I starting writing this blog post back in May when I saw articles and blog posts referencing a new class action lawsuit against Young Living accusing them of operating an illegal pyramid scheme. I read through the entire class action lawsuit and wanted to write about my experience having attempted to sell essential oils through Young Living casually for a year before I moved on to become a certified aromatherapist and started my own independent aromatherapy business, which has been a far more lucrative endeavor.
What experience do you need to sell essential oils for Young Living or doTERRA? ZERO. Buying a starter kit is pretty much it and then you rely on the companies marketing to provide "education" on how to use the oils and how to get other people to buy them too. I cannot emphasize enough the danger of millions of uneducated people using essential oils unsafely. Wintergreen (99% methyl salicyate) is great for pain relief, but did you know if a small child ingests a teaspoon of Wintergreen essential oil, they could in fact die and that is not some aromatherapist scare tactic, there are reported cases of deaths due to methyl salicylate poisoning. This is why professional aromatherapists educate themselves through certification programs and continue to investigate new information as it becomes available.
Young Living and doTERRA are both cult-like organizations. I’m not going to lie, there are definite cult-like aspects to Young Living and doTERRA. It's not a 100% across the board blanket statement and varies dramatically depending on your upline groups. I’ve met many wonderful people through my former Young Living upline and crosslines. However, I find that their marketing is treated like doctrine ignoring actual scientific facts and claiming to be beyond reproach. They espouse many unsafe practices that are practiced without question even when evidence proving the contrary is provided, which I have written about on this blog previously.
It starts out as a fun community of essential oil enthusiasts espousing empowerment and the business opportunity of abundance and prosperity.... and then it just gets weird and icky. If you question anything or offer scientific perspectives on safety you get shunned or chided because the company is above the law, no questions asked. Just to clarify, doTERRA was formed out of Young Living so they espouse many of the same things. The founder of Young Living, Gary Young was a fraudulent scam artist with a dubious past, but he was also genius for creating a billion dollar MLM company. I get the feeling that Gary Young is the L. Ron Hubbard of essential oils.
How do essential oil distributors and wellness advocates make money? In my experience, selling premium starter kits is really the only way that you can make consistent commissions with a new member bonus plus 25% of their sales for the first three months. It then drops to like 3%. So 3% of a $100 order is $3.00. You need a hefty downline that also sells oils in addition to their monthly orders to make any money off that. My best month selling oils, I made $150.00. Which was a drop in the bucket compared to my essential rewards order that month. Personally, I found the starter kit oils to be a little underwhelming you get a few single oils and then a bunch of their proprietary blends. The vast majority of education comes from uplines educating their members on the starter kit oils.
In order to receive compensation, you have to be a member of the Essential Rewards program and order a minimum of $100 or 100PV of products every month. Now, if you are actively using the oils, this really isn’t a big deal especially given their cost. $100 could buy you a 15ml bottle of Frankincense and Lavender, not dozens of products or oils that would sit on a shelf. If you use the oils, then it's really not a waste of money outside of them being overpriced. I don’t fault anyone in my upline because all of this was made clear to me and I loved experimenting with new oils every month. I still do that on a regular basis with other essential oil companies, I buy new oils that I have never used to experiment with for my own personal enjoyment.
In addition to having people in your downline, you will also need to have a portion of them selling essential oils as well. Organizational Group Volume is the total value assigned to the products bought by your downline group that determines your rank. So for the first rank of Star, you need to have 500 OGV, so all the people under you need to order about $500 a month combined EVERY MONTH to hold that rank. If you miss it a month, you lose the rank. The OGV goes up exponentially with each additional rank. In order to reach the highest rank, you would need a downline of 15,000 people ordering a minimum of $100 every month. According to the class action lawsuit, there are 46 people who have made it to this rank. It is not to say that reaching the higher level ranks is impossible, I know quite a few people who have done so successfully.
By the way, If you make less than $25 in commission you do not get a check or direct deposit, you get an account credit to spend on more products.
Use more, sell more, make more money.... Young Living and doTERRA's oils and products are some of the most expensive on the market, mostly due to having to compensate upline and downline commissions combined with the cost of owning some of their own farms. I spent a lot of money on their oils and they do push overusing them. I used to go through a 15ml bottle of Lavender every month and now I have not purchased a single bottle of Lavender in over a year. I always wondered, if their oils were so pure, why you would have to use so much of them to get any benefits? Something doesn’t add up there. One would think if you made a Rum and Coke with 90% rum and 10% coke that you would not need to drink as many as if you had a 50/50 mix, but I digress. I don't feel like I lost money per se, but their oils are vastly overpriced and there is no governing body determining whether or not they are "the most pure", " the only this or that", or "therapeutic grade." Those claims are nothing more than clever marketing language.
The Allure of Abundance I had difficulty recruiting members because the vast majority of people I know are anti-MLM. These companies will tell you they are different and in some ways they are, but you really need to know what you are getting in to so you don't get in over your head. You might think, okay I’ll invest X amount of money into the business because once I reach Silver I’ll be making $3,000 a month, which is the high end of the Silver compensation plan estimated income. The allure of all the higher ranking perks like being flown to Ecuador or go on a cruise or visit their Lavender farm in Utah makes the pursuit of selling the oils seem highly appealing. If you never reach that rank, you may have spent thousands of dollars in the process without making that money back. But, if you are actively using the oils and products that would lessen the blow. They use the promise of abundance and prosperity to lure in more members.
Since I started writing this post back in May, I am in the process of canceling my Young Living membership and have completely extracted myself from all Young Living Facebook groups. The final nail in the coffin for me was the highest ranking leader in my direct upline started espousing a lot of radical anti-vaxxer opinions and countless other members lauded their courage and lock stepped right into that dangerous mode of thinking that essential oils are a cure all for everything. This here folks, is what a cult looks like... unquestioning mindless devotion that is beyond reproach and anyone who questions or offers alternatives is the enemy. Be informed, do your research, and get out before you get in over your head.
A few things to look for when choosing a brand or brands of essential oils: GC/MS reports, ethical harvesting practices, information provided on the website, and pricing.
GC/MS is short for Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. Gas chromatography tests the volatility of the sample, meaning how fast or slow it is to evaporate, and Mass Spectrometry identities the type and amounts of chemicals present in the sample. GC/MS reports will vary from batch to batch of essential oil as the chemical makeup can have variations due to weather conditions, insect activity, soil, and a variety of other factors. This does not mean that the oil is bad, per se, but there is a therapeutic range for each chemical in an essential oil. For example, if the linalool present in Lavender is supposed to be between 25-50% and it comes back at 18% then the GC/MS indicates an issue with the amount of the chemical present and its potency may be affected. If it comes back too high at 60%, it might indicate that the oil has been adulterated. Linalool can be isolated naturally or produced synthetically and added to the batch. These reports will list the chemical components of each batch of an essential oil and their percentage specific to that batch. GC/MS reports do not produce proprietary or trademarked information.
The video below by Scott A. Johnson explains in depth using Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint essential oils from six different companies and compares the results of each GC/MS test result.
The image below is a sample GC/MS report from StillPoint Aromatics. I like the organization of their reports better than some other websites because they list the type of chemical component i.e. Monoterpenes and then the individual chemicals by amount present. It is fascinating to research the chemical components because they are directly responsible for the therapeutic actions of the essential oil beyond the aroma.
Side note: I am a professional web content creator and manager by day, so I am a stickler for accurate and compelling website content across the board.
When I am researching essential oils, the company websites and the information they provide are one of my top priorities, even if they don't include GC/MS reports, the information they provide needs to be accurate and specific. They should be able to tell you the scientific name of the oil as to prevent confusion because common names have numerous variations in some cases or their are different species of the same oil like Lavender and Frankincense.
Here are four different company product profiles on Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) that give an excellent amount of information on Frankincense.
Now lets compare them to other companies lacking in complete or accurate information.
This is one of the ways I ascertain which companies where I will purchase my essential oils. Occasionally, I have to deviate off the beaten path if I want to purchase something that is not widely available at multiple companies.
In the case of critically endangered oils like Agarwood, Palo Santo, Rosewood, Spikenard, Sandalwood, and Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood and others, the importance of ethical and sustainable harvesting cannot be under-emphasized. If a company sells them without noting that they are ethically and sustainably harvested then it is best to avoid them. When critically endangered plants or ones that are teetering on the edge of being over-harvested without regard for ethics and sustainability, the supplies will either run low or cease to exist. Additionally, governmental regulations may be mandated to protect these plant species from extinction. This will also drive market prices through the roof. Today, a 5 ml bottle of Sandalwood can run upwards of $100 and Agarwood runs closer to $200 for a 5 ml bottle. The others remain reasonably priced considering their scarcity. Read more about this issue here.
Compare the price of the oil with the same oil on multiple websites to see what the average cost should be. If you are buying a bottle of rose oil for $20, it probably is not a pure rose oil because it takes 22 pounds of rose petals to make one 5 ml bottle of oil, which is why it is one of the most expensive oils on the market. The average costs for a 5 ml bottle of Rose Essential Oil will run anywhere between $150-$200, with the exception of Rose Absolute, which is solvent extracted, and usually costs $50-$75 for a 5 ml bottle. Higher price does not equate to higher quality as some things are just really expensive to produce.
The lesson in all of this is that it is nearly impossible to determine quality and purity of essential oils and much of what you see is nothing more than clever marketing language. It is best to avoid superlatives and definitives i.e. "the best", "the only", "the most", etc. These tips will help you out when researching where to buy your essential oils.
It's no secret that there is a lot of strife between the professional aromatherapy community and MLM Essential Oil Distributors and Wellness Advocates. There are numerous reasons for it, but the primary ones seem to come down to education and misinformation about essential oils and the aromatherapy practice. I remain in the middle of the road on this argument. I think MLM essential oil companies have their place in the aromatherapy world, but I will always and continue to advocate for education and safety first. I have many friends and colleagues on both sides of the argument.
A lot of people have serious and well-founded misgivings when it comes to Multi-Level Marketing companies (MLM's) at large. I'm sure you have heard them called scams or pyramid schemes, which is an entirely different issue that I am not going to address in this blog post. This post will also refrain from addressing any particular controversial issues about the MLM companies at hand as that is not the point of this post.
Let's start with my personal back story. I started using store bought essential oils in 2011 for mood support when I was dealing with anxiety and depression. I will admit, I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing, I had a heat diffuser and would occasionally put them in my bath water or place a few drops of lavender on a tissue under my pillow. I got away from them for a time, but came back to the essential oil world in 2016 when I attended an essential oil and yoga workshop at a local yoga studio. This was my first introduction to Young Living. From what I learned I was intrigued, until I looked at their website and found the starter kit and oils to be extremely expensive in comparison to the store bought ones I purchased in the past. I was unemployed at the time so I put that starter kit on hold.
In the meantime, I was having some skin issues on my face and around my eyes, and started tinkering around with making my own skin care products since nothing I purchased from high-end to drug store brands ever seemed to work for me. Within a few weeks my skin improved vastly and I was hooked on essential oils. Fast forward about six months and add in a new job - I finally decided to invest in a starter kit through Young Living.
I do in fact like their oils even though they are quite expensive. I was hooked up with a knowledgeable community that shared so much information and really got me comfortable using my oils for more than just skin care. Within a couple months, I was encouraged to start selling oils, and I thought "what the heck and gave it a try." Life got in the way shortly thereafter and I put it on hold for a few months and then came back to it. In the end, it just wasn't the right fit for me.
I have always had a thirst for knowledge and wanted to learn more about aromatherapy and essential oils. Usually the recommendations were to read books by authors associated with Young Living, not that there is anything wrong with that per se, but it didn't give me the science that I was looking for and the foundational basis for understanding aromatherapy practices.
By December 2017, I decided that I wanted to seek out becoming a certified aromatherapist and was referred to the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies and enrolled in their dual certification program in the Foundations of Aromatherapy and French Aromatherapy. I received my Level One certification in February 2018 and am in the process of finishing my final paper for the French Aromatherapy certification. In addition, I have completed and passed the Essential Oils Safety Masterclass through the Tisserand Institute and the Aromatherapy Teaching Training Program through the Aromahead Institute. I am currently working on certifications in Natural Skin Care Formulation through the School of Natural Skin Care and am working on my Level Two certification program through the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.
As I started learning more about the science behind essential oils, different modalities of practice, and essential oils safety through my certifications and connections within the professional aromatherapy community, I started to see a lot of negative things about MLM essential oil companies focusing on the lack of experience by some of the distributors and wellness advocates in addition to marketing misinformation about essential oil safety and practice. There are a lot of myths out there perpetuated by MLM companies that are untrue or at best partial truths. I don't think that this is done with malicious intent by any means, but on some base level a lot of the myths and practices seems to be for the sole purpose of selling and using more product.
Some MLM essential oil companies espouse being based in "French Aromatherapy," which is true to some extent though cooking with essential oils and putting undiluted essential oils in water without an excipient, are in fact, not practiced within the purview of French Aromatherapy as I discovered in my certification program. I recently wrote a blog post on this subject clearing up myths from fact about the internal use of essential oils. Is any of this dangerous? Not really, but you probably aren't getting any benefits from cooking with essential oils because the heat will evaporate any therapeutic benefit the same way it burns off alcohol when it is used in cooking. It tastes good, but you aren't going to get drunk from bourbon chicken. Most importantly, oil and water don't mix, so when using oils in a hydrous liquid you always need to use some sort of excipient or dispersant so that the essential oil actually blends with the water otherwise it just floats on the surface. I also wrote about ingesting essential oils.
Another problem that comes from the MLM model is overusing oils especially in rollers. It is pretty simple, the more oil you use, the more oil you buy. Once you learn proper blending ratios and dosages for each purpose, you will learn that sometimes "more oil is just more oil" and it does not actually increase the benefit of the product by using more. For instance, your rollers should probably have under 20 drops of essential oils MAX. Undiluted or "neat" application can be beneficial and used for targeted or acute circumstances, but doing this daily for a prolonged period of time has a high risk of adverse reactions or sensitization. Given that these high quality oils are so pure, why would you have to use more of them that the recommended safe doses to get a desired effect?
All essential oils regardless of their purity will oxidize due to heat, light, and oxygen exposure. It is also pertinent to know that most carrier oils are good for 1-2 years which will change the shelf life of any products that you make. While there are many unscrupulous essential oils companies out there that sell adulterated or low quality oils, there are many other companies that sell high quality, pure, unadulterated essential oils.
But, it's not all bad, I do acknowledge that for those who sell through MLM companies that it can be a life-changing and enriching experience and I think that is truly great. However, I find that marketing the business aspect with "all you need is a starter kit to start your business" is a bit worrisome. Knowledge, experience, and training are essential in any business and it is easy to get bogged down by conflicting information passed down through Facebook groups, Pinterest recipes, and general Google searches. I don't think that everyone has the time or financial resources to enroll and complete aromatherapy certification programs, but there are many aromatherapists and industry professionals who will work with and educate clients on essential oil usage for free or an affordable fee.
As I mentioned earlier, I remain in the middle of the road on this argument and I am not trying to be a killjoy. I think MLM essential oil companies have their place in the aromatherapy world, but I will always and continue to advocate education and safety first. I don't begrudge my experience with selling for MLM's as it provided a valuable experience in laying the foundation work in my professional aromatherapy practice. My goal is always to provide the most accurate information and to disseminate factual information from trusted sources with many years of experience. Education is extremely important to me and a journey and I am always willing to share information along the way.
I would like to personally thank Robert Tisserand, Jade Shutes, Andrea Butje, Amy Galper, Cathy Skipper, Joy Musacchio, and Cynthia Brownley who's courses, webinars, and workshops have provided an invaluable experience to me as an aromatherapist.
I recently did a Facebook Live in the Restorative Aromatics group on the low down on choosing essential oils brands and the importance of purity mostly because there are hundreds of oils and no one place seems to carry them all. Frustrating, isn't it?
It can be a challenge finding brands of essential oils when it comes to purchasing high quality, pure, unadulterated essential oils. As an aromatherapist, I often need to find different essential oils to experiment with for my certification classes and sometimes they are out of stock at your preferred company or they do not carry them at all. Most companies claim to be 100% pure... therapeutic grade... etc. Some of this is just marketing speak pure and simple since there is no official governing body that certifies essential oils as "pure" or "therapeutic grade." So anyone can use these terms. Cost doesn't always equate to quality, but it is a good indicator when price matching between companies - roughly the oil should be in the same price range.
We all have our brand loyalty and sometimes it is hard to move to using multiple brands for your oil collection. A lot of companies will get their oils from the same brokers and distilleries, so there may not be a huge difference in some oils from company to company. There are some companies that own their own farms, but many including those, partner with other brokers to provide their products. Most essential oil companies carry upwards of 100 or more different essential oils - so it would not be feasible to own farms all over the world or it would be cost prohibitive.
One of the key things I look for with essential oil companies is that if they release their GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry) reports on their website which gives you the range of chemical constituents in each oil as well as the range of percentages of those chemical constituents according to ISO standards. For instance, Lavender has a high linalool content and it should be within the range of 25-38%. More or less is out of range and may effect its therapeutic quality.
I've used dozens of different essential oil brands over the years and have had to research many companies and oils and found several that I really like. I purchased a lot of essential oils through Young Living, and while I do love their oils, I recognize that MLM companies are not for everyone. Here are some of the companies that I like the most. They all post their GC/MS reports on their websites, which is important and have relevant information about the essential oils on their websites as well. I recently looked up an essential oil on a company website and all it literally said was that "this oil can be used topically." No other information was provided!
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.