed me off with an entirely unrelated reply. So I tried to word the question a little differently, thinking that perhaps I hadn't made it clear the first time - but they're ignoring it entirely, so I'm wondering now whether it's a 'touchy' subject.

Recently, I stumbled across some info stating that Fractionated Coconut Oil and Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are not one and the same thing - that the latter is isolated from the former during the fractionating process and is therefore a separate entity.

The Wiki reference: "....The fractionation of coconut oil can also used to isolate caprylic acid and capric acid, which are medium-chain triglycerides, as these are used for medical applications, special diets and cosmetics, sometimes also being used as a carrier oil for fragrances..."

And from Ingredients To Die For:
"Caprylic Capric Triglycerides are mistakenly called Fractionated Coconut Oil. Caprylic Capric Triglycerides are a specialized esterification of Coconut Oil using just the Caprylic and Capric Fatty Acids, while Fractionated Coconut Oil is a, standard, distillation of Coconut Oil which results in a combination of all of the fatty acids, pulled through the distillation process..."

Does this mean that suppliers listing 'Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides' as the INCI on their FCO is incorrect and if so, what should it be - just 'Fractionated Coconut Oil'?

If so, is there perhaps a major cost issue involved that might explain why some suppliers are incorrectly listing FCO's INCI?


Anonymous said...

p.s. Sorry, Susan, I should have kept researching the INCI first, before asking what's turns out to be a silly question!

The correct INCI for Fractionated Coconut Oil is 'Cocos nucifera (Coconut) Oil'.

Nothing more, nothing less. Just that.

Another of my suppliers lists FCO's INCI as, 'MCT of cocos nucifera Capric and Caprylic triglycerides'.

While the one I first mentioned lists it as 'Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride'.

So the issue seems to boil down to either a deliberate deception due to cost factors, or genuine ignorance.

Looking at the pricing on Ingredients to Die For, there's a negligible gap between the price of FCO and Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, so I'll be ordering the real thing from the U.S. - shipping costs don't scare me (much!).

Thanks again, Susan

Sheila said...

Hi, I've been trying to figure the same thing as Gabrielle, about fractionated coconut oil & caprylic/ capric triglyceride. I asked Perry Romanowski, & he didn't seem to think there was a difference. So are they different or not?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sheila. As I said above, I don't think there is a difference. I think FCO and caprylic/capric triglyceride is probably the same thing. I have found exactly one company saying they aren't the same thing, while dozens of others do. How to interpret that? I'm not sure, but I do know that many companies I really like are saying they are the same thing, so I'm going with that for now.

Sheila said...

Thanks Susan.

Charley said...

Hi, I am the one that did the "TEST" comment above. I know this sound weird, But I had to MAKE SURE that nothing I am about to say will get back to the company that THREATENED ME!!
That’s right, I could just cry and I am REALLY in a rock and a hard spot!!
First, I will back up and start by stating why all the secrets here....I am referring to THIS POST from Anonymous where HE/SHE Said this:

"I'm seeking some clarification about Fractionated Coconut Oil. I have tried asking one of my suppliers, but they didn't seem too happy with the question and brushed me off with an entirely unrelated reply. So I tried to word the question a little differently, thinking that perhaps I hadn't made it clear the first time - but they're ignoring it entirely, so I'm wondering now whether it's a 'touchy' subject.
Recently, I stumbled across some info stating that Fractionated Coconut Oil and Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides are not one and the same thing - that the latter is isolated from the former during the fractionating process and is therefore a separate entity." I go! YES...I DO believe there must be some kind of hidden secret going on about this topic because I Too asked my Supplier this question about the fact that I found on the exact same website as you Anonymous about the difference between Fractionated Coconut Oil and Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides. I was first brushed off quickly and was informed that FOR SURE there is absolutely no difference. But I pressed on again out of my own confusion. I RE ASKED the question, like you Anonymous, but rephrased it differently this next time. Then all of a sudden it was like HELL BROKE LOOSE!! I got an unexpected answer that blew my mind. It was HARSH and I was threatened to! I do not dare go on and say more as this is a very real and scary thing I am going ya...what is going on with this Oil????

T. said...

I'm new to making lotions and creams and so I have been doing my experimenting using cheap mineral oil until I get a consistency I like. I then tried to substitute fractionated coconut oil and it seemed to not quite emulsify completely. It looks ok until I touch it and then little beads of what appears to be water come to the surface. Does the coconut oil require more emulsifier or is it likely something else specific to the coconut oil is going on? I am using beeswax, borax, and lecithin. Thanks in advance for any tips!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi T. You are making a water-in-oil lotion, not the usual oil-in-water lotion we make. This means you have to have more oil than water in the product for the emulsifiers to work. What you are seeing is separation, which means the emulsification is broken. I'm afraid you will have to look elsewhere for instructions on this kind of product as I have never used these emulsifiers nor made this kind of lotion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charley, I can always tell when a vendor is hiding something. They respond just as you've experienced. They go from being friendly to engaging in harrassment.

That's a sure sign to me that they are hiding information about their products. Basic pyschology.

I am still looking for an honest source for Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

Nyamamoto said...

Hi Susan! I'm also new to formulating and have been experimenting with what my supplier calls FCO/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, calling both the same thing. I am also curious if there is a distinction between the two.

I notice that a lot of recipes say that you can use 100% of FCO for massage oils etc and while I love the feel and absorbency of this ingredient, I find that continuous use leaves my skin even more thirsty than it started with. I was using it mixed with aloe vera gel as a hand cream and noticed my hands were significantly drier after a week of use. Could it be something else in the FCO?

Freja Njorden said...

Confession: I use my cosmetic grade FCO in the kitchen. All the time :)

Camirra Williamson said...

hello susan! I am wondering is there is a major difference in FCO when it comes to benefits for hair. I was thinking about using it in a deep conditioner recipe in place of coconut oil, but will it make a huge difference. Clearly the texture will change to be looser, but is that all? will my hair be more conditioned with FCO. I have african hair btw.



Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Camirra! FCO doesn't contain the great stuff coconut oil contains for your hair. It is a great emollient and feels less greasy, but it doesn't have the 18-MEA coconut oil contains. You can use it and have your hair feel more moisturized, but coconut oil, for me, is the way to go! I suggest reading the post on coconut oil for more information, or do a search for coconut oil on the blog and see what you find. I've written a lot about it.

Sheryllyn McClintock said...

Hey Susan. I found your blog searching for information on MCT oil vs FCO...are they the same? Your post is helpful.

QUITE A BLOG! I wish I had found it sooner! I make a lot of concoctions for a family member who has non-diabetic neuropathy. Can you imagine 10 years of not being touched due to amped skin nerves? He's also particular about a greasy feel. I'm sure you can imagine how many products have been purchased and tried over the years. I started with essential oils and all the carrier oils, and some of those mixes helped. Then I discovered FCO. He loves it with his EO blend.

At the moment, I'm out of FCO and he's out of his shower gel. I have MCT in the kitchen, and I'm still trying to figure out if they are the same thing with a different name. I hope the INCI will be helpful in figuring it out!

What a blessing you are to your mother. I did the same. A hard and necessary job, with no regrets.

Sheryllyn McClintock said...

Hey there...I saw the question in Jan 2014 about MCT and FCO...asked and answered. No need to publish either of my questions. Just enjoy the love!

More love...I enjoyed your side bar about what you can and can't do. Comments people ask bloggers often amaze me. They expect the person is the holder of all truth on the subject, when really, bloggers are a very interested participant who, from their in activity, know a bit more than someone who is checking it out.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sheryllyn! Do you remember where you saw the post on FCO and MCT on my blog? I can't find it to save my life, and I think it's a topic worth re-visiting.

Gabrielle said...

Hi Susan

Ingredients To Die For has an excellent and very detailed explanation on the differences between FCO and Caprylic Capric Triglycerides and why the two are decidedly not interchangeable.

Will post the link here, but in the event that's not permitted, then simply Googling, 'Ingredients To Die For Caprylic Capric Triglycerides' should bring up the relevant page.


Needless to say, I'm dubious of suppliers who erroneously claim their FCO is one and the same as Caprylic Capric Triglycerides; it doesn't inspire confidence in the quality and level of their knowledge.


Margarita said...

From BrambleBerry blog
Note: The Caprylic Capric Triglycerides-fractionated coconut oil found at Bramble Berry is specifically the short chain fatty acids, known as caprylic capric triglycerides. It’s slightly different from fractionated coconut oil, as it only contains the short chain fatty acids. It can, however, be used in place of fractionated coconut oil, with a slightly lighter, silkier feel.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Margarita. Caprylic/capric triglycerides aren't short chain fatty acids - they're medium chain fatty acids - so this quote from Brambleberry is wrong. I don't mean they're wrong because I say they're wrong: They're wrong because in chemistry, caprylic/capric triglycerides are not short chain fatty acids. They're medium chain fatty acids. To say that this product contains only short chain triglycerides is simply not possible.

If you'd like to know more about short chain fatty acids, click here for the Wikipedia link. These are fatty acids found in things like butter (butyric acid).

Hi Gabrielle. I'm currently down the rabbit hole writing a piece on your comment, which is why it's taking some time. It's a fascinating read, but it's requiring me to write up a whole lot of chemistry lessons to go with it.