Do you know your Coconut Oil?

By Susan Dewhirst in Natural Products

Coconuts have been getting a lot of attention lately, with the oil from coconuts showing up as an ingredient in everything from vegan ice cream to shampoo. Have you noticed an influx of coconut products in your regular shopping? It can sometimes be confusing knowing what all the attention is about!

shelled coconuts

I recently spoke with Paul and Kathy from our Product Innovation Team to get some background on coconut oil generally, and specifically, the Fair Trade Certified™, virgin, organic coconut oil used in Tom’s of Maine’s New Natural Creamy Coconut body washes and bar soaps. Think you know your coconut oil? Read on.

Origin of Coconut Oil

Originally from southeast Asia, coconuts have spread to different areas of the world through human migration. The majority of coconuts come from Indonesia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines. For thousands of years, the fruit and milk from coconut has been used on skin and hair and it’s played a big part in tropical diets. Have you ever indulged in a fresh-off-the-tree coconut while traveling in warmer climates?


For decades, coconuts have been grown on larger farms and co-operatives. Recently, coconut farming has evolved further, with hundreds of small farms in the Philippines leading the way in organic and Fair Trade Certified™ (FTC) coconut production. These coconuts grow year round in sandy, loamy soil and are continually fertilized with coconut husks, shell ash, animal manure, and minerals like lime. Farmers work an average of 20 to 22 acres using sustainable organic farming methods, with approximately 60 coconut trees per acre producing up to 200 coconuts per year! On each coconut the FTC farmers receive a premium to support social and educational programs like well building and supporting schools.

Coconut Oil Uses and Varieties

Have you recently tried a recipe that called for coconut oil? Coconut oil has become popular to cook with, and is often highlighted in healthy cooking blogs. It is also increasingly found in personal and home care products where it’s used as a moisturizer, for its lovely scent or, as a surfactant, a substance that helps other liquids spread.

You may have noticed in your own shopping that coconut oil comes in different varieties. For many people, this is where things can get confusing! In talking to our team here at Tom’s of Maine, I learned that the processing of the oils is often what distinguishes Refined from Unrefined.

Refined Coconut Oil is made with minimally processed copra, the dried coconut fruit removed from the shell. The oil from copra usually has to be made into a surfactant through a purifying process because contaminants can arise during the drying process. It’s then put under high heat to remove the odor and the flavor.

Unrefined Coconut Oil, also referred to as Virgin or Pure, is the oil taken from the fresh, just picked wet coconut meat. The unrefined oil can be processed using two methods; quick drying or cold processing (also known as wet milling). With quick drying the meat is heated rapidly and then removed mechanically. With cold processing the milk is taken out of the fruit and then boiled or fermented to take the oil out of the milk.

When it came time to formulate our new line of cleansing products, we chose Fair Trade CertifiedTMorganic , virgin coconut oil. In using our Creamy Coconut body wash and beauty bar, you will notice that the fragrance of the coconut oil is still present!

What is your favorite coconut oil use?

Learn more about Tom’s of Maine products with Fair Trade Certified™ organic, virgin coconut oil:

Tom’s of Maine Natural Creamy Coconut Bar SoapNEW – Tom’s of Maine Natural Creamy Coconut Bar Soap

Tom’s of Maine’s Natural Moisturizing Body WashNEW Tom’s of Maine’s Natural Moisturizing Body Wash

Tom’s of Maine publishes the purpose and source of all the ingredients we use on our website. If you would like to learn more, contact us on Facebook or give us a call at 800 FOR TOMS (367 8667).

Why It’s Good

Coconut oil has been getting a lot of attention lately, showing up as an ingredient in everything from vegan ice cream to shampoo. Understanding the terms Unrefined, Refined, Pure and Virgin can help naviate the ingredients on product labels. I spoke with the Tom's of Maine Innovation Team to get clarity the terms, coconut oil generally and the virgin, Fair Trade Certified™ coconut oil used in Tom's of Maine's New Natural Creamy Coconut body washes and bar soaps.