Is Young Living a Pyramid Scheme or Legit MLM? [Review]

Are you wondering if Young Living is a good way to earn money online, or if it’s just a pyramid scheme? Maybe someone you know is already part of it and mentioned it to you.

Young Living is a company in Utah that sells essential oils and similar products. It was started by Donald Gary Young in 1993.

So, is Young Living a real MLM (multi-level marketing) company, or is it more like a pyramid scheme? Let’s talk about that. And hey, we’ll also tell you about another option for making money from home.

Who Am I?

Hey there! I’m Benjamin, the person behind MLM Scam Insider. I used to be a sales rep at an MLM company, so I’ve seen both the good and bad sides of the MLM world.

After college, I joined HSBC as a relationship manager. Unfortunately, I got laid off due to some silly mistakes, and I felt pretty hopeless. During this tough time, a friend suggested I join his team.

He flaunted his success on Instagram with a Lamborghini (later, I discovered he had just rented it), so I believed I could attain the same. I purchased a starter kit from him and became a distributor. However, being a sales representative at an MLM company wasn’t what I had anticipated – it felt like a pyramid scheme. Uncomfortable with the idea of pitching to my friends and family, I only managed to sell a few starter kits.

Fortunately, I discovered how to make money blogging during Covid. So I soon quit my job as a sales rep and focused on my blog about budgeting, later selling it for $170k. Now, I’m a full-time internet entrepreneur running several blogs, including this one.

My goal is to provide you with honest reviews of various MLM companies, using my personal experiences to help you understand what’s really happening. I have connections with friends in the network marketing industry, and my team and I have spoken with different MLM distributors to give you the inside scoop.

What is Young Living?

Young Living is a company that specializes in selling essential oils and other products through multi-level marketing. They claim to be the top provider of high-quality essential oils globally, which can help with a range of health issues.

Nevertheless, there have been some concerns about Young Living recently.

For instance, Dr. Pappas, an Indiana University professor, discovered evidence that the oils contain synthetic components. Despite this, the company still claims that their products are 100% pure.

Young Living

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Who’s the Founder of Young Living?

Gary Young founded and owns Young Living Oils. He developed an interest in alternative medicine after injuring his back in the early 1970s. His fascination with essential oils began after meeting a lavender distiller from France at a conference in California. He then traveled to France to learn more about distillation.

In the early 1990s, Gary and his wife bought a 160-acre farm in St. Maries, Idaho. Young Living was established in 1993 in Riverton, Utah, with Gary as CEO, and officially incorporated in 1994. Another farm was purchased in Mona, Utah, in 1996.

By 1996, the company projected sales of $8 to $10 million. From 2015 to 2017, annual sales exceeded $1 billion.

Starting in 2000, Gary operated the Young Life Research clinic in Springville, Utah. Following a lawsuit settlement in 2005, the clinic closed, and Gary opened a clinic in Ecuador, where he practiced medicine and performed surgery.

In 2006, he opened his first international farm in Ecuador. Young Living became the first large commercial distillery to extract essential oils from frankincense in 2010, and in 2014, their Highland Flats distillery became the first automated, large-capacity, computerized steam distilling facility for essential oils.

Gary Young and his wife

Is Young Living an MLM?

Yes, Young Living is an MLM. MLM stands for multilevel marketing, which is also known as direct sales or network marketing.

This system creates a pyramid-like structure, with the person at the top making the most money and the people at the bottom making the least. In an MLM, the people you recruit are considered your “downline,” and you are their “upline.”

Using the MLM marketing strategy, Young Living has recruited thousands of independent distributors who can sell products directly to customers and earn commissions on sales to other distributors they recruit into a network called “downlines”.

While distributors can earn from direct sales, the bulk of their income typically comes from commissions on sales made by those they’ve recruited. Distributors are ranked based on their sales, with “Distributors” being at the lowest rank and “Royal Crown Diamonds” at the top.

According to a report from the New Yorker in 2017, Young Living requires distributors to make monthly purchases totaling $100 to qualify for commissions.

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Is Young Living A Pyramid Scheme?

No, Young Living is not a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are unsustainable and frequently fraudulent.

These schemes require members to pay a fee to an organization that rewards them for enrolling new members. The more recruits, the more money the existing members might earn. 

The organization’s only source of income is from recruiting new members, and it does not provide any valuable goods or services. In such a scheme, people at the bottom of the pyramid usually lose money, while those at the top profit the most.

On the other hand, as a legit MLM company, Young Living offers a range of products that members can sell to make money, instead of solely rely on recruitment. 

That said, according to a report from the New Yorker in 2017, Young Living requires distributors to make monthly purchases totaling $100 to qualify for commissions. 

Learn more about the differences between MLM and pyramid scheme

How Much Does it Cost to Join Young Living?

If you want to join Young Living as a seller or recruiter, you’ll need to buy one of their starter kits. The prices range from $25 to $165, depending on which kit you choose.

For beginners, the Standard Beginner Kit costs $25. It includes:

  • Stress Away 5ml
  • Thieves Mints
  • Brochure
  • AromaGlide Roller Fitment
  • 2 samples of NingXia Red (2-oz each)
  • 10 Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier Sachets (0.1 oz each)
  • Quick Reference Guide for Essential Oils

If you want more products to sell, the Starter Kit at $165 includes:

  • Desert Mist Diffuser
  • Peppermint Oil 5ml
  • Frankincense Oil 5ml
  • DiGize Oil 5ml
  • Valor Oil 5ml
  • 10 Thieves Waterless Hand Cleanser Sachets (0.1 oz each)
  • Product Guide and Price List
  • Member Resources
  • Premium Starter Kit with 12 Essential Oils (Lemon 5ml, Thieves 5ml, PanAway 5ml, Thieves Spray, Essential Oils Magazine, Lavender 5ml, Citrus Fresh 5ml, Raven 5ml, Stress Away 5ml)
  • 2 AromaGlide Roller Fitments
  • 2 NingXia Red 2-oz samples

Once you have your Essential Rewards kit, you can start selling the actual essential oil products at wholesale prices and earn a commission on each sale. You can also start a multi-level downline and get paid for each sale made by one of your distributors.

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How Much Can You Make With Young Living?

In 2016, about 94% of Young Living’s active members earned less than a dollar, while less than 0.1% (approximately one thousand Royal Crown Diamond distributors) earned over a million dollars.

According to a Business Insider analysis of the company’s 2018 income disclosure statement, 89% of members trying to run their own business were in the lowest tier, making an average of $4 per year.

The first three tiers, which included 98.7% of active members, earned between $4 and $1,551 annually, excluding required monthly expenses to stay active with the company.

Is Young Living a Scam?

Legally speaking, Young Living isn’t a scam. But, can you really make money selling their products? Well, most Young Living reps don’t make any money.

However, some do earn, but it’s tough and requires a lot of effort. They mainly make money by recruiting new members aggressively.

It’s also important to note that Young Living has made misleading and irresponsible marketing claims.

In September 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Young Living, along with two other companies, about their marketing practices. The FDA found instances where Young Living distributors claimed on social media and websites that their products could treat Ebola and other conditions. The FDA also noted that Young Living’s website promoted products in a way that could classify them as drugs. 

In 2020, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau recommended that Young Living stop claiming its products are ‘therapeutic grade’ due to a lack of scientific support. 

In 2022, the FDA issued a warning letter to Young Living for illegally marketing several products as misbranded, unapproved drugs. This included products like “Essential Oil”, “Vitality”, “Ningxia”, and “Nature’s Ultra CBD”, which hadn’t been adequately studied for safety and effectiveness. Specifically, for the product containing CBD called “Nature’s Ultra CBD”, the FDA stated that it couldn’t be legally marketed without approval, as no CBD-containing drug met FDA requirements for nonprescription use.

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Pros and Cons of Young Living MLM


  • Young Living has a long-standing reputation as a successful MLM business.


  • The company has faced several lawsuits and FDA warnings in the past, which may concern potential members.
  • Young Living’s products have raised health concerns. In 2020, Business Insider reported 11 FDA complaints from 2013-2014 about serious reactions to Young Living products. One case was due to a possible product failure, while others were from incorrect usage or allergic reactions.
  • You have to buy some Young Living products yourself each month to qualify for commissions.
  • Young Living’s business model heavily emphasizes recruiting new members, which gives a strong vibe of a pyramid scheme.
  • Most distributors lose money from their investments in Young Living products.
  • Young Living products are overpriced compared to other brands that offer similar products at lower prices. It can be challenging to sell Young Living products because your prospects can buy the same product elsewhere at a much cheaper price.

Should You Join Young Living?

If you’re thinking about joining Young Living to earn some extra cash, I have some advice for you: don’t. It’s not worth the time or effort.

The biggest hurdle you’ll face when trying to make money with Young Living is finding people to join your team. You’ll be pressured to recruit friends and family members, which can be awkward and uncomfortable.

Even if you manage to build a decent downline, the odds are against you – according to a study by the FTC, 99% of MLM participants break even or lose money.

But don’t worry, there are better ways to make money online. If you want to be your own boss and have the freedom to promote whatever products you choose, consider starting your own online business. 

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Other MLM Opportunities

Here are the other MLM companies we have reviewed:


Amway (Full Review)


Market America (Full Review)


Primerica (Full Review)


Herbalife (Full Review)


Mary Kay (Full Review)


Vector Marketing (Full Review)


Enagic (Full Review)


World Financial Group (Full Review)


Nu Skin (Full Review)


Q Sciences (Full Review)

See our list of the best MLM Companies.

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