I often get asked if MLM companies are cruelty-free, and this often comes with a sales pitch. But they don’t just want me to buy their products. They want to recruit me as a “representative”.

Which companies am I talking about? Here’s a list of MLM brands in the beauty, personal care, and wellness industries:

  • Arbonne
  • Mary Kay
  • Avon
  • Nu Skin
  • Young Living
  • Forever Living Products
  • Beautycounter
  • Younique
  • Rodan & Fields
  • Maelle
  • Amway
  • Herbalife
  • Oriflame
  • Aloette
  • Nerium
  • Monat
  • Jeunesse
  • doTerra
  • BeautiControl
  • Melaleuca
  • Natura
  • LipSense
  • Scentsy
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies
  • Tropic Skincare

MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing. Instead of being sold in stores, these companies let their representatives do all the work. On the surface, an MLM representative appears to be selling you products. But what they’re really trying to do is recruit you to be a representative under them, so they can profit from it.

Bloggers like me make prime targets because we have a big audience, so we can keep recruiting more and more women. These MLM representatives are always looking to add more representatives under them, because that’s how they truly make their money.

In order to join an MLM an be a representative, you need to pay a fee and purchase inventory. This can cost anywhere between $50 up to thousands.

This is why MLMs are pyramid schemes: they’re making money from recruiting other people. But in order to start out as a representative, you need to pay a large fee and purchase inventory.

Many MLMs also force or encourage their representatives to purchase more and more inventory, even though they’re unable to sell it all. This is why 99% of MLM representatives end up losing money, while only the 1% at the top of the pyramid are making ridiculous amounts of money.

The average net income (after subtracting expenses) for the 200 top Amway distributors in Wisconsin was approximately minus $900. (The Case (for and) agaist Multi-Level Marketing)

In case you missed it, that’s -$900. The top 200 Amway distributors lost an average of $900.

On top of this, MLMs use lies and manipulation to recruit their people. They give the false promise that you can “be your own boss”, “work from home”, and become loaded beyond your wildest dreams by joining the MLM. Remember that 99% of representatives LOSE money, making this is a big fat lie.

So far, regulatory agencies have not required honest and understandable disclosure of essential information to MLM prospects. I have examined the compensation plans of hundreds of MLMs and found that virtually all hide the near-zero odds of making a profit, and in fact almost certain loss after subtracting purchases of products necessary to qualify for commissions and advancement in the pyramid of participants. (The Case (for and) agaist Multi-Level Marketing)

One aspect of big MLMs I loathe is that they’re preying on minorities and on those who struggle financially. As an immigrant myself, I find this heartbreaking and deplorable. MLMs love to expand to developing countries and exploit the hopes of the underprivileged. They’re easy targets because they’re not doing well financially, yet they’ll do anything to get out of the hole they’re in. When you’re in that vulnerable position, it’s easy to fall victim to their “live your dream life” propaganda.

See Also

Low-income immigrant neighborhoods offer pyramid-schemers the additional advantage of recruits’ higher likelihood of ignorance about local business practices, which can make them easier to sell on wild business plans. When you’re new to a country, everything might seem a little off, a little strange and unexpected. Therefore, you may be more likely to push aside that voice that says “this doesn’t seem right” or “this seems too good to be true” than if you were in your native country. This is especially true among low-income groups, including non-immigrant minorities who might be more desperate for upward mobility than wealthier groups, which means they are willing to put in work or even invest their own money for a shot at the American dream. (Multilevel marketing companies target women, immigrants and low-income minorities.)

At their core, MLM companies are based on an unethical business model. While a few of them have gained cruelty-free certification, I choose not to include any MLM brands in our list of cruelty-free brands for this reason.

As of December 2019, our brand directory now has an “MLM” feature. MLM brands will be added and marked as MLMs as a warning for those who want to avoid these companies.

If you want to learn more about MLMs, I highly suggest you watch this John Oliver segment on Last Week Tonight:

View Comments (88)
  • What a great place to fill up my MLM bingo card! All the classic misunderstandings here, “it has a product so it can’t be a pyramid scheme” – wrong: the definition in law is that a product can exist in a pyramid scheme and if that scheme is deriving its revenue from internal purchases (members purchasing from the company and uplines earning on those PURCHASES rather than earning on downlines’ SALES to people outside the scheme) and if there is incentive to recruit which in reality is greater than the incentive to sell product, then an MLM/direct selling co/network marketing company can be defined as a pyramid scheme (see Advocare for starters).

    I’ve yet to come across an MLM that does not function as above, with catastrophic loses for around 99% of all who sign up. A quick look at the DSA member companies in the US and U.K. reveals lots of “Direct Selling” companies operating as pyramid schemes (even if they have managed to obscure the truth from their sign ups who have almost always made a very poor job of doing their unbiased due diligence).

    Have any of you ever seen someone do very well through product sales alone? I never have.

    Have you ever seen someone rise to the top without touching the product? I’ve seen lots.

  • I happened upon this site to learn whether or not Jeunesse’s products are cruelty free but all I found was a bunch of ranting and raving from you about MLM’s. I’m not interested in your opinion about them. I’m interested in knowing whether they are cruelty free or not, but you failed to answer the question. Change your post title because it’s misleading.

  • I understand your reasoning on not wanting to add certain MLMs to your list but not all MLMs are pyramid schemes. 1st it’s illegal. 2nd to be a true pyramid schemes, like you mentioned the only way to make a profit is to recruit. With FARMASi recruiting helps BUT the payment structure makes it impossible to be a pyramid scheme. To get paid anything each rep needs to be putting in the work themselves, they cannot recruit 100 people then sit back and get paid based off others hard work. They would get $0! With the highest rated commission plan of all MLMs currently a rep for FARMASi can, and does, make a good profit without recruiting a single person. So, listen or don’t, but please be open minded to this one as not all companies, as you are aware, are the same. Not all those that claim to be cruelty free actually are. Thus, not all MLMs are bad. I 100% agree with Monat – that is a scam as their reps make almost nothing and their ingredients are not as chemical free as they claim to be.

  • I stay away from all MLM’s. Unfortunately, my good friend just started with one and I’ve been using your website for many years, so I thought I’d just see if the company she fell into was at least cruelty-free. I am so glad that you’ve made this post and are taking a stand against these.

    I’ve never left a comment on a blog before, but I just had to on this one because I’ve been following you for so long and these comments are wack. It’s crazy to see so many defensive comments about these companies who have ruined so many more lives than they’ve helped. MLM’s are absolutely pyramid schemes, just using different verbiage to bypass the “pyramid schemes are illegal” argument. It’s common sense and I’m so glad you’ve brought this up to talk about it.

    I also share this segment of Last Week Tonight with anyone who doesn’t understand what an MLM is and I didn’t realize I could respect you more.

    Keep fighting the good fight, girl. ❤️

  • I just came here because I wanted to know if Arbonne was cruelty free. But that aJohn Oliver video was an eye opener! ( truth Draize Test)

  • Hi Suzana,

    Thank you for your article.

    My partner shared an Arbonne consultant link with me from an acquaintance as a source of extra income. The first point of call when promoting a brand is to check if the products are cruelty-free, and that is how I came across your post.

    My partner did inform me beforehand that this is a MLM. There has been an article against this company. Daily Mail link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-7837095/The-inspirational-social-media-scams-ruining-womens-lives.html?fbclid=IwAR2JcRdMfmYR9Ofg1UHbjheSJ7qi7LiLehvNHqPMk_2_oZtWE0pX8MCVbQQ#socialLinks

    Thank you for sharing this information.

    Kind regards,

  • I was thinking about writing a lengthy post. Instead I’ll keep it short and sweet. I used to use your site as my go-to for cruelty free beauty products but after this posts you’ve made it hard to want to support your site. You should really do your research on MLMs, how some started, and how they really work. While some definitely give other MLMs a bad name (cold messaging, going after beauty bloggers, etc) some started Because it was the only way to get their business up and running. Unlike some big makeup conglomerates that can just go straight to store. MLMs have also helped a lot of women either change careers or creat supplemental income for their families. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with some MLM, but it’s sad you just lumped everyone into this very negative post.

  • Just so you’re aware R + F does NOT make you hold onto your own inventory better yet those kits you invest into are technically free. Yes you buy them but within your first month(s) you’re getting your money back and have a ton of product to try so you know the products actually work and you’re gaining product knowledge. There is nothing wrong with being apart of an MLM business! MLMs give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed and work you don’t need a degree of any sort, you don’t need to have a huge following like you claimed a smaller more intimate following can be better than a bigger one for several reasons. Also stop flattering yourself I don’t know anyone who’s come after just bloggers like you to be apart of their business hilarious. PYRAMID SCHEMES ARE ILLEGAL! Learn what a pyramid schemes is you can be more successful and make way more money than the person above you a pyramid scheme doesn’t allow that!!

  • When people say MLMs are pyramid schemes clearly aren’t educated on it. Yes, pyramid schemes are ILLEGAL. Most people’s only defense is this. Lol. But in a pyramid scheme you are buying a place and no product. Do MLMs businesses mostly run on a system that does look like a pyramid HOWEVER so do most businesses. Unlike traditional businesses and pyramid schemes, you can pass the person who brought you in. In a pyramid scheme you will always get paid after the person you bought into. In a traditional business the likelihood you can pass a manager or even corporate jobs are extremely high. There are also a lot of business that are also very predatory that are not MLMs. Like skin care commercials that say you need this wrinkle cream and stuff. Also I have NEVER heard anyone trying to recruit me into anything PROMISING me to make money. You need to work to actually get paid. But I guess a lot of people assume they can sit back and get paid. 🥴 Sucks that you were probably hurt by someone or an MLM that you won’t even list them on your cruelty free list. A lot of these companies are cruelty free and have great products. I guess listing things on your page being cruelty free isn’t as high on your list as protesting MLMs are. 🥱

  • You have no idea what running a business actually entails. You need to learn about businesses, in general, then learn about direct marketing, affiliate marketing, MLMs, whatever you want to call them. They are still actually legitimate businesses as deemed by the US government back in the 70s. No different then Sams Club or Cosco. Get a clue before you start running your trap about things you obviously don’t know anything about. It’s people like you and your misinformation that give good MLM businesses a bad front. They are like ANY business that you own & operate – you get out of it what you put into it. Can you show the statistics of how many BRICK AND MORTAR stores that fail within the first 5 years of opening? You see, there’s not any difference. If you want to have your own Network Marketing Business, then you need to do your homework – just like anything else.

  • I think it’s interesting you have no real sources that you site, yet make unsupported claims about earning, recruiting and being required to buy products. The Federal Trade Commission clearly states legal MLMs cannot make money off recruiting nor have requirements to buy any amount of products. Although some people use poor business practices that is not indicative of an entire industry. I think it’s interesting to see people who were in a MLM talk about how they didn’t make any money when they probably did nothing and were quitters. People quit things everyday MLMs are no different. In my opinion I think you need to be able to separate an individual from and industry or company. Whether Amway, Abornne, Herbalife or whatever, those companies are no more than suppliers.

    If pyramid schemes are illegal then how have many of these companies been around for decades? If you ask an entrepreneur from any type of business model they will tell you that at times they made money and at other times they lost money. Difference in network marketing the initial investment is low so people treat it casually. A majority of small businesses fail within the first 5 years once the money from the loan runs out, network marketing is no different.

    Also it’s typically network marketing companies typically have higher quality products.

  • Here’s a perspective that I came up with while reading through the comments, both for and against the MLMs. Is Costco considered an MLM? Hear me out, you pay an annual fee for access to their inventory of products at deeper discounts. You don’t renew, you lose access.

    This is how Arbonne works; to be a PC you pay an annual fee and get access to a discount, if you sign up as a consultant you have more options – one of which being to simply shop. There is no minimum activity. There is no pressure to purchase. You choose which products you want and you have the “membership” to purchase there at a 35-50% off discount.

    Or the second option you have is to build a business out of it. You can work your business any way you want to; social marketing, person to person, face to face – however you chose to build your business and Arbonne gives you the means to build your own business, a website, and business tools. There is no over head and no inventory to purchase. You could literally have a business based off of social marketing and not purchase one single item.

    Just a thought and a different perspective.

  • About a year ago I decided that moving forward I would only purchase from CF brands. So as my tried and true favorite products have run out, I’ve researched if they are truly CF. If they are not, I then look into similar products made by CF brands as replacements. Your website has been INSANELY helpful with this.

    I currently need facewash and after learning (from you) that my favorite brand tests on animals when required by law, I came to your site to ensure that the MLM brand a friend of mine represents is indeed CF (as you’ve taught me not every brand truly is). While I fully respect your opinion and your decision to express it on any platform you choose (especially when that platform is your site) I also respect my friend’s decision to become a rep for a MLM and I try to support her without judgement. So while it’s very much your right to “blacklist” all MLMs, know that (in my opinion) you’re doing your readers a disservice. You’ve made it your goal to provide a “reliable, all-in-one resource for cruelty-free beauty” and I trust you to tell me the facts about all beauty brands regardless of your personal opinion about that brand. So while I fully support this article, know that some of us just want to know if we’re buying cruelty free shit.

  • You have not done your research especially with your comment “they’re basically all the same.” Arbonne does NOT require you to buy inventory or invest a large sum of money to begin your business. It is NOT a pyramid scheme. You reap what you sow. Many people want to take the “easy way out” and “get rich quick” and believe joining and MLM is the answer but it’s NOT. It’s as real a job as your blog. Please speak of only what you are educated on

  • I work an MLM ( SeneGence ) and it is an incredible company. Definitely not at the top, but I have serious work ethic (I always have) .. do I have team members? Yes. Have I earned a car and trips? Also yes. Do I make more money on my personal sales than any bonuses on my team sales? Yes. I don’t force or push products on anyone. If they want them, they buy them and guess what? If they don’t like them.. they can return them. 12 month satisfaction policy. No questions asked. There are far from subpar., They work, are cruelty free and vegan as well as environmentally conscious. I don’t really have to prove myself to you or anyone here but I agree it’s extremely unfair to use your following to promote such garbage that you honestly know very little about. You generalize and don’t really know what each company does or does not do. I’ve never been encouraged to be pushy. I just show and let them use the products. Like I said, if they like, they buy. I don’t get in peoples inboxes and recruit. If they want to sign up, they can. This business got me through an tough divorce as a single momma of 4 kiddos that had to turn to the government for help because I wasn’t expecting to be on my own. I now provide for my family and teach my kids that if you work hard and stay consistent, you get results. You know why not as many people find success with MLMs? Because they have to be self motivated. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Why do you think so many people join the gym at New Years and quit working out before their first month is over? Lack of self motivation. It’s HARD. There are many days I don’t want to get up and do the work. If I worked a 9-5 , I would have to our i would lose my job. Some people are wired that way. They need someone to tell them what to do and to show up and do it. What we do is hard…we have to constantly create content, schedule demos, meet with people, work events, be social and wash, rinse, repeat. Over and over again and my up line isn’t gib’s make me do it. It’s all on me. I don’t have thousands of girls under me. I’ve got maybe 50 and most of them just buy for the personal discount. Our CEO always says “it’s your business, run it how you want to”. That’s what we do. Also I make more revenue off my personal sales than my friends that own boutiques make off their product that they buy and sell. How is that a bad thing? And it’s not based on how many people I have. You could literally sign up today and buy at 50% off . Sure I get a bonus from my team if they decide to work a business—but that is true off any sales company—car sales, furniture sales, cable sales. And even with non MLM companies there is someone “at the top” making more than the rest of us. More power to them… that is true with ANY COMPANY. There is a CEO, Managers, Supervisors, Leads and the regular guy. Their salaries vary according (guess what? It looks very much like a pyramid)… I think you’re looking at some bad apple companies and lumping them so together which makes you look ignorant. This is the first time I’ve been to your blog so I literally know nothing about you. I would just think that you would like to come across as more informed than you do in this gross over generalization post. MLMs have changed lives for the better and for the worse, again it depends on the company, it depends on the work effort. It DOESN’T depend on what you spend. I’ve never spent a single dollar of my own other that’s the $25 I spent to start the care of my dreams and it’s changed my family’s life, as well as so many others—whether it be women they have found confidence in themselves, their beauty, or freedom in their lives. OUR CEO teaches us to reinvest our profits into our business and pay ourselves a small profit. That’s how you build a business. That’s how I’ve built mine for almost 4 years and it has been extremely good to us. She built this company as a single mother herself and never took out a single loan to do it. She’s an incredible role model and has taught me so much in business building. I’ve always been a natural entrepreneur—but she has taught me discipline and consistency matter when it comes to success. Those that think they come into a business, spend a ton and then don’t really do the do—will fail and hurt themselves financially. I would never encourage or teach that and I’ve never seen that in this company. I’ve taught many single Mommas to use their profits and grow and that is what they have done (those that want to run a business) and others just take advantage of an amazing discount on incredible products. That’s okay, too. Sounds like your mind is set without doing any real research, but I hope this opens your eyes to it to some degree. I’m happy to answer questions or even have a phone conversation with you if that helps you to gain a clearer picture.

    Peace & Love
    P.S. All businesses can’t be compared to other businesses like this—they are each unique and deserve to be judged and treated that way. Just in case you didn’t catch that in my above statement. 😜I can ramble. ✌️

  • I think what you’ve done here is very irresponsible. When you have a platform and a voice you should be extra diligent to not spew incorrect and misleading information. Pyramid schemes are illegal, there is a regulating body called the Direct Sellers Association that DOES enforce companies that don’t comply with the regulations and not all MLM or direct selling companies can be painted with the same brush.
    Generally speaking it’s an effort based business model so if some make money and others don’t… well, see previous effort based comment. I’ve been in MLMs before and while I’ve made good money at times, other times I did not and I can tell you both times were directly connected to my effort level.
    For the people above who have had a bad experience, I am sorry that happened to you. If you encountered someone that was pushy, that was the person, not the business model.
    Suzana, I’ve noticed that so far you have only replied to the people who agree with you… I will be interested to see what you have to say in response to Jamie, Jacquie, Sandra and me.

    • Gosh, fine, I’ll respond.

      “Pyramid schemes are illegal”

      MLMs are pyramid schemes by definition, but they use loopholes to remain legal. Definition: “A pyramid scheme is a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products.” Sounds like Mary Kay to me.

      “If you encountered someone that was pushy, that was the person, not the business model.”

      Many MLMs TEACH their reps to be pushy and use manipulative tactics.

      “I’ve been in MLMs before and while I’ve made good money at times, other times I did not and I can tell you both times were directly connected to my effort level.”

      Was it “effort”, or being pushy and unscrupulous? Were you selling overpriced, low-quality products, or recruiting other people who lost money under you? If you were making good money, how come you stopped?

  • Please do your research properly about Arbonne & learn the facts… it is a member of the direct selling association & it would not be a member of this association if it was a pyramid scheme which is ILLEGAL!!! Consultants DO NOT get paid to recruit people in Arbonne nor do they carry stock. It also hasn’t tested on animals for 40 years – id like to know another company that can say the same thing

    • Please stop spreading the propaganda Arbonne is teaching you. Look up the Direct Selling Association. 90% of its members are MLMs, the board consists of MLM founders and CEOs, and they lobby against the regulation of MLMs.

  • I’d like to thank you for sharing this about MLMs. Although other commenters have pointed out that not all MLMs fit your description 100%, I think that bringing these trends to light is important, especially because they’re taking advantage of the insecurities and hopes of disadvantaged people. Because MLMs make money off recruiting people, I think they can encourage their members to pursue some aggressive recruiting tactics. Not only are people burning bridges with close friends and family, but they also come off ingenuine with their copy and paste messages trying to convince others to join their company. Something you didn’t mention that others might not be aware of is the large MLM-presence among military wives. MLMs prey on the loneliness of these women who just want to spend time with their families and make friends.

    A friend of mine went to a large state university and had trouble meeting people. She finally thought she had made a genuine connection with a girl in her class and was upset when she found out it was a façade to convince her to join Amway. Not only do a lot of MLM recruiters sell the idea that members will get rich quickly, but they also put a lot of pressure on their downline to make money on the guise that they are their own “boss babe” and that they are empowered. If anyone is thinking of joining an MLM, I’d recommend the Vice Youtube documentary about LulaRoe.

  • I totally agree with Sandra here. I work for a direct sales company which you wrongly lump in with MLM companies above and yes I paid for my stock to buy into my business BUT I have never:

    – had to hit a sales target
    – I do not need to pay a fee
    – I have incentives where I can win prizes – vouchers or physical products and even all expenses paid holidays but these are optional for me to go for
    – I am advised against buying any extra stock
    – I can choose how I run my business and do not need to ask anyone to join my team if that doesn’t appeal to me
    – I also work for a company that has the well being of the planet at it’s heart and such a high level of ethics that if a product isn’t working for customers it removes it rather than selling something that is not up to standard

  • I am actually really curious to hear more on why Arbonne in particular is on this list?.. I’ve heard amazing things about this company as an mlm and actually know many people successful in the business and they don’t require consultants to carry inventory.

  • I’ve read through all the comments and I’m quite shocked that you’ve not taken the time to reply to any comments that are in agreement with MLM companies!
    Great publicly stunt taking about MLM companies, gets the attention and people’s blood boiling from both sides of the argument. I’m in network marketing and Although I’m not at”the top” I do earn enough to pay for my mortgage! Any extra money ontop of any other earnings is a bonus yes? It’s so unfair to slate this profession because it’s some people’s lives! I wouldn’t slate other people’s choice of job! What really is the issue is people need to be educated that it isn’t a get rich scheme and that like any other job you need a certain skillset first before going out to promote or give recommendations. This is where people go wrong and then to anyone that’s not in the network marketing business it gives the wrong impression. There will always be people for it and people against it. FACT a bit like being vegan. Your either are vegan and that’s your personal choice or you’re not and again that’s your personal choice.
    It’s called RESPECT. I respect people’s choices. You are not a fan of MLM , that’s your choice but do you really have to slate what to some people is there lifeline!?

  • I’m not sure if this was mentioned, but Mary Kay isn’t cruelty free anyway. They sell to China… The title just seems misleading that they aren’t on the list only because they are MLM.

  • I first want to mention that your list says, “Lipsense”. LipSense is a product, not a company. The company you are referring to is called SeneGence. Secondly, the company is a member of the Direct Selling Association, so MLM it is, but it IS NOT a pyramid scheme. All products are never tested on animals (unless you consider a human an animal), do not have any animal by-products in them, are gluten free, and do not contain wax or lead. I agree with Jamie and Jacquie. You cannot bulk all MLMs together and say they are all “bad.” But, you know what? That’s your opinion and you are welcome to have one. Next time, I would suggest delving in a little deeper to each company before you go and blast them.

  • What about Seacret? Although I’ve seen some kiosks in malls I know someone who’s been very successful with about 100 people under him in us and Australia. He made a lot of money, went to conferences in luxury, etc.

  • We need more people with exposure to speak out against MLMs, so maybe people will consider it before signing up based on a huns salespitch. I’ve been researching MLMs a lot, as I find the cult mentality so fascinating. At first I kind of laughed at the patheticness of the hunbots, but now I just feel sad for anyone who is new to an MLM and doesn’t see they’ve been brainwashed. If more people spoke out about the truth regarding the predatory nature of their business structure, maybe they can stop hurting naive people. And also, their products are all either total crap or mediocre at best. Buying their products is enabling MLMs to continue taking advantage of hard working women and men.

  • Don’t forget Farmasi. They have a PETA certificate on their Slovenian website, but when you visit PETA’s cruelty-free brand list – guess what – they are not there! I contacted PETA about it and they said that Farmasi is not certified by them. Farmasi representatives claim that Farmasi and PETA have some sort of a beef between them. I honestly don’t think they were ever certified. They probably just found a cute bunny logo with the word cruelty-free below on the internet and posted it on their site…

  • https://uk.nyrorganic.com/shop/corp/area/become-a-consultant/

    For those who were shocked or doubting that Neals Yard Remedies is guilty of this, it is and here’s the link to prove it. (I tried to reply to you directly but the reply button doesn’t seem to be working for me) Before I was aware of this terrible unethical money sinkhole I joined up. After spending about £400 of my own money on products I was supposed to sell on to others I realised I was being had (I know, it took me a while, what can I say, I’m a trusting person and I loved their products!) It was borderline impossible to recruit others as no one’s as naive as I am and if I were to recruit them I would have had to spend my own time ‘mentoring’ them. It all had such a bad feeling to it. I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t right but I wanted to believe what they told me. Good job I didn’t give up my day job, I bet some do. I’ve boycotted them ever since even though their products are good and I’m so glad Suzana has called time on this crap. Can we start a petition or something? I feel so angry for people who put even more in than I did and get left with worse than nothing.

  • I generally find MLMs high pressure, sometimes to the point of obnoxious. I avoid. Just last week I was FB friended by someone in a group I”m in, to find that he immediately started using scare tactics – “your home is full of deadly chemicals that are killing you” – to get me interested in Melaleuca. The next day I told him, no thanks, and he got snarky. WTH. I didn’t accept a friend request to be bombarded with MLM crap. And let’s say you buy – then you get pressured to become a rep yourself (experienced that twice with Mary Kay). On principles, I avoid buying MLM products for the reasons you give, Suzana. I really appreciate your stand on MLMs. For every person who’s actually making money, there are thousands who have no chance of living the dream they’re selling. No. Just no.

  • I am replying to my comment about Beautycounter.

    Each of your questions answered:
    ** they sell via independent consultants AND their own Beautycounter brick & mortar stores AND through independent websites such as Goop AND they have done capsule collections with Target & J Crew. They are not a “pyramid scheme” since they have a product. Pyramid schemes do not involve products.
    **the $85 enrollment kit is actually for the personal webpage they provide to each consultant, a tote bag, some marketing materials like catalogs, workbooks to learn from, a lipstick and a tube of moisturizer. It is not inventory.
    **the $50 annual renewal fee is for the maintenance of the consultant’s personal website. Not for inventory.
    **to maintain status as a consultant you do have to have $1200QV every six months, but not the $250 in NV anymore. The QV also counts for any personal purchases. I use their products for my entire family (child, husband & myself) AND for most of the gifts I give (family, teachers, friends), so I have no problem with this amount. All that happens if you don’t make the $1200QV is you stop being a consultant. You don’t owe anything. You are free to not ever interact with the company again if you choose.
    **some people choose to have socials, some choose to give samples of merchandise, some choose to sell via their website. All of the above methods are fine and encouraged. There is no rule about how you choose to sell. Consultants are not allowed to do cash & carry socials. Consultants are not allowed to stock any products. Any products sold in any way get ordered from the consultant’s website OR the main Beautycounter website (which doesn’t link to any consultant) OR the brick & mortar stores OR from outside websites like Goop.

    Closing to say that I am surprised that you don’t love Beautycounter because of their B Corp status, cruelty-free status, transparency of ingredients, major impact on laws being changed in the US & Canada & how well-performing the products are. I think you should really do some due diligence on the company.

  • My mom did Youniqe for a while and she lost a bit of money, the people above her were also VERY rude to her. I’m glad she quit that.

  • Hi thank you for the information, however, Neal’s Yard Remedy have been sold in store for a few years now. They have a fantastic range of products.

  • I’m sorry but I don’t believe you can put all these companies under the same banner & say they all behave the same. I am part of one of these companies …. I’ve never felt under pressure to buy in , never felt under pressure to buy stock, in fact it is discouraged ! I’ve never been put under pressure to recruit others . I have used the products to raise lots of money for charities. I look after my customers & more often than not down sell!
    Pushy sellers would also be pushy if they worked in shops … There will also be people who have bad experiences, just like it other areas of life …. but not everyone regrets it or prayed upon. The one that I am part of gave me confidence in myself when it was lost & a social life again with some lovely new friends.
    All you have done is look at business models and from I can gather have never been involved in one to have personal experience. So all I ask is don’t clump time together

  • Well said Jamie. I agree with you 100%. @ Cruelty Free Kitty – I follow your page as it is about cruelty free products. I am now unfollowing you as you have lumped all MLM businesses into the same pile. The people who are driving around in white Mercedes hustled their butt of to get there. Everyone has the same chance as they do. If you want something, you have to work for it. Just like you would if you opened your own graphic design business or any other service. See below from the Canadian Government website.

    Multi‑level marketing plans can be legitimate
    An MLM plan promotes the supply of a product to participants in the plan. Participants earn compensation based on supplying products to other participants and/ or customers. A legitimate MLM plan has three or more levels of participants.

    It is illegal for operators or participants in an MLM plan to make any representations about compensation, unless the representations constitute or include fair, reasonable and timely disclosure to prospective participants of the amount of money actually or likely earned by a typical participant.

    Pyramid selling is a criminal offence
    A scheme of pyramid selling focuses primarily on generating profits by recruiting others and NOT FROM THE SALE OF PRODUCTS . These schemes may offer products; however, the products may have very little value or the plan may offer limited incentives for their sale.

  • I highly respected you, and your blog and your platform… until I read this.
    First of all, pyramid schemes are ILLEGAL. I believe what you meant to title this article is “why I do not purchase or support MLMs” because what you’ve done here is take your very biased opinion and generalize ALL companies who use a MLM business model as pyramid schemes. This is totally unfair. While I agree that a vast majority of MLM companies come off as scammy, it is not because of the structure of the business model. That is due 100% to poor training and people looking to “get rich quick.”

    Further, signing up and paying fees to be members/distributors/consultants/guides, etc. is just basic overhead and deems the individual an independent contractor of the company. They pay a fee to maintain their status with the company and utilize the company’s resources (like website fees and annual subscriptions). I have to sign up through my insurance company and pay annual fee to stay a member of their insured practice. Does that make them an MLM? They sell insurance services. They have executives who make more than the claims adjusters. Are they MLM? I would even argue that corporations are closer related to pyramid schemes than an MLM…

    My point is, please do not generalize ALL of the MLM companies as bad. There are poorly trained ones out there making all the other companies look bad. There will always be, in every business model (whether MLM, LLC, DBA, Corporation, etc.) someone who makes more than someone else. There will always be executives. There will always be someone to make the decisions and structure of their business. That’s the FREEDOM they have as owning the company. Even the ones who rank the highest in the MLM still answer to their companies CEOs, just as the greeter at Walmart answers to his general manager.

    I hope you consider this. I do appreciate your site and all your hard effort with committing to buying cruelty free, but I also hope you consider to research more than the most popular Direct Sales companies.

  • Thank you for this informative post. It is quite brave of you being that 1.) so many women now-a-days are easily sucked into these schemes and 2.) many of us (including you) probably have a ton of friends that operate under one of these MLM’s. I want so bad to repost this on my facebook but I know it will lead to loss of friends, endless days of electronic arguing, and hurt feelings all around because probably greater than half of my friends either sell from one of these companies or buy from one of them. I was a Mary-Kay rep many many years ago and it was the worst experience of my life of the constant pressure to have these “facials” and “socials” and recruit recruit RECRUIT was insanity. I ended up recruiting one friend and she ended up taking all of our mutual friends as clients and basically put me out of business. Now, I’m constantly being given the “can I have you watch a short video” talk from all my friends who are MK, Arbonne, Younique, Rodan and Fields, and doTerra selling fiends. I’m hit up once, maybe twice a week being asked if I watched the video or changed my mind. My one friend who is an Arbonne rep is so obsessively aggressive with it that I had to block her for some time because she was blowing up my inbox 4 times a day. Anyone who has to be that aggressive to be “successful” in these businesses is a major red flag. I’ve wanted to say something for so long too….but not brave enough yet. I’m just now finding the strength to stand my ground and say NO to these friends of mine.

    • Thank you Brittani! I’ve been putting off writing this post and addressing the topic of MLMs for years for those reasons. I think that spreading the other side of the story is doing more good than harm, and even if I’m ruffling some feathers with this post, hopefully some of the “reps” who are reading this will reconsider in the future.

  • Thank you for this and good for you! This can be such a controversial topic and often does not involve logic at all, only emotion and opinion, therefore making it even more difficult to tackle. It’s a scary topic for me to address with friends as those who “believe” or are actually putting all of their eggs in the basket are fierce supporters and cannot be moved. They have no choice. I decided to get more educated on the matter of MLMs since I have so many friends always trying to sell me something and I came across a great podcast – The Dream by Jane Marie. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling to find their way through this issue.
    Again, good for you for taking a stance openly….can’t be easy.

    • Thank you Noreen! I wish some “reps” didn’t have such as emotional reaction and almost cult-like mentality. But I understand that it’s hard for someone who’s so deep in it, and even if they don’t want to accept the facts right now, I’m sure someday they’re going to.

  • About 20 years ago, I got sucked into an MLM – I just had a baby and wanted to “be able to quite my job”. Yes, I did LOSE money, yes, I did have to use high pressure tactics (not my thing and I was very uncomfortable) and then I realized, I actually had to pressure people to have parties….most of which were in the evenings or on weekends, so therefor, I was STILL leaving my child to technically, go to work. As I mentioned, I lost money and it actually stressed me out much more than any office job I’ve ever had. It was a lose/lose situation

  • I think Neal’s Yard Remedies is MLM outside the UK. Here in the UK tends to sell through affiliate companies like Marks and Spencer and John Lewis – very large and respectable businesses. It allows that kind of business to offer cruelty free ranges alongside ranges tested on animals.

    I stopped buying Avon when it recommenced animal testing to be able to sell in China. The irony of the first cruelty free company to start testing again just to get a slice of Chinese market speaks volumes for the times in which we live. Same goes for NYX selling out to L’Oréal, probably the worst of choices

  • Im just curious and just trying to get educated, so as long as you don’t pay for your products (meaning they’re given to you) its ok to promote them and get payed for? Because I follow several bloggers who get sent stuff and then promote even if they haven’t had a lot of time trying it.

    I was also about to try one of these MLM companies, but on the side (never leaving my job) just to get extra money, and I’m one of those that wouldn’t pressure people to get signed up if they don’t want to.

  • Yes! Thank you so much for this! I can’t stand MLM’s. I’m even in an anti-MLM Facebook group where people talk about their friends or strangers who are roped into a pyramid scheme. There are also TONS of people in that group who were previously in an MLM and lost all their friends and money. It’s really sad how these companies ruin people’s lives. I will never support or buy from an MLM!

  • I do think this is great information but since Avon, MK, etc, sell in China, they’re no longer cruelty free anyway. I think that’s the more important message – isn’t it?

  • I think it’s wonderful that you’re posting this since I’ve always thought they were a pyramid scheme. You have to be really really high up to earn money. I work with someone who said in 1997 that her goal was to quit and only sell Mary Kay. Well, she’s still doing both and not making enough money to quit her full time job. AND, she is pretty aggressive/successful in convincing people at work to buy from her. Another person sold Avon just for fun and a little extra money – her words not mine. I think she liked the interactions with different people so maybe the little money is worth it to her. BUT please don’t think it’s a way to make LOTS of $$$ unless you get more and more people under you selling.

  • I’m so insanely happy to see someone with influence addressing this!! I have a number of friends falling into these predatory schemes and trying to sell them off like they’re honest, wholesome products. It’s actually really dangerous and I’m really thankful that you are out her providing the facts!!

  • I have friends who do very well selling Arbonne and they’re not necessarily at the top of the company. No inventory required for sales reps. Customers order directly from the company. I did find the whole thing a bit cultish and it wasn’t for me but maybe all MLMs aren’t the same. Just my opinion.

  • Neal’s Yard Remedies have stores and also sell online and through many supermarkets. The part that might have been considered to be an MLM no longer exists as it was not successful.

    They offer a fantastic range of organic and cruelty free products so would certainly not black list them.

    • I was sad to remove Neal’s Yard Remedies but they’e still referred to as an MLM as of recently. I couldn’t find anything on their official site though. Do you have more information about this change?

  • 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 yes yes yes. thank you. My mom purchases medicine from amway and ive been trying so hard to tell her that its a pyramid scheme and it doesnt work but she was like “oh but theres someone who got a car by doing this!” and im like, is that someone the founder/ someone at the top of the pyramid?” shes like “yeah.” and still doesnt see whats wrong with the picture.. I told her about how their drugs dont need to actually ‘work’ for them to be able to sell it. Ive also told her that she can literally read the ingredient list at the back and there’s only 5 ingredients and 4 of them are ‘artifical sweeteners’…. She’s still not convinced.🙄 Anyway.. thank you for this article and speaking up about this AND deciding to add a section of which brands are MLM’s so that people can be cautious!!🙏🏻👏🏻💗

    • Hi Merve, sounds like a tough position to be in but it’s great that you’re speaking up! Thank you for being positive, hope you have a great 2020!

  • Please do not tarnish all amLM’s with the same biased brush. 100% of my personal sales are too customers and I earn a really nice living by helping people . A pyramid scheme has no product. Bernie Madoff ran a pyramid scheme. Two of the most famous dermatologists in the world do NOT run a pyramid scheme, nor do they test on animals. Watch this Please and then please comment
    https://youtu.be/zZiw15VgWoI

  • I think it’s unfair to lump Beautycounter in with the rest of them. Beautycounter has stand alone stores, sells direct through their website and on platforms such as Goop. Beautycounter also has consultants, but there’s no inventory to buy or sales/recruiting minimums. They do this so they can educate the public about the dangers in the personal care industry and the lack of regulation.. They get laws changed. They lobby in Congress. They are cleaner than most of the cruelty free brands on your list (and they’re cruelty free as well). Most of their products are EWG verified or rate a 1 on EWG. They are a B Corp. Please research what a B Corp is- they are very transparent, eco-friendly and give back to communities.

    • Is the following false or outdated?

      •The company operates a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) business model
      •To become a consultant of the company, you need to pay $85 for an enrolment kit
      •After every 12 months, you will have to pay a $50 renewal fee to remain a consultant
      •In order to remain an active consultant, you must achieve at least 1200 QV every six months, 250 of which must be new volume
      •The company’s preferred method of making sales and/or recruiting is by organizing socials

      Seems to me that there’s no requirement to buy inventory, but in order to remain a consultant, you have no choice but to buy and move inventory.

  • I am curious about Arbonne. I know a couple of women whom sell this product. They both are young, beautiful and come from wealthy families. Within a very short period of time, they were promoted and driving new Mercedez (given to them from Arbonne). They have been w Arbonne now for a while, and continue to flaunt their rewards and perks. One is in Maui now at a conference. Btw, she has posted tons of pics from her adventure, and I noticed and have noticed before from other pics and conferences, that all of the women look just like her: Young, beautiful and wealthy. I know girls who work w other MLM companies and none of these women are traveling, driving new cars, etc. ???

    • You said those women come from wealthy families, so are you sure they made their money through Arbonne? Sounds like they’re faking it to me. The majority of MLM consultants lose money.

  • I’m so shocked and disappointed (in them, not you!) to see Neal’s Yard on there. In the UK, they’re a quite well respected brick-and-mortar store in Covent Garden. They sell online, but as far as I know, don’t do MLM selling here. The Body Shop do, however.

    • Someone else mentioned that Neal’s Yard Remedies no longer operates an MLM model. If this is true, the change must have happened recently.

  • Thank you for taking a stand against MLM. They’ll all try to convince you they’re not like the others. THEY ARE. They’ll say you don’t make money off recruiting. But you do. They just disguise the costs into products prices. They make money off what people below them purchase. They HAVE to recruit to make money. It’s disgusting.

  • Please do your research. Melaleuca is not an MLM company. They are an online manufacture. People don’t buy inventory, they simply shop and share with others and get a referral check. There is no business in a box to purchase, no money to invest into a business, etc.

  • You amaze me suzana – thank you for your genuine and I’m sure exhausting efforts to bring thy public the truth. You’re pretty much my only go to regarding all thats cruelty free (or not!). And now I’ve reconsidered repping for arbonne too.

  • This is my first post… and I was drawn to the headline.
    I’m in Europe, so most of the people are a bit more down to earth regarding to this. But it’s an issue, those MLM companies.
    Although I’ve worked for one of them and had a nice experience I really am annoyed by the ones who push you into buying. Because I’m stronger than most of the women and won’t get impressed that easily (haha) I was carefull and tried to put half of my earnings aside. That was the base of my current job as a make-up artist.

    I’m still carefull with these kind of companies and with people who are selling it, because a lot of false information is being spread. Plain housewives who claim to be doctors or nutricians and schoolgirls who are “certified” beauticians, come on…
    Let your common sense speak if you see this. It’s on facebook all over now.
    A few months ago there was also a British documentary about Nu Skin. That says it all….

    Suzana, thanks for spreading the news!

  • I’m slightly torn because I naturally want to support anyone who doesn’t test on animals, but MLM’s often have sub-par products and, more importantly, are cruel to humans. Also some have reps who spread misinformation about their cruelty status.

  • Thank you so much for taking a stand. MLMers, pretty much all of whom financially abuse women and minorities to make money, should be called out and shunned.

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