Why is There Tension Between the Professional Aromatherapy and the MLM Essential Oils Industries?

Why is There Tension Between the Professional Aromatherapy and the MLM Essential Oils Industries?

I write a lot about the tenuous relationship between the professional aromatherapy industry and the Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) essential oils industry from my experiences on and in between both worlds. So, let me clear the air a bit because both sides really need to find a way to meet in the middle in order to peacefully coexist and to learn from each other.

As a professional aromatherapist, I love talking about all things aromatherapy, I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars educating myself in this field. It can be a daunting task because there is so much bad information out there that is accessible on the internet and social media. Standards and practices change on both sides. I have older texts on aromatherapy from the 1990s and some of that information is outdated or has been expanded with new research or safety measures.

I started dabbling with essential oils in 2011 and knew nothing about them at the time. Undiluted Peppermint Oil in the bathtub is an interesting sensation and not one I am ever going to repeat. I got away from regular essential oil use for awhile, but got back into in 2016 when I started becoming more interested in making my own skincare products. Soon thereafter, I joined Young Living, and while their products are pricier than other brands, I do like them, and have nothing against their products per se, despite some vague technical concerns about specific information, but I won't bore you with the details.

Several months in to my essential oils journey with Young Living, I became interested in becoming a certified aromatherapist and learning the science behind the craft and practice. I found the knowledge and advice from the Young Living community, while it gave me a decent starting point, that it didn't really give me the whole picture as the vast majority of recommended resources were all from internal Young Living folks. I need to see the full picture, not just a sliver of the image. My thirst for knowledge lead me to where I am today. I was blissfully unaware of the tension between the professional aromatherapy industry and the MLM essential oils industry.

The more I learned in my aromatherapy courses, readings, and research, I was shocked to learn that so much of what I was originally taught through the MLM community was incorrect and in some cases extraordinarily wasteful of the oils themselves. I have an academic background (BFA in Art History and Studio Art plus a year of grad school) and am learned in proper research methodologies. I do not accept that one single source of information is the be all end all and know how to vet my resources and cross reference for some semblance accuracy. Of course, some things are open to interpretation and purely subjective. If 100 resources say X and two resources say Y, I want to know why and will investigate it further.

If you want to get an idea of what the past year and a half has looked like for me, you can view the list of certifications, courses, workshops, classes, and webinars that I have completed or am in the process of working on, in addition to reading dozens of books and the thousands of articles and blog posts. I am active in several international aromatherapy based Facebook groups and professional membership organizations. We share information and experiences every day and engage in healthy discourse about aromatherapy practices.

So why is there such a massive disconnect between the two factions of the same industry? We both love essential oils, right? I'm honestly not sure where it all started, but it seems to come down to marketing. I don't think either side is guilty of malicious intent. The professional aromatherapy community is not comprised of fear-mongers or gatekeepers of information. We thrive on educating ourselves and others on the safe use of essential oils. Most of us use them every day and have incorporated them into various facets of our lives. But, we have learned from mistakes and fact-based evidence of scientific data, research, and the experiences of others. The problem we face is the resistance from a large proportion of the MLM community when we present information on practices and safety standards based on our education and experience and get shunned, dismissed, and chided in response. Buying some essential oils and reading Facebook posts, doesn't make anyone an expert. Aromatherapists study the craft through different educational organizations and investigate specialties like pregnancy, babies and children, or for specific practices.

I have many friends and colleagues from both ends of the spectrum and engage in healthy discourse every day. We learn from each other and we teach each other in the process. Aromatherapists are not a monolith, we disagree with each other too. Some aromatherapists are adamantly against ingestion and undiluted application, while others are perfectly fine with both practices. We are always here to answer anyones questions and most of us will take time out of our day to do so. We do not think that everyone needs to be a certified aromatherapist to use and enjoy essential oils, but firmly believe that education needs to be multifaceted and to come from multiple resources - even if those resources conflict with things you have been told by others. Don't be afraid to challenge assumptions, not everything you have been learned is accurate - and that goes for both the professionals and MLM folks.

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