Buying Natural Oils and Butters For Skin & Hair

Recently I commented on how great Tropical Coconut Oil from Kenya was for my hair. Now I finally get the whole hype behind the so called benefits of this miracle oil which was the inspiration for the this blog. I’ve fallen absolutely in love with it and I’m already wondering what I will do when this magical elixir runs out.

Buying natural oils and butters

You’d think it would be simple, walk into shop, grab the bottle that says coconut oil and you’re set. Think again again. Not all brands of coconut oil or any other product for that matter are the same. Whether you like it or not you need to be more diligent and read the labels of what you are buying.

Reading the ingredient list

When you’re unfamiliar with a particular product and want to know what it’s made of, first check the ingredient list. The ingredient list should list all the ingredients in a product in from the highest ingredient to the lowest ingredient.

With most hair oils and products, you may find that the ingredient that you’re after is the fifth in line. This means that this particular ingredient is not the biggest component of the oil or hair product and you must make a decision before you purchase whether this meets your needs. If I am buying an oil I want that oil to be the first ingredient on the list not the last. The same goes for herbal products.

Most manufactures may call something coconut oil but the first ingredient on the product list is soya bean oil (because it’s cheaper), or paraffin, or petroleum, or glycerin.

How The Product Is Manufactured

On some product labels companies will state the way an oil or butter has been extracted (taken from the plant). Some will say cold pressed and most will say nothing. The truth is it’s not easy to extract oils or butters from plants. As a matter of fact it’s a very involved process but I wont bore you with it. You need to know that if an oil hasn’t been cold pressed then it most likely has been extracted through other processes such as heating or chemically extracted. I try to buy cold pressed oil when ever possible because it’s one of the safest methods of extracting oils from plants that doesn’t destroy some of the chemical properties of the oil.

The best way to find out how a product is manufactured is to go on the company’s website (ie do a little research about the product online before spending any money).

Most companies, especially those that sell base ingredients for the cosmetics industry will mention some of their oil/butter extraction methods. They will also mention where the oil is sourced and grown and whether or not it’s grown organically or whether the company is involved in fair trade.

Refined/Unrefined/Raw

The words refined/unrefined/raw will sometimes appear on most pure oils or butters. Refined means that the oil has undergone some chemical processing to make it acceptable for use in the cosmetics industry. If you’re using natural oils and butters, remember that you’re not the primary or largest consumer of the oils and you are not the customer that the manufacturer was thinking about when they are manufacturing the oils.

Not sure if most of you have noticed the consistently white appearance of most of our face, body, and hair products. This is not a coincidence. Someone bleaches the hell out of the natural oils extracted so that your beauty products can have that clinically white look that we have come to take for granted.

The oils that we purchase are mainly sold to large cosmetic companies for the manufacturing of all the beauty products that we are so used to seeing in shops. The cosmetic companies require that some if not most of the oils that they use be bleached white, have some of the natural plant smells removed and so forth. For this reason most of the oils and butters we buy have had some form of refinement to meet with the expectations of the cosmetics industry.

Unrefined and raw refer to oils that have had minimal processing. These oils may have a funny smell to them, be strangely colored, and have a strange texture. Some of the chemical treatments that oils undergo is so that they can mix in better with other cosmetic formulations, retain a long shelf life (notice most cosmetics don’t seem to have an end date or a use by or best before date). Another thing to note is that these oils in their pure form can be very reactive and volatile so some of them unfortunately have to have some processing done to them.

Effect Of Processing on Product Quality and Functionality?

One of the reasons some of us are using natural hair care products is not just because we want to have the best hair care or skin care our money can buy, it’s also because we want to live healthier lifestyles that are kind to our planet and our bodies.

Just like with food the more processing a product has undergone, the less of there is of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other beneficial goodies that we read about and that led us to seek the product out in the first place. Most heavily processed products are inferior to their purer non processed cousins. And though most cosmetic companies are constantly isolating plant constituents to add to their chemical concoctions, what we know about nature is that things work together not singularly. Vitamin C is better absorbed in the body with bioflavinoids rather than on just on it’s own.

The same could be extrapolated to the benefits of it for skin. Vitamin C for skin is great but the juice of an orange is even greater. In the case of oils and butters for hair most of the time the whole ingredient rather than isolated components of the ingredient are being used. We can safely assume that if some of the colors and the odors of the oils are being removed to make it more acceptable to consumers, then we are also likely losing some of the functionality of the product.

Organic vs Non-organic

The word organic has evolved to symbolize high quality, naturally grown products that should be free from pesticides, fertilizers, and are not genetically modified. Organic products generally cost a little more than non organic and sometimes can cost almost twice as much. Not all organic products are equal and you should always check to make sure that the products you’re buying are certified by the appropriate regulatory bodies in your country or state.

That brings me back to my experience with coconut oils. I have tried three brands of coconut oil. One is raw, bleached white, and scentless. It seemed to remain had most of the time. The second oil I bought was from somewhere in the pacific. Smells like coconut and can apparently be used in cooking. It was okay but not great. I certainly never wrote about it. The Kenyan Tropical Coconut oil was different. The conditioning effects where immediate. I felt as if the dryness was melted out of my hair. The product looks like it’s undergone a minimal processing, has retained most of the goodness that coconut is renowned for.

Good luck with your product purchases.

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