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.
As a follow up to yesterday's Multilevel Marketing: Do's and Don'ts, I thought that I would shed some light on my experiences and those of friends and colleagues to paint a better picture of things to look out for with MLM companies.
I have been looking at the various ways that Multilevel Marketing Companies (MLM's) work for their independent distributors and their uplines and downlines. I am putting together a list of do's and don'ts if you are in the position or representing or selling for a MLM. Know that not all MLM's are the same, but there are some red flags to watch out for.
That is all for now. I may add some additional do's and don'ts later, but this should get you started.
This article popped up in my newsfeed today: Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLaRoe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis and I was surprised for many reasons. Not all MLM companies are the same and I was shocked to see that LuLaRoe requires you to buy thousands of dollars of stock to sell while preaching empowerment for women. I love leggings, a lot, I literally wear them everyday year round, but you know what? I probably only buy leggings once or twice a year as they wear out and I need new ones. I don't understand the business model of pushing something that at best customers only buy a couple times a year. Some MLM's just do not have sustainable opportunities.
Now wait you say, "isn't Young Living a multilevel-marking company too?" Yes, it is a MLM company... Their business model is pretty different that the likes of LulaRoe insofar as you do not have to buy any stock to sell. Anything I purchase is for my own personal use and the occasional sample. There are no monthly sales quotas either. If you don't want to do the business side of it, you don't have to and if you can't do it all the time, that is no problem either. I've seen friends get burned by other MLM's due to startup costs and quotas.
Outside of kit sales, Young Living's model is built on residual income based on the people in your downline. If you have say 10 people in your downline and each spends $100 a month, you get a percentage of that and future sales. Again, no one is required to do the business side of the company. But wait, who buys essential oils every month? Well, Young Living carries a lot more than just essential oils - you can purchase all sorts of products from laundry detergent to vitamins and supplements to shampoo and conditioner and now even makeup. Those are things that people buy every month. More to the point, is that those things that I buy through Young Living were once things I'd pick up at the drug store, grocery store, or upscale cosmetics stores.
Young Living has been around for over twenty years and they own their own farms and their "seed to seal" standard ensures that they grow, harvest, and process all of their oils. While they may be a MLM company, they are not a fly by night scam. There seems to be a popular mode of thought that all MLM companies are pyramid schemes selling worthless stuff or products that don't work and no one really makes money by doing them. In some cases, this is most definitely true but I am intelligent enough to avoid that stuff like the plague. I made sure that if I were to be involved with Young Living that they were different and that I wasn't going to be hemorrhaging cash in the process. Yes, I have bought and replaced many essential oils, but I use them everyday for multiple purposes. I diffuse them, I use them in my daily skincare routine, I use them for cleaning and more. That money I have spent, is money that used to go into by chemical laden products at retail stores.
What do you have to do to "sell" through Young Living? Most people just talk about their experiences in person or on social media or like me have a blog. Some occasionally hold in person or online classes or make & takes. It is a pretty laid back approach. That is pretty much it in a nutshell.
I love their essential oils and other products - especially exploring and making my own DIY products for myself and my home. If you know me, you know that when I am passionate about something, I talk about it on Facebook or in person. Usually, in person I talk about it if someone brings it up or it is relevant to the conversation. Oh and you know what I hate after working retail sales - anything that comes across and "too salesy." I am not going to beat anyone over the head with a kit sale, if you are interested, great!, if not, no worries.
When my sponsor/enroller approached me about the business aspect, she just said since "you are pretty much doing it anyways", you might want to get involved on the business side of things. Again, no commitment, I did my research and held a few online classes and make & takes, which I liked doing, but am taking a break from right now. I'd much rather talk one-on-one with someone interested in essential oils and to make some samples for them as well.
Do I have any delusions that I am suddenly going to be making $10,000 a month? Of course not! It is possible, but I also work at an awesome job that I love. You get out of an MLM like Young Living what you put into it and MLM's aren't for everyone. Don't fall for any upline ploy about making mad cash right off the bat. If you aren't comfortable - don't do it. Do your research!! Look into the company, ask around with other "sellers" to get a better handle on what they do. Luckily, with my Young Living group they have a Facebook group with 1100 members who are doing the business who give honest advice, share their experiences, and their monthly commissions.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.