Most commercial grade coconut oils are made from copra. Copra is basically the dried kernel (meat) of the coconut. It can be made by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying, or derivatives or a combination of these three. If standard copra is used as a starting material, the unrefined coconut oil extracted from copra is not suitable for consumption and must be purified - that is refined. This is because the way most copra is dried is very unsanitary. Most of the copra is dried under the sun in the open air, where it is exposed to insects and molds. The standard end product made from copra is RBD coconut oil. RBD stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized. Both high heat and chemicals (e.g. solvent extractions) are used in this method.

RBD oil is also often hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oils have been shown to increase serum cholesterol levels which contribute to heart disease.

One of the main differences between Virgin Coconut oil and refined coconut oils is the scent and taste. All Virgin Coconut Oils retain the fresh scent and taste of coconuts, whereas the copra-based refined coconut oils have no taste at all due to the refining process.