When creating natural and organic skin care products, the most neglected thing is how the beauty oils are sourced or processed. It is important when you purchase your skin care products to be aware whether the oils are refined or unrefined, cold pressed or expeller pressed, bleached or unbleached.
Mainstream skincare brands use refined beauty oils to prolong shelf life and sometimes to reduce cost. It is also because many customers prefer oils with undetectable odor and appealing color so the oils are processed further using deodorization and/or bleaching.
Let's take a closer look what all of those processes mean.
Unrefined oils refer to minimally processed using mechanical extraction (pressure) and low temperature controlled conditions to extract the oils from the nut or seed, etc. High pressure extraction can caused the temperature to rise above 120 F (caused by friction). When the temperature is controlled and kept under 120 F, the unrefined oils can be called cold pressed. Remember that some oils cannot be cold pressed. When the temperature is between 120-200 F then the oils are simply called expeller pressed. These oils are then lightly filtered using a screen to remove any significant solids or undesired impurities.
Unrefined oils are rich in phythonutrients such as a-carotene, b-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and proanthocyanidins. These phythonutrients are great for the skin as most of them have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits; however, they are easily destroyed by heat. So further refining or processing the oils using high heat will destroy most of these phythonutrients thus making the oils less beneficial and less effective to use in skincare products.
Beyond the processes above, some oils undergo a refinement process in order to further remove impurities, improve the color, or stabilize the shelf life of the oil. The oils are reacted with a weak base solution to saponify the free fatty acids into soap. The oils are then centrifuged and washed with water until the pure oils remain. The oils may also be degummed to remove the sticky phospholipids, color pigments, and odor lending portions.
Bleaching is generally done by passing the oils through fuller's earth or clay and then filtering the oils. The results are improved color and clarity of the oils.
Deodorization is generally done by blowing high temperature steam through the oils to vaporize the unappealing aromatic components. This process is more effective when the oils are heated to high temperatures and performing this process under a vacuum to help remove all of the volatile odorous substances.
RBD is the abbreviation for "Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized." The results are the most aesthetically appealing oils. RBD oils will look crystal clear with no odor. These oils have the least nutrients and could be damaging to skin health so don't be fooled by the aesthetically appealing appearance.
Oils that are winterized are cooled and filtered to remove the solid crystallized fractions. This process results in lighter, clearer oils that remain liquid in cold temperature.
Comparison of refined and unrefined oils
Organic Evening Primrose oils
The oil on the left looks like vegetable oils that we see at the grocery stores (highly processed). It looks clean and aesthetically appealing but it has less nutrients too. Evening Primrose oil is known for the Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) that helps maintain healthy skin, nails, and hair. This GLA is easily destroyed by high heat. You know by now that during deodorization process, high temperature is used.
Organic Ricebran oils
The oils almost look the same but if you look at the bottom, you will see that the oil on the right is cloudy. You can see a line on the bottom left but not on the right. The reason why I love ricebran oil so much is because this oil is one of the beauty secrets of the geishas... well, this might satisfy some of you, but the geeky side of me wants more explanations. So, I love this oil because it contains tocotrienols which are more powerful antioxidants than regular vitamin E (tocopherols). It also contains other antioxidants, gamma-oryzanol and squalene. Squalene helps guard against age spots. The cloudy oil indicates these beneficial nutrients.
Organic Rosehip Oils
As you can see, the unrefined oil has dark orange color. The depth of color indicates the presence of beneficial nutrients especially the carotenoids. Carotenoids are the precursors of vitamin A. Note: if you are sensitive to rosehip oil, you might be sensitive to the deodorization or refinement process of the oil. The manufacturer might use a solvent that remains in the oil.
I strive to use organic cold-pressed unrefined oils whenever possible for Holiskin products.
There are some reasons where I cannot use organic cold-pressed unrefined oils:
- The oils are very expensive. For example, organic cold-pressed unrefined grapeseed oil is very expensive and will raise the product prices significantly.
- The oils have very strong odor. For example, unrefined pumpkin seed oil smells like concentrated peanut oil.
- The oils are very hard to find. Recently, my supplier stopped selling organic cold-pressed unrefined ricebran oil.
- When dealing with new suppliers, I rely on their words and some of them are dishonest by saying unrefined cold pressed while selling refined expeller pressed oils.
- Excessive carbon footprint. I have several suppliers that will always be my first choice when I need to reorder my oils. Sometimes, I reorder with the smallest number of packages possible from a single supplier to be environmentally friendly (less carbon footprint).
- Unrefined cold pressed oils have the highest phythonutrients, highly effective with the downside of shorter shelf life, undesirable odors, and unappealing color. It is important to use unrefined cold pressed oils as much as possible.
- Highly effective natural skincare products start with high quality raw ingredients. How they are sourced and processed matter. Organic alone is not enough to determine the quality of the products.
- Remember the saying, “Don't judge a book by its cover.” and you should not judge oils by their appearances and odors.
Have you thought that these processes affect the quality of your beauty products? Let me know in the comment section below.