There is always talk about refined versus unrefined oils in cosmetic chemistry – and even in the food we eat. But do we really have a picture of what that means? Other terms to watch for are cold pressed, virgin, or raw. These terms get intertwined, but they do not mean the same thing. And what does any of this have to do with skin health or internal health?
What does it mean to refine fruit, vegetable, nut, or seed oils? The oil refinement process is either physical or chemical & means that certain chemical constituents within the oil are removed. This refinement process can be minimal, only removing sediment or visible pieces of nuts and seeds. Or can be extensive, removing all color and scent. The more extensive the refinement the less colorful & fragrant an oil will be, which is often desirable in cosmetic chemistry. During this extensive refinement process, certain lipids are removed that support skin barrier health, & a huge amount of varying antioxidants are removed that support both the skin & the shelf life of the oil.
I don’t believe that plants are meant to be refined. Each plant contains its own unique variety of hundreds of chemical constituents. The more we alter that, the farther away from Nature we get. And as I often say, I am not smarter than Nature, I don’t try to alter or fix what nature has created. I try to preserve it as closely as possible so that it will arrive to you in its purest form. We have to assume that each & every molecule plays an essential role to support the whole. This is called “whole plant science” or “phytochemical synergy”.
A PUFA is a lipid molecule that was never intended to be isolated outside of its whole, & it is found in oils that are negatively affected by refinement. Whole plants contain an abundance of other constituents that work with PUFAs in perfect harmony so they can best be utilized by our skin.
Unrefined oils are all I use – look for more color and more scent, which means more antioxidants, enzymes, mineral content, & vitamins.