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cold pressed vs refined oils

We've all been steered towards cold-pressed, unrefined and virgin oils... but what's the difference? 

cold pressed vs refined oils

Whilst natural oils are great for your hair and skin as well as to cook and eat with, surprisingly, not all of them are created equal.

We delved a little deeper into the extraction process of commonly used oils to explore the differences between techniques and how these impacts the oils.

Chances are, you’ve heard the terms ‘Cold-Pressed,’ ‘Unrefined,’ ‘Refined,’ ‘Virgin,’ ‘Organic,’ and ‘Raw’ which all refer to how the oil was either processed or the source of the oil. But what do these words really mean?

In order to understand these terms, we need to go back to the beginning of the process and understand how natural fruit oils are made. From seed to harvest, the term Organic refers to oil that is extracted from a plant grown on farms or in areas that don’t use pesticides or chemicals.

In order to get oil out of a source, take for example an almond,  it has to be processed either mechanically, commonly known as Unrefined, Raw or Virgin or conversely, with chemicals and heat, which is referred to as Refined (though some refined oils are processed chemical-free).

Unrefined oils are minimal heat processed oils (cold or expeller pressed) that have not been bleached or deodorized after extraction whilst some refined oils have been bleached or deodorized.


Despite refined oils getting a bad wrap not all refined extraction processes are the same. There are techniques that allow the same extraction process using a chemical-free process.

To explain Unrefined extraction in-depth,  ‘raw,’ ‘pure,’ ‘virgin’ and ‘extra-virgin’ oils indicate how many times the fruit or seed was pressed to get the oil out and that they have not been extracted using chemicals and heat.  ‘Extra Virgin’ means that the oil is extracted from the first pressing only. Most raw or virgin oils are cold-pressed.

Next time you’re in the pantry, take the taste test, if the oil does not have a taste (if coconut oil does not taste like coconut) then your oil is refined. Unrefined oils taste like the fruit they are extracted from.

Cold-Pressed oil refers to the extraction process of crushing the seed or nut and forcing out the oil. The seeds are dropped inside a cylinder that contains a rotating screw. This screw grinds and crushes the seeds until the oil is extracted. Small holes in the bottom of the cylinder allow the oil to escape into a collection container. Whilst some heat is generated through friction, it’s usually not enough heat to change the composition of the oil.


Another popular extraction method is called Super Critical or C02 extraction.

Carbon dioxide-based extraction is considered to be more environmentally friendly, considerably safer, cleaner, cheaper and less toxic than using fossil fuel-based extraction – and results in a consistent product that is more palatable.

Interestingly enough, At standard temperatures and pressure, carbon dioxide is a gas. At 60.4 psi it’s a liquid and at -78C at standard pressure, it’s a solid (dry ice). When heated to above 31.10C - Its critical temperature and at 1,071 psi (critical pressure) or higher, it has the properties of both a gas and liquid. It becomes what’s known as a supercritical liquid.

When comparing all methods of extraction, The Cold Pressed method is preferred in order to retain as much nutritional value as possible additionally this means that cold-pressed oils to retain most of their subtle flavour and colour. The most nutritionally beneficial oil for your food, hair and skincare will always be an oil that is as close to its natural form as possible, Raw, Cold-Pressed and Organic.

Video Source: Kumari Oil Mill - Sri Lanka