Which Essential Oils Company is Best? Are Multi-Level Marketing Oils Worth It? – Part 5

The big names in Essential Oils are Young Living and doTERRA--but they'll set you back quite a few bucks. Are they worth it? Come find out what I think about that...it gets pretty dicey in the comment area--you've been warned :)!

If you’ve been thinking about, or already are using, essential oils, at one time or another you’ve likely wondered if you should be part of Young Living, doTERRA, or some other multi-level marketing (MLM) company to get “the best essential oils” at a discount.

Today let’s talk about these MLM companies up close to see the pros and cons of joining–and whether or not what they have to say is really true.

The Best Essential Oil Series continues.

The 3 “Heavy Hitters” in the MLM essential oils business are:

Young Living
doTERRA, with
Be Young having somewhat of a presence as well.

Now–I’m all about saving money.  So of course when I can either buy something at retail, or get the same things for 25-35% off (typical MLM rep discount), then you can bet I’m going to check into it.

Well, I’ve been an MLM rep for a number of different companies, including YL and doTERRA (DT), so here are my thoughts about MLMs–mainly regarding the oils companies, but some of my thoughts extend to other MLMs as well.  I did some research into BeYoung but chose not to become a rep of their company.

Multi-Level Marketing Dilemma – Young Living and doTERRA

Positives of the oil MLMs

1.  Education / Resources

I really like the support available with both YL and doTERRA.  I didn’t avail myself of all of it, but of what I did, I found doTERRA’s support network to be stronger.  Both companies had websites with treatment and/or testimonial resources available (actually, the most valuable resources were not but together by the companies, but by outside sources–likely reps high up in the business).  Smaller companies don’t have such opportunities, typically.  That being said, there are some negatives even to these resources and their recommendations (see internal usage below).

2.  Money Making Opportunity

Of course, you can save money by becoming a rep, but you can also make money when you share the products, and opportunity, with others.  I think, when done right,  MLMs are fine.  Reps are basically paid salespeople who get rewarded for sharing products with others.

Negatives of Oil MLMs

1.  Misleading marketing practices

(CPTG, Certified Therapeutic Grade, E.O.B.B.D.)

All 3 of the Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) essential oils leaders claim that they have a corner on “therapeutic grade,” but their names for it are different.

– Young Living calls their oils “Young Living Therapeutic Grade”
– BeYoung : “E.O.B.B.D.”  This certification appears to have roots in Europe, but some claims about it on the internet are not accurate and/or aren’t that meaningful.  After reading the details of E.O.B.B.D., I believe that any good oils company should be doing all of this.  And the “smart guys” in the industry can fool these GC/MS tests. Yes, that’s true. They know what the tests are looking for and they know how to get around it. Just like the athletes can fool the doping tests.

The gist of it is this:  YL, DT, and BY all say that only their oils are good enough for you to use because of the testing that they have done.

But the reality is this:  It looks like they’re all about the same–except that YL tests their own oils.

The YL and doTERRA names are basically terms made up so that they can have a label to put on their oils (except with Be Young, which actually is using an already determined standard).

2.  Pressure to buy more than you need

Like I said, I love saving money.  So every month, when I had the opportunity to get a freebie or earn 10-30% credit toward future orders, I felt the urge to buy.  And typically I did.  Get rep pricing without signing up!)

3. Possible Dangerous Recommendations

I am not up on the practices of Be Young, but I know YL and doTERRA both have a heavy emphasis on internal use of essential oils.  I wasn’t too concerned about this at first, but as I’ve learned more I have gotten more worried about this.

Both recommend internal use of oils liberally, with doTERRA even having a Slim and Sassy blend that they recommend taking internally numerous time per day, for a long period of time, in order to aid weight loss.  There are protocols on the internet recommending internal use of grapefruit oils by YL reps in order to lose weight.

I’ve used oils internally and felt that they were helpful (though the Slim and Sassy did nothing for me :-(), but I have been doing some re-thinking about this.  Oils are super potent.   It takes about 16 pounds of peppermint leaves to make 1 ounce of peppermint oil.  Wow.  (Source)

You really need to recognize that, when you use oils, you are using something super strong.  The owner of one oil company told me that, when using oils internally, especially “hot oils” like:

– oregano
– cinnamon
– clove
– citrus oils

you need to make sure to supplement with probiotics also because the hot oils destroy not only bad bacteria, but also the good. Makes sense to me.

A number of folks in the oils industry have suggested that the reason YL and doTERRA recommend so much internal usage of oils is to drive up usage and drive up sales.  I don’t know their motivation, but that would make perfect sense.

4.  Savings Not What They Seem

When I signed up with YL and then later, with doTERRA, I was really excited to get about

30% off retail prices
freebies each month (with a qualifying order) and
credit toward future purchases, provided you keep ordering monthly.  YL gives you 1 month off each year, but doTERRA has no such grace period.

Well, when it came time to cash in my points, I got a little surprise from doTERRA (guess I should have read the fine print).  There are fees for using your points.  $3 per $100 used.

YL takes $1-$4 off of each check–for “maintenance” to “figure out your commission” (quote from a CSR)–just to send you your earnings .  doTERRA charges $1.95 for each check cut.

I don’t mean to be too sarcastic here, but that would sure be nice to earn $1.95 for cutting a check.   I don’t see why there should be a fee to “figure out your commission.”  Doesn’t software do that?

Then, each year, doTERRA charges an annual fee ($25) to be a rep, but they send you a bottle of peppermint oil.  Again, I don’t mean to be too harsh, but remember my concerns about their peppermint oil?  I’m just not sure how much it’s worth.

Finally, everyone knows that a good bit of the pricing of MLM products go toward rewarding “top reps” with trips to Hawaii, etc.  One company told me that the percentage of their pricing that goes toward commissions and rewards is 40%.  :-(.

5.  Privacy Issues

Some people don’t want to give out their SS# to become a rep.  The companies need these to file taxes with the IRS.  I understand concerns about keeping your SS# private.  One alternative is to get a Tax ID # from your state. (Update: One reader shared there is a way to get a discount from doTERRA without your SS#)

6.  Over-the-Top Devotion

I’ve been pretty disappointed with the response of some readers to Part 4 of this Best Essential Oils series.  There’ve been numerous attacks on my character, both here, on Facebook sites, and elsewhere. (Check out Part 4 to see comments and my responses.)

I’d really hoped to finish this series earlier this week, but responding to these attacks has taken a lot of time.

I’ve been accused of:

seeking to tear down doTERRA
profit-seeking (some said the motive behind this series will be clear when I share the “winner.”)
analysis totally lacking in science, being based only on “smell tests”

I assure you–none of this is true and this brings up my final concern about these MLMs.

I am NOT anti-MLM.  In fact, I’m a rep for Lilla Rose (see my Lilla Rose Review) and one other company that I am evaluating right now.  {UPDATE:  I am still with this company and LOVE them. Totally not pushy and “over the top” quality products. You can read about their probiotic here.}

But having devotion to a company that results in attacks of this sort taints the reputation of all MLMs and their reps.  It’s frankly uncalled for.

I started checking out various oils companies because I didn’t want to recommend any company without fairly checking out the competitors.  I felt it would be a disservice to my family and to my readers.

I chose the oils company that I will recommend next week because I believe it’s a solid oils company with unwavering commitment to quality and purity.  As with everything on my blog, if I can make money appropriately from my recommendations, I will do it.  This is standard blogging practice.

There are things on my blog that I recommend that I don’t make any money from–but I recommend them because I believe in them (See my Heavy Metal Toxicity post).

I can’t promise I’ll always be right, but I can promise you that I will do my best, within reason (I do have a family with health conditions, and we homeschool and eat all whole foods) to get the best information to you and correct myself whenever I’m wrong.

So–are the MLM oils worth it?  I don’t think they are terrible products, necessarily, but I do think that you can get a better “bang for your essential oils buck.”  Stick with this bargain and quality-hunting mama– I hope to share early next week!

More Posts in the Best Essential Oils Series:

- Which Essential Oils Company is Best? – Part 1
Best Essential Oils – What a Good Oils Company Should Have – Part 2
Which Essential Oils Company is Best – Troubles with the Oils Industry – Part 3
- Young Living vs. doTERRA – Part 4
Distillation, Bias, Vomit and More Concerns – Part 6
-Announcing “the Best” Essential Oils Company – Part 7

**Finally, you can get my Report on Essential Oils, 10 Things You NEED to Know BEFORE You Buy for FREE by visiting here and signing up for my newsletter.**

Take Your Oils With You!

{Please note that there are affiliate links following. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your support means a great deal and helps keep this free resource up and running – thanks :)!}

Whichever oils company you decide on, one of the best decisions I made was to take oils with me wherever (almost) I go. This carrying case is the perfect size to take while on the go or traveling so you always have your oils with you should the need arise.

Essential Oils Case

So–what do you think?

The information here is for entertainment purposes only. Please consult a medical professional before changing your diet, exercise program, or before trying any natural remedies.

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    Speak Your Mind


  1. Rebecca F says:

    Hi, I appreciate the info you are providing! I am looking for oils that I can trust, and you have done a ton of the investigative work for me! And I can follow up myself with any further question I have, or just take your word for it. No one should be saying anything negative about what you are writing! I just want you to know I appreciat the work you have done. Thank you!

  2. I would like you to clarify your comment that essential oils taken internally kill good and bad bacteria including, clove, oregano, cinnamon and citrus and you should be supplementing with a probiotic if using internally. I have not found ant credible information that this is true and would be interested to see where you obtained your information to make that claim.

    • I have read it in many places on the internet – well, I have read both sides. Folks saying that since it’s antibacterial is can kill good bacteria and others saying it’s “smart” and won’t do that. My current practitioner told me to be careful about taking too much oil of oregano b/c it could disturb the microbiome. hope that helps :).

    • crosswind says:

      These oils are known to help kill bad bacteria, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it killed bad bacteria too. It would be wise to supplement with probiotics. I too have read & heard for several years that they kill good/bad bacteria. These are potent plant oils. I was recommended to take Oregano oil regularly for chronic strep/pandas which settles in the brain/sinus and many with Lyme disease take it too. Just like Grapefruit seed oil is potent & can kill good bacteria with the bad. Clover oil is a strong anti-fungal too.

  3. Really comprehensive review of the three MLMs companies. Personally I had some sleeping disorders and recently been using Living Young essential oils so was checking out if these are really effective .

  4. syrita Barbera says:

    Wow, way to promote your mlm. It’s amazing how something good comes along without all the side affects and people want to criticize. Btw, with Doterra you can get direct deposit and it’s 50 cents a check.
    You didn’t mention that Doterra is tested by 3 different outside labs. (0: Just some info your readers might be interested in.

    • Hi there. I am not sure what you are talking about. I am not a part of any essential oils MLM – so could you please clarify? I don’t think you should have to pay to get a direct deposit. Can you explain why they are charging that?

      I never said anything about doTERRA not having oils that didn’t meet testing requirements, but there are others who have said that. I merely took issue with their apparent distillation of one of their oils and sourcing questions about the same. I really really wanted things to work out w/ them but couldn’t get the answers that I needed and I can’t represent a company if I can’t get answers to important questions. What do you think about those issues that I brought up? Thanks in advance.

    • Brydie Bray says:

      Rocky Mountain Oils/Native American Nutritionals are not an MLM company, so not quite sure how you came to the conclusion that she was just trying to make more money for her MLM lol.. You might want to read the whole article before getting your knickers in a twist. And that is the MAIN thing that bothers me about the MLM companies in the EO business.. The amount of blind faith, and kool-aid drinking that goes on, boggles the mind.

      • Hi there = sorry for taking so long to approve your comment. I have been swamped and am trying to play catch up. Thanks so much for sharing and hope to see you around again!

  5. How can I contact you?

  6. Hi there, thank you so much for all your work! The only thing I’d like to question is the general idea that MLM prices are higher do they can pay their higher ups exorbitant sounds if money. Even if 40% goes to paying reps, think about all the things they don’t have to pay for… just by not having employees they don’t have ss taxes, health insurance, sick days, vacation days etc. They also avoid a huge advertising budget because that is being done by their reps. Then there’s maintenance of infrastructure, they don’t have that expense because reps use their homes or other local businesses. I suppose that’s the top of the ice berg, but I really think an argument could be made that the higher price goes into the crazy amount it must cost to work with farms around the world so they can provide a native product and the testing fees to hire companies to make sure their product meets their standard. I’m not trying to argue I just think maybe this thought needs to be stated too. Thank you, your information is valuable!

    • Hi there. It’s pretty complicated. I got a bunch of information from Native American on this so I hope this helps. I am putting it in my own words:

      Even though many think that a company’s costs are higher than for an MLM, it’s not really the case. The costs are still much higher for an MLM because they still have just as many employees, and then the distributors are on top of the employees.

      You are correct in that distributors do not have to pay “social security fees”, which is FICA and includes social security among many other things. Those are 7.5% of gross wages paid by employers. However, Doterra and YL have thousands of employees that they DO have to pay this for. Then they have thousands of distributors that they don’t have to, but they DO have to pay commissions for. In addition to one person’s commissions, there are other people in the up-line to pay commissions to. Because of these two factors, the cost per revenue dollar is extremely high, which is what causes a need to raise prices to compensate for high costs.

      One of the most important business metrics that any company needs to look at is revenue per employee. Doterra’s Revenue per employee is much lower than NANs (as far as we can tell), meaning that they actually have a greater percentage of revenue spent towards employee costs than we have. This means that the FICA argument actually goes the other way, arguing that they have greater FICA fees than us by a significant margin. We are hiring more, so revenue per employee will change, but Doterra/ YL will never dwarf us in this regard, so keep in mind that these fees apply to them just as much as us, if not even a bit more.

      Obviously with that employee rate, that linearly increases your cost with healthcare, vacation, etc. So the cost of downlines is in addition to those other costs on top of these fees.

      Yeah this is technical business stuff, that I could go on about for hours,…Basically remember that Doterra has thousands of employees to support their distributors. In addition to that, they have to pay the commissions. All of those costs that you think that the MLMs can avoid, they really can’t. They still need employees to maintain their customers (which are their distributors). The difference between an MLM and a direct to consumer company (like us) is that our customers are the people using our oils. For an MLM, their customers are actually the distributors. Everything they do is to help their distributors and to get membership fees, etc. So the business model is very different.

      Also, to say that Doterra doesn’t have advertising expenses is another major understatement. Their advertising expenditure per revenue dollar is much higher than ours. They have far more advertising expenditures. They put money into stadiums in Utah to sponsor those and pay big money to get their name mentioned. These are all advertising expenses which cost much more than the stuff we would do which is far more direct. So they have plenty of advertising expenses. They rent out huge conference centers and pay for massive parties to motivate their distributors to get out there and sell more. So remember that MLM’s customers are the distributors and so you might not see the advertising because its targeted at distributors and getting more of them, because thats where MLM’s make their money.

      I hope that helps.

  7. It’s so good to see this! I’m personally getting tired of seeing YL and doTerra all over the internet. I definitely agree with your concerns and am glad you have the courage to put them out there!

    • I am personally tired of it too. Yesterday my dental hygienist told me that one of her patients was pushing one of the big oil companies on her too. I do think oils are great but I think their enthusiasm is over the top.

  8. I have been a Young Living rep for a few months now and I have found your information very interesting. I think that for people who only want to buy a few essential oils a year a company such as NAM might be the best choice. For me, I feel that Young Living is a better choice but there is no need for me to go over all the reasons why here.

    With Young Living how a person chooses to be involved and how the product is presented is their own choice. YL doesn’t force anyone to say anything about “therapeutic grade” so I just choose to say “high quality”. I wrote my own safety information to give to new members which I feel responsibly warns them of possible problems, including allergies. I don’t pressure people to buy things they don’t want to buy or to do business they don’t want to do. The people in my upline are not pushy either and the support in this group of people is wonderful. (My daughter has been a member for over a year so this isn’t based on just a few months experience..) I have never been interested in being involved in a MLM company before, but I feel comfortable with Young Living because I can run the business in the way I feel comfortable with and I like the products and I love the support.

    As far as the higher pay for the higher level people in the company, this is the case for most, if not all, large companies and no one seems to think it is strange that a high level person in Microsoft gets high pay but for some reason in an EO company there seems to be an idea that a high level person should not get high pay. But one difference between Young Living and Microsoft is that they give every person an opportunity to benefit from the company sales and reach any level they wish depending on how much time and effort they are willing and able to work at it, which is not true of Microsoft. (Not that I would want to put the amount of time and effort it takes to reach the top levels – those people make great sacrifices of their time and effort to get to that level.)

    Anyway, I would like to compliment you on the job you do here. I have not read one thing that I thought was unfair or unthoughtful.

    • Thanks much for commenting. I think much of what you said is accurate. I do wonder about some of the monies those “high ups” make – I just saw a blogger talking about a ranking she just made with doTERRA and on another site it said the average pay for that level is $490,000 or something like that. That is crazy!!!!

  9. Hi, thank you so much for putting together the information about essential oils company. It helps me greatly to realize what I have been wondering about these company might be true. I started to question about my orders and how the business is run by YL. Also how they charge credit card before receiving items (especially at YL events) and not receiving items in 2 weeks while others already have received their event order items. I will probably end up with disputing credit card charges. The oils they sell seems to be good but I disagree with how the business is run, MLM with their commission especially thus closing my account soon.

    Please keep your post coming because I don’t think you are attacking anybody. It is your opinion and people should respect your research and sharing the info!

  10. You mentioned that Young Living tests their own oils. They do, but they ALSO send them elsewhere to be tested on a regular basis. According to Dr. Herve Casabianca (Ph.D.), Chairman of the International Standards Organization (ISO) Committee on Essential Oil Standards (a European agency whose acronym is AFNOR), Young Living is the only North American company that sends samples on a steady basis to the AFNOR laboratory in France for testing against the international standards for therapeutic quality. In Dr. Casabianca’s own words, “Young Living oils are the only therapeutic grade oils, of which I am aware, produced and/or marketed by an American company.”

    • Hi Rebecca. I think it is possible that you are mistaken. This is from the Young Living blog at this URL: http://www.dgaryyoung.com/blog/2010/part-9-finding-pure-essential-oils/

      This is the information on AFNOR- that Young Living does not send their oils out to be tested, but they apparently calibrated their instruments to match the AFNOR testing.

      Our instruments are the only ones in the world that are matched and calibrated to the instruments used in the Central Service Laboratory in France by Dr. Hervé Casabianca, who was on the directing committee that wrote the AFNOR Standards, which are accepted worldwide as the average essential oil standards. With Dr. Casabianca’s help, Young Living is raising the bar for the standards of essential oils.

      I hope that helps!

      • According to their site and the source I stated above they do. Here is what they say on their site: “To guarantee consistent quality, our oils are tested in Young Living’s own internal labs, as well as in third-party facilities, to ensure that they meet stringent specifications, exceed international standards, and contain the optimal levels of natural bioactive compounds.”

        • Hi Rebecca. I don’t see anything in the source that I linked to stating that they use a 3rd party for testing, but I do see it in the link you sent now. So perhaps they do. As a side note, all of the GC/MS tests that NAN/RMO does are 3rd party tested by certified labs. If you have any other questions or concerns I will do my best to address them. Thanks!

    • Hi again. I just found out (might have known it before) that NAN and RMO use AFNOR as one of the standards for their oil testing so I hope that helps :).

  11. Susan, I know I emailed you about this, but could you share for our community whatever documentation, or lack thereof, that you have regarding this situation? Thank you. I don’t wish to have incorrect wrong information spread around about others.

  12. Thanks much. Disconcerting. I appreciate your reaching out.

  13. Thanks for the further clarification.