Is Mary Kay a Scam Pyramid Scheme? Exposed!

Are you looking for a Mary Kay MLM Review? Is Mary Kay a pyramid scheme?

If you want to make money online, you may have heard of Mary Kay MLM. There is a good chance that you heard about Mary Kay MLM through someone – a friend or family member.

But since there are so many scams online, you may wonder if you can trust it or not.

I have a passion to help people explore the best money-making opportunities online, so over the years, I have reviewed hundreds of similar online programs like Mary Kay MLM.

In the past week, I have done thorough research about the Mary Kay MLM, so I can tell you everything you need to know about it.

As a disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with Mary Kay MLM, which means I’m not paid to write this review for Mary Kay MLM. So you can be sure that my words are unbiased.

Mary Kay MLM Review – Key Takeaways

  • Name: Mary Kay
  • Pros: MLM opportunity to make money
  • Cons: Mary Kay MLM has a very low success rate; Mary Kay MLM commission is low; Mary Kay MLM model is not sustainable; Mary Kay MLM costs money to join
  • Overall Rating: 1/5
  • Who is Mary Kay MLM For: Mary Kay MLM is supposed for marketers to make money. But you are unlikely to make a penny because of the MLM nature and you may end up losing a lot of money.
  • The Best Alternative: An All-in-One Platform to Make Passive Income Online

In this Mary Kay MLM review, I’m going to cover the following topics:

What is Mary Kay MLM?

In 1963, Mary Kay Ash founded the company in Texas. It is a US-based cosmetics company that uses the MLM business model to sell its products.

Currently, Richard Rogers is the Executive Chairman. Richard Rogers is also the son of Mary Kay and the co-founder of the company.

David Holl is the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

To sell and distribute Mary Kay products directly to people in their circles, Mary Kay signs up independent distributors called beauty consultants.

With over 35 markets, the company operates on five continents. To name a few, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, China, and all the way down under in Australia.

Ash comes from a very average family and started this MLM with only $5k. Now, if you want to start a MLM company, $500k seems like a small sum.

Nonetheless, she opened a beauty shop with $5K in Las Vegas and at the time she employed nine people under her as beauty consultants.

Currently, Mary Kay is one of the world’s largest multi level marketing companies and has distributors all over the world.

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Who Is Mary Kay Ash?

She had $98 million in sales at the time of her death. Mary Kay Ash founded the Mary Kay MLM company.

As of today, Mary Kay MLM has sales of over $1.2 billion and more than one million affiliates in more than 30 countries.

When Mary Kay Ash was founded, no one was utilizing the idea of multilevel marketing. Therefore, this company is considered to be the mother of all multilevel marketing companies.

Sadly, she died in 2001, so her business is now handled by her children, who are Mary Kay executives.

What are the Mary Kay Products?

Among Mary Kay’s products are makeup, of course, skincare products, body creams and sunscreens, fragrances, and even “men’s grooming”.

Their best-selling products are the Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover and the TimeWise® Miracle Set®. Among its components are a moisturizer, a cleanser, sunscreen, and a night solution. 

In any MLM, I want to make sure the products are worth the price. In this case, they claim to be the world’s #1 skin care MLM.

MLMs all claim the same thing, nothing new.

Mary Kay sells the following products:

For $58 you can buy Mary Kay Botanical Skin Effective Care, which will help you get rid of wrinkles, acne, and dust from your skin and keep it healthy and glowing.


Their gel is 75 bucks, and it will hydrate your skin as well as remove acne. This might be useful for someone with acne and pimples on their face.

Timewise Night Treatment

It costs $52 and is recommended for you? Additionally, it makes your skin look healthier before sleeping. The same thing, but with a different name.

Mary Kay Timewise Miracle – Flagship Product

You can buy this product for 100 bucks, and it will help you look younger and fresher than ever. 

So, the next question is whether or not these products are worth the price.

There are a lot of mixed reviews. There are some good ones and some bad ones.

Positive reviews can be from their distributors? Who knows.

Here is a short video explaining Mary Kay products:

How Does Mary Kay MLM Work?

In addition to manufacturing and selling cosmetic products, Mary Kay is also a multilevel marketing company.

One of their biggest advantages over other MLM companies is the fact that they were one of the pioneers of direct selling.

Furthermore, they also offer regular people the opportunity to work from home by offering their products at a discount and selling them at full retail prices.

At first glance, it appears like a win-win. However, Mary Kay is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing costs by letting their members do all the promoting and advertising at home.

How Good Are Mary Kay Products?

I was impressed with this company’s product development.

Biochemists, toxicologists, microbiologists, and pharmacologists holding PhDs are on their payroll.

That’s a lotta “gists” for one sentence, but clearly they have some smart folks working behind the scenes to ensure that product decisions are based on solid research.

Mary Kay’s skin care products, for example, are tested by board-certified dermatologists independent of Mary Kay.

This company seems to put some real thought, effort, and pride into their offering, which is refreshing in an MLM industry that offers inferior products.

In addition to slowing down the inevitable effects of aging on the skin, Mary Kay also emphasizes the idea of maintaining a radiant, youthful appearance.

They allegedly design their products to deliver exactly that to their customers.

Among their top-selling products are Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, Ultimate Mascara, and TimeWise Age-Fighting Moisturizer.

Mary Kay’s constant product formula changes have been mentioned in online forums and discussion boards many times.

Essentially, the older products become obsolete, and therefore distributors have a much more difficult time selling them.

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Is Mary Kay An MLM?

Mary Kay is a Multi-Level Marketing company that sells cosmetics and skin care products. Mary Kay has been in business for many years, and their beauty consultants are considered pioneers in the beauty industry, giving them an edge over MLMs.

According to some reviews, Mary Kay is not in affiliate marketing nor does it appear that it is offering affiliate services.

As part of Mary Kay’s MLM business, beauty consultants sell and distribute the company’s products in their communities.

As beauty consultants, they do not receive salaries. Recently, criticism has been directed at the business model.

Multilevel marketing companies have been investigated by several media outlets for their get-rich-quick schemes and services. As a result, they found it troublesome and somewhat similar to pyramid schemes.

The Direct Selling News reported that Mary Kay had a wholesale volume of $3.25 USD billion in 2018, making it the sixth largest network company in the world.

There is no doubt that this is a million-dollar business in the highly competitive beauty industry. In fact, they may qualify as a cosmetics giant.

Mary Kay Ash probably never imagined that those skin creams would be as popular as they are today.

Even with Mary Kay’s huge success, rumors abound that the company is a pink pyramid scheme.

Do you think Kay is a pyramid scheme? Does it seem true that this company founded by Mary Kay Ash with an initial investment of $5,000 USD isn’t really about empowering women, offering them services, or providing them with business opportunities but is instead about leading them into what is commonly called a pink pyramid scheme?

What Is A Pink Pyramid Scheme?

Pink pyramid schemes are mainly used to exploit salesforces.

This business model encourages the company’s sales staff to buy products and then sell them to their clients.

Mary Kay consultants often don’t earn much money selling the company’s products – which is far from the huge income that the company claims women can earn selling their products.

People often wonder if Mary Kay is a pyramid scheme or a pyramid scam because of this.

Virginia Sole-Smith wrote a report about her experience with Mary Kay. The report is titled “Pink Pyramid Scheme: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Preys on Desperate Housewives.”

In the report, Smith elaborated on how she discovered Mary Kay products and became involved with the company.

Members were pressured to sell the products, according to her.

The business is also not for the faint of heart, she said.

Although Mary Kay claims to earn $3 USD billion in annual sales, reports show that its salespeople are in debt with boxes of unsold face creams, lipsticks, and so on.

Most of them do not earn any profit, but a few do.

The sales director seems to get a bigger piece of the pie than the sales force, who is left with crumbs or no pie at all. 

Now a business in which only a few people make decent money while the rest pay to play sounds like a pyramid scheme.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission differentiates between recruiting salespeople to sell a product, which is ideally legal, and making money exclusively by charging participation fees, which actually isn’t.

While the FTC has not announced a fee, some multilevel marketing companies have been charged with pyramid schemes.

Mary Kay denies this and asserts that it is just a simple business model where an individual signs an agreement directly with the company, buys the products at wholesale prices, and peddles the products to her customers at suggested retail prices.

An individual decides how much product she wants to buy from the company and sell to the customers.

It should also be noted that Mary Kay does not use affiliate marketing as claimed by some.

So is Mary Kay A Makeup Pyramid Scheme?

Pyramid schemes are businesses in which the main method of earning money is by recruiting others and charging them fees for participation – not by selling products.

So the answer to the question “Is Mary Kay a pyramid scheme?” is NO.

Mary Kay does not appear to be a pyramid scheme on paper. Yet, in practice, some say it resembles a pyramid scheme.

How to Join Mary Kay?

You will need $100USD to acquire the Mary Kay® Starter Kit in order to become a beauty consultant.

There are retail-sized products to show friends at parties, samplers that are allocated for potential clients, business supplies, and brochures with sales tips included in the kit.

Two ways are available for Mary Kay distributors to earn income. 

The first is from direct selling to customers, and the second is from a commission based on the sales of their downline.

When consultants sell Mary Kay products at full retail price, they can earn up to 50% gross profit.

They call this an earned discount privilege. You are led to ask the following pertinent question, however, if you read the small print or particulars.

“Can You Really Make Money Selling Mary Kay?”

It is noted in the fine print that in order to receive the hefty 50% gross profit, which is also known as earned discount privilege, one has to place a $400 retail order every quarter in order to maintain an active status and qualify.

In the cosmetic industry, Mary Kay distributors market their products through a party plan, pop-up boutiques, online services, and private VIP groups on Facebook.

Many people struggle with Network Marketing because there’s a lot that comes along with it.

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Is Mary Kay A Pyramid Scheme?

There is no pyramid scheme with Mary Kay. This is a legitimate cosmetics company that has provided quality beauty products to customers for years. 

Mary Kay consultants can still make money without recruiting other salespeople, although recruiting salespeople is a crucial part of other MLM companies.

Mary Kay isn’t a pyramid scheme.

MLM members can still earn income by selling their beauty products without recruiting anyone.

A better question for MLM companies like this would be “Is Mary Kay a pyramid scheme disguised as a company?”

What is a pyramid scheme?

Companies or organizations that run pyramid schemes promise their members monetary rewards for recruiting new members.

The company prioritizes recruiting rather than selling its products and services.

Companies like these have already been banned in many countries because not everyone can earn in a business that pays its members only to recruit others.

The company’s highest earners must recruit others to participate in this “business opportunity.”

You can learn how to spot these “pyramid schemes in disguise” by watching the video below.

How Much Money Do Mary Kay Consultants Make?

According to Mary Kay, all products receive a generous 50 percent commission.

The consultant has not included marketing and business administration fees in the gross revenue percentage.

Depending on the individual’s earnings or income, a beauty consultant can earn from commissions or bonuses up to $5,569 per year on average.

Consultants who achieve the status of Mary Kay Independent Sales Director or higher than that position can in fact earn the use of a Mary Kay career car or incentive travel.

On their website, it states, “As of December 31, 2019, 62% of the 485 Independent Sales Directors and Independent National Sales Directors participated in the Career Car Program and 42% attended an incentive trip.”

You’re probably all familiar with the infamous Mary Kay Pink Cadillac, right? A flashy pink car is definitely appealing to women.

According to a review, this is common with MLM companies such as Mary Kay.

Multi Level Marketing companies rely on endless recruitment of new customers who buy inventory packages in order to increase sales and wealth from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.

This is like a device to entice people into the business.

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How Much Does It Cost To Start With Mary Kay MLM?

Marly Kay requires you to purchase their $99 starter kit in order to get started with them.

If you become their distributor, you will receive 50% commission on every product, and by doing so you can earn money by selling them at retail.

It is a very cheap MLM, isn’t it? However, you’re missing the MLM company structure.

It is a network marketing company structured in a similar manner to how I described it, and we are their best customers.

You need to keep a sales quota of $75 in order to remain active with Mary Kay, which you obviously have to purchase yourself.

Here is the total amount you need to spend your first year.

$100 for starter kit and $75 multiply by 12 = $1000

To start a business, 1000 dollars might not seem like a big amount of money, but time is also a very important consideration.

What are the Pros of Mary Kay MLM?

1. Mary Kay has been around for over 50 years

As a company founded in 1963, they have been operating at full capacity ever since, expanding around the world and generating billions of dollars in sales.

At the very least, this should give you peace of mind regarding stability.

Mary Kay is a multibillion dollar business, so it doesn’t appear it will go out of business any time soon.

It is also a nice sign that Mary Kay is not a scam, and the FTC has not shut them down, which is quite unlikely.

Despite this, stranger things have happened in the world of MLM. Over the years, a number of popular MLM companies have succumbed to the “here today, gone tomorrow” curse.

2. Incentives And Rewards Are Juicy

The products they sell can earn IBCs a commission of 50% or more.

Besides monetary bonuses and luxury trips, top distributors are also rewarded with cool prizes like fine jewelry and the latest technology.

It would be remiss of us not to mention Mary Kay’s career car – the iconic pink Cadillac.

During the last few years, the company has also added black BMW’s, Chevrolet’s, and Toyota’s to the Career Car Program.

The spiffy vehicles belong to those who have reached an expert level of awesomeness within the company.

Therefore, they won’t give you the keys to a new Caddy until you have generated at least $75,000-$100,000 in sales volume in six months.

Technically, you don’t really own the Cadillac. It’s only leased to you.

But there’s a catch.

If you meet the high volume sales requirements, the company will give you a monthly payment to cover the car payment.

If you do not meet the production standards for a given month, then you are responsible for the lease payment.

When this happens for several months in a row, you have to say goodbye to your shiny new ride.

3. Positive Product Review

Several people were praising their products on their website. There were many positive reviews.

However, Mary Kay is a pyramid scheme, right?

I’m not sure if  these reviews are written by their distributors, so you may not believe them.

4. Mary Kay’s Products are on an Upward trend

I found out that Mary Kay continues to take the world by storm because many people are still looking for it. You may take a look at Google Trends.

One thing this means is that you will have an easier time selling.

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Mary Kay MLM Cons and Complaints

1. You Can’t Make a Lot of Money Without Recruiting

You Won’t Be Able To Make Any Money Without Recruiting New Mary Kay Distributors.

You have to begin selling Mary Kay products to your friends and family and tell them about “the dream”.

2. Mary Kay Updates the Product Formulas Too Often

On a regular basis, the company updates or changes its product formulas.

The result is that many IBCs end up with outdated inventory that is difficult to sell since everyone wants the latest version.

3. You Need to Purchase Inventory From Mary Kay

Former IBCs have complained about the ordering process when they first became distributors.

Mary Kay only requires you to purchase a $100 starter kit to get started.

To remain “active,” you must order wholesale products from the company at least $225 every three months.

Upline mentors, however, are known to push this inventory amount to much higher levels.

MLMs do this a lot, and it is known as “front loading.”

Mary Kay is notorious for its front-loading practices.

IBC recruiters often encourage new IBCs to purchase inventory packages ranging from $600 all the way up to $4800 for the “Pearl Star Package”.

Think about it this way: As soon as the company makes that inventory purchase, it has its money.

Consumers must now purchase these products from the brand-new Independent Beauty Consultant.

These newbies often end up with piles of products in their drawers, closets, or basements that they can’t sell.

IBCs are the only way for the company to track sales volume from these inventory purchases, so it is impossible to know how much product actually makes it to retail customers.

I don’t profess to be a conspiracy theorist, but I suspect that a large portion of that inventory is still in the hands of IBCs.

4. Pressure to Meet Monthly Sales Target

With this company, there seems to be a lot of pressure to meet monthly production numbers.

The minimum order for IBCs to remain active is $225 every three months.

Even if you were a sales superstar the month before, you can lose your commission check if you don’t meet volume requirements in a given month.

At the National Sales Director level and higher, this requirement disappears.

Which doesn’t make much sense because, after all, why would you make it harder for people who are just getting started vs. those who are well-established?

5. Mary Kay’s success Rate is Rare

Mary Kay is one of the most challenging MLM companies to succeed in.

MLM members lose money in 92.3 percent of cases

6. Mary Kay Products are Expensive 

Most people find selling Mary Kay products difficult because of its expensive products. Although Mary Kay claims that their products are compatible with the market, the truth is different.

Is it really worth people buying your products when they can easily buy the same products on Amazon for 200x less?

Now, their distributors are aware of this fact, but they still promote Mary Kay because they only aim to make money.

Most of the time relatives buy them just to get rid of them off their backs, because they try really hard to sell them.

7. Mary Kay Is In A Very Saturated Market

96 out of 100 people lost money, and the four people who make money also leave the MLM after a while.

It has been shown that people stick with MLMs for almost a year.

Don’t worry about long-term business models.

Mary Kay’s products fall into the skin care niche, which is why.

The market is saturated and is getting tougher and tougher every day. I dislike swimming in a pool that is already packed with people.

Since the cosmetic industry is already saturated, and there are a lot of Mary Kay members, you’ll find it tough to sell their products.

8. Mary Kay Is A Pyramid Scheme In Disguise

Mary Kay is a pyramid scheme disguised as a business.

The reason for this is that their affiliate program is more focused on recruiting rather than selling their products.

Mary Kay has pyramid scheme features, and most people steer clear of it out of fear of being scammed.

However, I do not see it on the website, but somewhere it was said to recruit as many people as possible if you do not want to spend $75/every month on expensive products.

9. Mary Kay Has Hidden Monthly Expenses

Mary Kay is trying to make money through you rather than assist you in making money.

MLMs do not even realize that their best customers are their affiliates. Mary Kay is structured in such a way that people who are trying to earn money have to pay them an additional $75/month on top of their 99 dollar starter kit.

10. One In 200 Affiliates Earns More Than $2000 A Month

I wouldn’t even bother trying to build a $10k/month business model with this company, because according to their average income disclosure, 1 out of 200 members reach $2k per month. 

As a result, 95% of the people make $100 a year.

Therefore, your chances of making $8/month are 95%.

Other than this, 99.99% of people earn less than $1k per month.

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How Does Mary Kay MLM’s Compensation Plan Work?

What is the pay scale for Mary Kay consultants?

It is impossible for me to explain in depth all of the titles, levels, and qualification requirements here.

Consulting, Star Consulting, Red Jackets, Team Leaders, Directors-in-Qualification (DIQ), National Sales Directors, the list goes on.

Every subsequent level offers higher percentage amounts of commission and the compensation plan rewards sales VOLUME – and lots of it.

As a result, the more IBCs you sign up for, the more Team Building bonuses and commissions you’ll receive.

In essence, the more people you recruit to your team, the more money you will make.

To keep your business well-stocked for future customers, a great deal of emphasis is placed on consistently ordering large quantities of “inventory.”

Suppose those customers never materialize. What happens then?

It’s easy to find horror stories about women who went into deep debt trying to make these bulk inventory orders on Google.

Keep in mind that you must maintain certain monthly production numbers to qualify for commissions.

Sadly, what is the average IBC’s chance of recouping those costs?

I would say the chances are slim given the poor success rates of many MLMs.

You’ll be told that the inventory you purchase is “a source of future profits”. Of course, the profit is contingent upon your ability to sell the inventory.

It is interesting that I couldn’t locate an easily accessible, line-by-line breakdown of the compensation plan on the company’s official website.

Mary Kay’s official website does not appear anywhere on the first page of Google when you search for “Mary Kay compensation plan.”.

I’m not sure why the company keeps its compensation plan so secretive.

I dislike it when you make money without knowing where it is coming from. I personally like to track my record very much, so I am not suitable for mlms.

Here’s what I know about the their compensation plan:

Direct Sales

Every sale you make inside Mary Kay will earn you 50% commission.

Downline Sales

You will make upto 4% commissions on your downline.Every sales that will be made by your downline will earn you 5%.

Team Building

If you recruit more and more people, you can earn $50 to $1,000 depending on your rank.

Mary Kay allows you to earn money in two of three ways: by recruiting others.

The reason I referred to it as a disguised pyramid scheme is because of this.

Is Mary Kay MLM a Scam?

I cannot say Mary Kay is a scam for legal reasons.

As far as I know, the company sells real and legitimate products and pays their members on time.

However, why are there reports that the company is a scam?

This has to do with how disappointed they are when they realize that they are losing more money than they are making because they have to buy their own products if they do not reach their sales quota.

I guess that cleared things up, right?

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Mary Kay MLM Review

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Mary Kay MLM Review: Final Verdict

Here comes the conclusion of my Mary Kay MLM review. Overall, I don’t recommend joining Mary Kay MLM to make money.

The company is one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world and they have nice products compared to other beauty MLMs.

However, recruiting as many people as possible is the only way to make good money at this company.

Mary Kay is going to lose money on the majority of these people.

A business model like that can’t be ethical.

So if you really want to make passive income without selling to your relatives, I have a better recommendation for you. It’s a 100% legit and sustainable way to make money online.

Let me tell you in detail in the next section.

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Mary Kay MLM FAQs

1. Is MLM A Pyramid Scheme?

Mary Kay has been referred to as a product-based pyramid scheme because the bottom of the pyramid must buy enormous amounts of products so that those at the top can receive fat commission checks, win cars, and go on flashy vacations.

Let’s examine the differences between MLM and pyramid schemes before we answer the question if MLM is a scam.

Basically, multi-level marketing involves selling products directly to customers, usually by word of mouth.

A pyramid scheme is different from a legal MLM program in that it does not actually sell any product.

MLMs are not all pyramid schemes. In any venture, the success of the venture depends on the ability to sell products or provide services.

You should be wary of companies that promise you cash for doing nothing. You are likely to be taken advantage of. This is just a tactic they use to trick people.

2. Is Mary Kay A Global Brand?

Yes, technically it is. The brand’s products can be found in over 35 countries. These include the United States, Mexico, and Russia.

3. What Are Mary Kay’s Most Popular Products? 

The flagship product of Mary Kay is skincare, which is designed to keep skin looking flawless at any age. 

One of their most popular products is the TimeWise Repair Ultimate Volu-Firm Set, which they call the ultimate regimen for fighting aging. 

A foaming cleanser, lifting serum, day cream sunscreen, retinol night treatment, eye renewal cream, wrinkle filler, and a facial peel are included.

4. What is Mary Kay’s BBB rating? 


5. How long has Mary Kay been in business? 

Since 1963.

6. What is Mary Kay’s revenue? 

$3.25 billion.

7. How many Mary Kay distributors are there? 

3.5 million.

8. What lawsuits have been filed against Mary Kay? 

Mary Kay has slapped down Mary Kay “resellers” in the past, people who bought products from consultants who weren’t able to return them and then sold them on Amazon or Ebay. 

According to Truth in Advertising, Mary Kay and their distributors made some inappropriate income claims in 2017. As part of their employment with Mary Kay, New Jersey residents who were misclassified as independent contractors and forced to buy company merchandise as part of their employment filed a class action lawsuit in 2015. 

The lawsuit was dismissed in 2016. 

TriStrata Technology Inc. ordered Mary Kay to pay back more than $26 million in royalties in 2006 for patent infringement. 

Following the termination of her consultant agreement, Michelle Graham appealed an injunction barring her from selling Mary Kay at her retail locations. Mary Kay won the appeal.

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