Is Young Living a Scam? Something Stinks With This MLM

I am very happy you found your way to my review of Young Living because this essential oil company may not smell all that sweet. In fact, something stinks with this MLM.  Is Young Living a scam?

What is Young Living Essential Oils?

Young Living is a  company, based in Utah, that sells essential oils for quasi-medical purposes and related products.  They use the multi-level-marketing business model.

Who is YLEO For?

It is not for anyone.

Who Is/Was Gary Young?

Gary Young, who died in 2018, was the co-founder of Young Living along with his wife, Mary Young.

He is a controversial figure, having been charged, in the 1980s, for practicing medicine without a license, to which he pleaded guilty.  This is not the only shadow that has been cast over him and you can read about all of it in the link to his name, above.

Suffice to say, he has done a few questionable things as far as business practices in his time.  His wife, Mary, heads the company now.

Brief Description and Price


owners/founders: Gary and Mary Young

price:  $100.00 to $260.00 (depending upon Starter Kit purchased)

what’s included:  The Basic Starter Kit Includes:

  • Stress away 5ml
  • Aromaglide Roller Fitment
  • Thieves Hand Sanitizer, 1 oz. sample
  • Thieves Mints
  • 2 NingXia Red, 2 oz. samples
  • Essential Oils at a glance flyer
  • Discover Your Young Living Lifestyle Booklet

guarantee: none

rating: (out of 10): 0

My Review of Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils was founded in 1993 by Gary and Mary Young in Riverton, Utah.  As with so many of these MLM’s they are selling us a dream of a beautiful, healthy lifestyle and the opportunity to create a comfortable income for ourselves while improving the well-being of those close to us and the world.  In their words, they are helping you to “create abundance”.

They offer a wide variety of products such as:

  • essential oils – including essential oil blends, massage oils, and dietary essential oils as well as diffusers
  • home/personal care products – toothpaste, hand soap, laundry soap, cleaning products
  • pet care – cream to treat dry paws, oils to soothe pet injuries, shampoo, pet dental chews, and cat treats
  • kids /baby products – lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, supplements to support digestive health and boost the immune system, oils to treat tummy aches and sniffles, baby wipes, lotion, baby wash, and shampoo
  • nutritional drinks and snack foods – including weight management products
  • make-up – a mineral-based makeup line including foundation, blush, eyeshadow, and lip gloss

In fact, they sell over 600 health and wellness products.

Structure and Compensation Plan

You have two choices if you would like to become a member:

Young Living Membership options

Once a member has joined, they then need to purchase a “starter kit” from an existing member.  The price range for this is $100 to $260, depending on which kit you purchase (basic to premium kit).  Young Living will then pay the (upline)person that recruited the new member (the downline) a $25 cash bonus.   In this way, there is an incentive for the upline member to continue recruiting new members.

This cash enrollment is not the only incentive, however.  As a member tries to move upward through the compensation plan, the only way to actually make enough to cover their membership is by recruiting new members and encouraging aggressive recruitment to their downline.

In order to move up the YL pyramid, a member must enroll in their “Essential Rewards” program and in order to remain active in this program they must purchase a minimum amount of product on a monthly basis which is termed PV or Personal Volume.

Each product has a PV point value, which is roughly $1 value for each point.  The minimum PV value to maintain active status in the Essential Rewards program is 50 but in order to be able to earn commissions, this increases to 100.

Now, the products that the member purchases (the PV), are at a 24% discount, so, in theory, those products could be resold by the member who could retain the difference between the discount and the retail price, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way because anyone can purchase these products at the discounted ‘wholesale’ price from YL directly.  Also, the member can only make a commission by (a), a Starter Kit sold to a new recruit or (b) through something termed the OGV (Organizational Group Volume) which has been purchased by downline members recruited directly by them or by their own downline members recruiting efforts.

What really stinks is that Young Living does not pay earned commissions even to those few who are able to create a downline that purchases the minimum Organizational Group Volume each month unless it is more than $25.  If it is less, a credit is issued that can only be used to purchase more products.  Thus, if a member’s commission is not enough to trigger a commission payment, then she must recruit more members to up her OGV.

Confusing? It’s meant to be!

The entire system is designed to recruit new members to grow the Pyramid, which is illegal and, unfortunately, a scam.

To support the need of the company to bring in new recruits, the members are awarded a plethora of compensation benefits and bonuses which they can earn exclusively by recruiting new members.  As you move up the ranks, the names of these levels convey wealth and success such as “Gold”, “Platinum” and the highest attainable level of “Royal Crown Diamond”.

The problem is, these higher levels are practically unattainable because, in order to achieve them, the member’s OGV (Organizational Group Volume), must increase dramatically.

For example, in order to even reach the relatively low rank of “Star”, the member must have an OGV of 500 and that member’s own PV (Personal Volume) of 100 does not count towards that 500 requirement.   What it means is that it is necessary for the member to recruit new members in their downline to move up the pyramid and earn commissions.  But because they are not rewarded for PV purchased personally, the only way to continue to move up the ranks is to recruit thousands of more people into their downline.

The highest tier is “Royal Crown Diamond”.  The required OGV to achieve this level is 1,500,000.  In order to meet that requirement, a member would need more than 15,000 in their downline purchasing the minimum PV.  Because attrition (dropout rate) and failure to order minimum PV is high, that member would likely have to recruit thousands more than even that 15,000 figure.

This is interesting:  Although Young Living claims that this “Royal Crown Diamond” is achievable to any member, only 46 have reached this tier.  This, out of 3,000,000 active members. This means that only .0015% of active members have made it to the top of the pyramid.

The vast majority of members have lost money by paying far more into the scheme than they have made. Those at the top are raking in the rewards, funded by all those members at the bottom of the pyramid paying into the system.

My source for this information is the Class Action Lawsuit that has been filed against this company, and which you can read here.

Below is Young Living’s 2018 income disclosure statement.

Young Living income disclosure 2018

You will see that at the basic level of ‘Distributor’, 88.8% made $0 to $1,022.00 with the average being $4.00!  Even at the next two highest levels up, ‘Star’ and ‘Senior Star’ the average is still well below $2,000.00 for the year.  Not much incentive.


As we often see in these MLM’s, there exists a cult-like atmosphere and this has been cited in the class action lawsuit against Young Living.

FDA warning

One of the criticisms about this company is the fact that its distributors are not qualified to prescribe essential oils, yet they do so.  Essential oils are very powerful and in some countries, such as France, it is illegal to prescribe or administer them without a medical license.

In September of 2014, Young Living was issued a warning by the Food and Drug Administration because of false claims by their distributors, that some of their products could treat conditions such as ebola and cancer.  You can view the entire FDA report here.


In 2017, the company was fined $760,000 for illegally trafficking spikenard and rosewood oil, to which they pleaded guilty.  In addition to the fine, the U.S. Department of Justice has put the company on a 5-year probation.

Pros and Cons


There are none


  • a class-action lawsuit has been filed
  • it is probably an illegal pyramid scheme

Final Comments About Young Living Essential Oils

I have nothing positive to say about this company, bearing in mind the class action lawsuit, FDA warnings and all the negative information that anyone can read about this company.

Don’t just take my word for it though.  You can read many complaints, as well as praise, of Young Living from both retail customers and distributors, on the Better Business Bureau website.

What stinks?  All of it.  I find it shocking that this company is even in existence but it looks like that may be changing soon.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review.  If you are involved with Young Living and agree or disagree with what I have written, I would welcome your opinion in the comments section.  Are you still with this company?

You Have Many Other Options

You don’t have to join an MLM if you are looking to generate some income online from home.  I refer you to my article on Money Making Ideas for Retirees, which gives you many other options.

How We Generate Online Income

I am not funneling people into what we do to earn income by criticizing the company I have just written about.  In fact, what we do also has shady characters and companies which is why I wrote the article on how to avoid affiliate marketing scams.

This review of Young Living just demonstrates that you have to be so careful when looking for a legitimate opportunity online.  We found our program after months of research and we are very happy with the route we took.  For more information, you can read Philip’s article on Affiliate Marketing for Retirees.

Be safe out there!



Young Living

$100.00 - $250.00



User experience




Value for money



  • There are none


  • a class action lawsuit has been filed
  • it is probably an illegal pyramid scheme

2 thoughts on “Is Young Living a Scam? Something Stinks With This MLM”

  1. I was a little miffed when reading your article suggesting that Young Living is an illegal pyramid scheme so I thought I’d share my thoughts and experience so you’re not sharing misinformation. There are a variety of price points to become a member of Young Living. The basic membership is $35 which would be similar to buying a Costco membership allowing you to get in the door to shop their discounted prices. People who opt for this just want a few products. Most opt for a product bundle though. $165 will get you a diffuser, 12 oils, hand sanitizer, thieves spray and mints. The Premium Starter Kit is a pretty sweet deal regardless of what you think of their other prices. Once you are a member you can buy anything you want, anytime you want, at a 24% discount from retail pricing which includes CBD products. There is no requirement to set up a monthly subscription box however, if you are using the essential oils or essential oil infused products in your daily life you will likely run out and need to replenish them so the subscription box makes sense. The minimum order is $50 of which you can opt out at any time. The best part is you choose what is in your box as well as when it will be shipped. The first 3 months of your subscription box you get 10% back towards future purchases, months 4-24 you get 20% back and after 2 years you get 25% back on every monthly purchase. I don’t think any other MLM company offers that. If I never sold another starter kit I would still continue my subscription box because I will always need shampoo, laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, make-up, skin care, supplements, etc…

    Those who choose to step over to the YL business side share their shopping link and people make purchases giving the business person credit. You never need to carry any stock to sell. Who has room to buy stuff for other people or the money to do that? I chose to start a YL business in 2017. I shared what worked for me and people wanted what I had so I gave them my link and they made their purchase online. YL sent them their products. Some people chose to be business builders and some choose to be wholesale customers. I am currently a Silver Leader. YL sells high quality products which I use daily and those who have bought products from me use them too. The reason Young Living MLM is NOT a pyramid scheme is because they sell products and derive real profits from that product. Also, my members who have chosen to be business builders can surpass me in income which also shoots down the “pyramid scheme” model.

    We all know there are dozens and dozens of brands to choose from when it comes to health and wellness products. But what makes Young Living different from the rest is in their Seed to Seal promise.. You won’t find this guarantee and peace of mind with any other company. You can expect that Young Living will provide you with only the BEST!
    *plant material that is grown on corporately-owned farms or carefully vetted partner farms (that you CAN visit!)
    *sustainable farming and sourcing practices, providing the purest oil
    *great care taken to preserve and protect natural resources
    *hand-weeded fields and ZERO use of pesticides
    *oils that retain all their natural constituents and therapeutic properties
    *use of food-grade distillers with state-of-the-art design and distillation methods
    *low pressure and low temperature distillation, without the use of solvents or synthetic chemicals
    *rigorous testing on each batch by internal labs and third-party facilities
    *oils that are carefully reviewed through every step of production in order to meet or exceed industry safety and purity standards (beyond organic!)
    And the best part… if the oils or products do not meet these high standards they are rejected and will not be bottled as a Young Living product. Name me a company that does that!

    I am a retired teacher and have enjoyed all the Young Living products as well as the wonderful product education and friends I have made in the last 3 years.

    • Hello Niki,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my review of Young Living and to post a comment.

      In your comment, you mention both the Young Living products and also the business opportunity that the company offers. My review is not about the products themselves and I express no opinion on their efficacy, value, or otherwise. I did comment on some ridiculous claims made by some distributors about the ability of some of the products to heal such illnesses as ebola and cancer and which were the subject of an FDA report but I did not even insinuate that that meant the products were otherwise not beneficial to some people.

      My review is entirely about the Young Living business opportunity and in this regard, I stand by everything I said previously. Young Living is, in my opinion, blatantly a pyramid scheme. I say this because the only way that members can realistically make an income is by recruiting more members below them in a downline. This is the classic definition of a pyramid scheme.

      Furthermore, the fact remains that, even with recruiting new members, the vast majority of Young Living Distributors (whom you call “Business Builders”) either make no money or, worse still, actually lose money working with this company. As evidence of this, I refer you to Young Living’s own Income Disclosure Statement which clearly shows that 89% of their distributors average only $4.00 per year, gross income. On the assumption that those distributors spend more than $4.00 a year on products and other business expenses, it is clear that the vast majority of those distributors actually lose money.

      You, of course, could be one of the infinitesimally small percentage of distributors who actually make a profit although I don’t know because you don’t offer us any details of what money you have made in the years you have been with Young Living. If you would care to disclose those figures (including expenses), I will gladly publish them here.

      Thank you again for your comment and I wish you every success,



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