Do you ever wonder about all the different articles and social media posts you see online bragging about which essential oil brand is the best, or maybe saying all essential oil brands are the same? What about how a blogger doesn’t recommend essential oil MLM companies because they’re overpriced and not getting paid for their recommendations? Essential oils have no shortage of their own controversial topics… but have you ever wondered about all the dirty little essential oil secrets no one wants you to know that few people know about?
There are several dirty little essential oil secrets you should know about!
Some of these are a bit controversial, so I may ruffle a few feathers, but it is all 100% true and verifiable.
- There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil education industry
- There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil manufacturing process
- The FDA and FTC does not have a definition of what an essential oil is
- Few brands know where their essential oils come from
- Most essential oil companies resell oils purchased from brokers
- Often manufacturers, brokers, and resellers dilute their essential oils with odorless solvents to maximize profits
- Many essential oil brands are 100% manufactured in a lab from fragrance chemicals
- There is no way to tell by the bottle label what the full ingredient list is
- “Grades” of essential oils, “100% Pure,” and are all marketing terms and LEGALLY may not be truthful
- Organic labels aren’t always good enough when it comes to essential oils
- Amazon is the absolute WORST place to purchase essential oils from
- Bloggers get paid from the oil companies they promote
- MLM oils are not always more expensive just because of how they pay their marketers
As a blogger, essential oil enthusiast, and healthy home consultant, this is a topic near and dear to my heart… and today, I’m bearing all. All our blogging and essential oil industry secrets that you may not know about, but should definitely be aware of.
Why? Because you deserve the truth… and I’m a firm believer in the only useless information is information not shared.
There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil manufacturing or education industry
“Aromatherapy is currently an unregulated and unlicensed field both for the practice of aromatherapy as well as the manufacture of aromatherapy products…”NAHA.org
“… aromatherapy is an unlicensed profession in the United States.”
What does this mean? There is no regulatory body that establishes consistency between essential oil manufacturers. And there is no regulatory body that establishes consistency between essential oil educational and certifying schools.
Basically, this proves why I find inconsistent advice among certified aromatherapists that studied at different certifying programs.
What is crazy is that anyone can create their own certifying coarse for less than $1,000 investment. So if you’re studying essential oils with the intent on getting certified, or considering it, be sure that you pay attention to the reviews and ensure it is a reputable place offering the cert.
The FDA and FTC does not have a definition of what an essential oil is
According to the FDA:
“There is no regulatory definition for “essential oils,” although people commonly use the term to refer to certain oils extracted from plants. The law treats Ingredients from plants the same as those from any other source. “FDA
What does this mean? In the eyes of the law, essential oils can be made from plants or synthetically created in a lab. So yes, quality DOES in fact matter. And no, you won’t be able to figure it out based on a label (more on labeling requirements in a moment).
But the FDA approves and certifies essential oils, right? No. Essential oils are considered to be supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA, or any other governing bodies.
In fact, the only real regulation (aside from bottle label requirements) that the FDA and FTC require is marketing. No entity is legally permitted to discuss detailed health benefits of essential oils if they could potentially earn an income from the sale of an essential oil. Doing so puts yourself at risk, even bloggers who may receive commissions from the links they place on their websites.
Few brands actually know where their essential oils come from
This may sound like a bit of a shock, because what is the point of selling essential oils – or anything marketed for health – that you don’t know where they come from or how they’re crafted.
Unfortunately, there are many essential oil companies that are more concerned with their marketing plans and profit margins than they are what they are selling. And now that the essential oil industry has peaked over $1BILLION, there are many companies out there who just want to make an easy profit.
Most companies purchase from brokers
Most companies take the easy way to acquiring essential oils… through a broker, or aggregator. This aggregator (think wholesaler) sources oils from distillers who source their plant matter from farms, collecting everything to resell to a company who will place their label on the bottles and handle all the marketing and selling.
This is smart business because the company doesn’t have to invest in farms or invest their time in finding quality farms to partner with, significantly reducing their risk in assets that may or may not yield the same each year. Using a broker streamlines the process so they can be much faster with just focusing on their warehouse functions, marketing, and sales.
This is also horrible business practice as more and more people are waking up to find shady things happening within this business plan. For example…
- Farmers aren’t always (or usually for that matter) farming sustainably, allowing some chemicals (organic or not) to seep through the distillation process
- Distillers don’t always distill their oils for long enough, not unlocking some of the best therapeutic benefits of essential oils… instead opting for high heat for shorter periods of time to speed up production and turn out an inferior product
- Some distillers cut their oils with cheap odorless solvents that increases their profits
- Many brokers cut their oils again with more cheap, odorless solvents that increase their profits.
- Some brokers purchase their essential oils directly from a synthetic perfume lab, labeling them as essential oils to maximize their profits
- Many reselling companies again cut the oils with cheap, odorless solvents that increase their profits and stretch their supply.
I remember when I started heavily investing in essential oils on my personal health journey I experienced the effects of these habits personally using several popular brands. Many bottles just didn’t last long, smelled weak, or gave me migraines and caused dizziness as soon as I opened the cap. As someone who is chemically sensitive, I can’t always smell a synthetic chemical, but I can absolutely feel when they are present. This right here proved to me that not all oils are created equally.
There is no way to tell the actual ingredients list by the bottle labels
This one really shocked me when I first researched essential oil legal requirements.
The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (enforced by the FTC) covers “household” products (including oils that are labeled just for diffusing) only have to list:
- a generic description of what is in the bottle (like ___ essential oil)
- the amount in the bottle
- and where the company’s headquarters is located
This means anything else on the bottle is 100% marketing.
Yes, it is often good practice to ensure the Latin name of the plant is listed, but any company can argue “generic description” as legally written.
Transparency is what you need. Complete company transparency, right down to letting you in on their entire farming, distilling, and bottling processes. Any company not willing to let you in on their processes likely doesn’t know what they are because they buy from a wholesaler.
“100% Pure” and different “grades” are 100% marketing
The FTC and FDA do NOT have any legal definitions as to what an essential oil is. “Essential Oil” is in an of itself a generic description. This could encompass natural true essential oils in terms of what we think it should be… but it can also encompass completely synthetic or diluted variations too, and still be a 100% legal claim.
Common marketing terms used in regards to selling essential oils:
- Aromatherapy Grade Essential Oils
- Best Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
- Best Quality Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
- Candle Grade Essential Oils
- Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, or CPTG
(CPTG is actually just a trademark, not an actual certification, so it can only legally be used by one brand)
- Clinical Grade Essential Oils
- Commercial Grade Essential Oils
- Cosmetic Grade Essential Oils
- Culinary Grade Essential Oils
- Dietary Grade
- Food Grade Essential Oils
- Grade A Essential Oils
- High Grade Essential Oils
- Highest Grade Essential Oils
- Highest Quality Essential Oils
- Medical Grade Essential Oils
- Medical Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
- Natural or 100% Natural Essential Oils
- Perfume or Cologne Grade Essential Oils
- Pure or 100% Pure Essential Oils
- Pharmaceutical Grade Essential Oils
- Professional Grade Essential Oils
- Quality Essential Oils
- Skin Grade Essential Oils
- Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
- Therapy Grade Essential Oils
- A, B, C, D, E… etc… Grade Essential Oils
Side note… I’m in a bit of awe while writing this because I didn’t even realize how many “essential oil grades” are being thrown around the internet at the time of writing this. Originally, I had thought maybe 8 different grades… but I was corrected during my research to 27! WOW!!!
Now, typically these Grades are used to describe the intended use of essential oils. For example: cosmetic, skin, commercial, pharmaceutical, and candle grade essential oils are more often than not synthetically made. Culinary, dietary, and food grade are typically oils that are intended for ingestion, but doesn’t always mean much about their quality or purity. Therapeutic grade was originally coined to indicate purity, but it is very much overused now (as is medical and clinical) and doesn’t have much meaning, especially with the lack of ability to enforce actual standards.
Basically, there is no such thing as a grade of essential oil. Any “grade” mentioned is 100% marketing descriptive terms or tag lines (sometimes registered trademarks) to help that brand feel like they’re standing out from their competitors.
I harp on this all the time on this website, but really the only way to know for sure whether your oils are in fact a high quality essential oil that isn’t diluted is to develop a relationship with that company and see their practices first hand… or put your trust into a blogger who writes about their detailed experiences touring through the company’s facilities. For me as a blogger on a personal level, I wanted to see and experience quality first hand… and then I started a blog to document and share about those personal experiences.
Once you open your eyes to marketing tactics, it becomes easier to see what is marketing vs what is transparency.
“Our oils come from all over the world with exceeding the highest purity and quality standards” – that is an example of marketing that literally every single essential oil company claims, even ones who purchase oils from a broker and have no actual clue where their oils come from.
Walking you through their distilling facilities, farms, bottling facilities (especially if you’re able to participate in person) is transparency.
Many essential oil brands are 100% manufactured in a lab from fragrance chemicals
Listening to a talk by Dr Eric Z in his Essential Oil Revolution Online Summit, an authority on essential oils, it is presumed over 75% of essential oils on the market are synthetic or adulterated.
I also listened to a talk from an aromatherapist in France who discussed how France exports more than 500% MORE lavender essential oil than it is capable of producing.
And in reading Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, we learned that it’s common practice for real essential oils to be diluted by 95% by the time they’re sold. Some brands may not even know that their oils are diluted because they don’t have strict logistical control over the entire creation process.
Those facts mixed in with the FDA and FTC’s stance on what essential oils are and treating the natural version the same as the synthetic versions tell me that not every oil is created equally.
What about testing reports?
Because of loose regulations in both the manufacturing and the educational realms of essential oils, there is no standard in testing, manufacturing, marketing, or certifying essential oils. And as we know based on other markets, even the organic certifications aren’t always trustworthy to be completely void of harmful chemicals.
With consumers demanding GC/MS reports, many companies are now using that extra pressure to chemically alter their oils to comply with what they feel *should* be in the normal range… not always accounting for variations in the impacts that weather and soil fluctuations may cause.
The biggest problem with all this…
Most essential oils are purchased for their health benefits. When you provide a substandard or synthetic essential oil to someone using them for health reasons, that oil will either not work as well as it should, not working at all, or that oil could end up causing more problems depending on the buyer’s body.
Buyer Beware… do your research before buying essential oils
With there being no regulation in the industry (which may or may not be a good thing), it begs for a huge BUYER BEWARE warning, and advocacy for consumers to know their farmers.
Know the company you’re purchasing essential oils from.
- Know their practices, their heart, and how their operations work.
- Know where they get their oils from.
- Visit their farms and distilling locations.
- See for yourself what to expect from them.
Don’t just fall for their marketing lines or empty words.
Remember… According to the FDA, the law treats Ingredients from plants the same as those from any other source.
Organic labels on essential oils aren’t always good enough
This one was a bit of a surprise to me at first. I mean… we buy organic foods because they are healthier, right? Well… there is a lot of speculation on the safety (or lack of safety studies) done on the chemical sprays that qualify for organic certifications. So while they seem to be better than Monsanto’s Ready Roundup Herbicides and Pesticides, we don’t 100% know whether they are completely safe.
That aside… organic only pertains to the farming process. Many companies choose to distill their oils at higher temperatures for shorter lengths of time to speed up production, save costs, and maximize profits.
What is little known (or not as cared about) in the distillation process is that each and every plant type that is distilled needs a different length of time to unlock all the constituents available to that essential oil.
Additionally, few farmers care about the exact time to harvest their crops, especially if it is at inconvenient times. More constituents in some plants are present if harvested at the appropriate time… not early… and not an hour late. Knowing the science that goes into the farming practices make a HUGE difference to the essential oil quality, and the benefits you see from them.
So while you may feel good about the NONGMO and Organic labels (which I do believe NONGMO is important and Organic may be useful), it only tells you a small piece of the story about the actual quality of the essential oil you’re receiving.
Amazon, Walmart online, and eBay (or any 3rd party selling website) are the absolute WORST places to purchase essential oils from!
Yup. I said it. Which is crazy because so many bloggers link essential oils to purchase on websites like Amazon. Why? Well, most bloggers participate in Amazon’s Affiliate program and receive 1-8% of the sale in commissions from any sales made within 24 hours (more on that in the next section). And really, I don’t think many bloggers realize the risks involved in anyone purchasing on Amazon… they just see it as an easy way to monetize their website.
Any website that allows anyone to sell on, such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart… etc… are terrible places to purchase essential oils. While you may get a “good deal,” knowing who you’re purchasing from is difficult. There are many counterfeit essential oils being sold that are causing health ailments, major skin reactions, and a lot of misery. These are NOT high quality essential oils. They are fakes being sold purely for profit.
In all reality, it is super easy (and surprisingly common) for any person to acquire or copy labels from a name brand essential oil company, apply them to empty essential oil bottles, fill whatever they want, and top with new caps… then selling as the real thing, even if its synthetic perfumes, diluted with whatever they can find, a different cheaper brand, or even flavored water. I’ve also seen people sell essential oils that are over 10 years old! Bottom line is, if you buy from Amazon, even if the “seller” looks legit, you cannot be 100% sure of what you’re getting, and most companies aren’t upholding their quality guarantees if purchased through Amazon… instead you have to go through whoever sold it on Amazon, IF they’re still there and actually responsive.
I also do NOT recommend purchasing from grocery stores, Walmart, Target, department stores, or drug stores. Many of the brands found at those stores have been proven to not actually contain any essential oil (which as we mentioned before is perfectly legal to do).
I STRONGLY suggest (again) you know the company that makes your oils, how the plants are cared for, what they do for distilling, how and how many times each batch is tested (where and when), and their bottling processes. Why? Many companies throw out fancy language for marketing purposes, but actually have no clue how their oils are made because the oils come from a broker. Again… Transparency is key.
Bloggers get paid from the oil companies they promote
Yup. I said it. I’m so tired of seeing bloggers bash on different marketing techniques and taking it out on the companies with their “Holy-er than thou” approach because they aren’t being paid for their recommendation or taking advantage of their readers. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can see in their links is an “affiliate code.” These links mean they’re still getting paid for any essential oil that sells through the use of their links if purchased within a certain amount of time.
As a blogger, it only makes sense to include links in our blogs that enable us to receive a commission for what products are sold. And essential oils are no different. Here on this blog, you’ll see affiliate links to Amazon and to our favorite essential oil brand. The funds made through this blog go to help feed our family and pay our mortgage, as is the case with all bloggers I’ve talked with. There is no shame in receiving a commission for recommending a product that helps someone. There is shame in bashing other people for making money on their recommendations when they’re doing the exact same thing as an attempt to con their readers into using their links.
In fact, nearly every single essential oil brand offers some sort of a referral or affiliate program, providing bloggers and affiliate marketers anywhere from 1% to 25% commission. And this is in addition to other marketing efforts they use, which is often online advertisements through blogging ad networks, search engine ads, and social media ads.
Yes! Bloggers actually get paid for the oils they recommend! And this rings true whether or not they are part of an MLM company.
Are MLM Oils really more expensive because of how they pay their marketers?
The myth that MLM essential oils are more expensive because they have to pay commissions is sorely incorrect.
In fact, on average a company pushes close to 50% of their profits into marketing (as per my marketing classes I took as a business strategy major in college). It is a smart business practice to take on because marketing is what generates more sales.
MLM, affiliate marketing, referral promotions, in store sales… they are all a type of marketing campaigns, which is significantly cheaper and more effective than TV and internet ads because the company is only paying the marketer a commission based on sales achieved, instead of throwing money at internet and television ads regardless of whether sales are made. This often means spending approximately 40% total of their actual sales revenue instead of 50% to maybe attract a few sales.
Some MLM companies are cheaper than others. This largely depends on how much they spend on creating their oils (farming, distilling, testing, bottling, other logistics, etc…), or how much the oils cost purchasing from brokers, plus overhead needed for running their business (obviously a company with a larger customer service team is going to spend more on business expenses).
The marketing side expense percentages of network marketing companies are pretty much the same across the board as any other businesses. The only real difference is their method of marketing.
Closing thoughts about essential oil secrets
There are many essential oil companies selling their oils in stores and online using several different marketing strategies.
At the end of the day, which essential oil brand you should use depends on what works best with your body. All brands get their oils from different locations. Each location will produce a slightly different constituents in their oils because of weather and soil variations. Some may be diluted, some may be synthetic, some may actually be what we believe “pure” should be. Either way, I highly recommend you choose a company that is actually transparent in every aspect of their essential oil production process. Give them a try, try out a competitor that you feel is also transparent, and see what works best for your body.
If you need help, feel welcome to connect with me below, and I’ll gladly talk you through any questions, share my personal experiences, and help you discover what is right for you.
What do you think?? Did you learn a lot in this post? What questions do you have? We would love to hear about it below in the comments! (Or contact us to ask privately)
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