Young Living Compliance Resources
Here are a few resources directly from Young Living that guide us in what we can and cannot say about the products.
How to Share Compliantly Presented by Carman Boley
Before we begin, I want to point out that I am a YL member, just like you. I’m not a legal advisor. So, everything I’m sharing today is just what I’ve learned from other YL members, YL corporate, and personal research. This class is only the starting point for compliance, so you will definitely have to do your own research and learning. I recommend you go grab your oils (Clarity, cedarwood, Brain Power, peppermint, Abundance, and Surrender are good options!) and a notepad and pencil.
We’ll start by gaining an understanding of exactly what “compliance” means for Young Living members. Compliance means using acceptable speech- as determined by the FDA, FTC, EPA, and other governmental agencies- when sharing, teaching, and advertising Young Living Products to others.
What wording is compliant is determined by the “category” a specific product is sold within. The FDA regulates many categories. For YL members, only Cosmetics, Food, and Drugs apply. There are rules about what can and can’t be said about the products in each category. Cosmetics (topical use), Food (ingestion), Drugs (any method from injection, topical application, to oral ingestion).
Cosmetics are the least heavily regulated category (meaning we can say more about their uses). Cosmetics are not required to demonstrate their safety before they go on the market. They have no legal definition of the words “organic,” “natural,” or “non-toxic,” so any of them can have that on the label without any ingredient changes. (Aren’t you grateful YL is a full-disclosure company! No sneaky crud in our products!) Supplements fall under the Food category and are the next step up in terms of regulation. Supplements also are not required to demonstrate their safety. The “claims” you can make for products in this category are more strict.
Drugs… To be clear, Young Living DOES NOT SELL ANY PRODUCTS IN THIS CATEGORY! Here’s the thing. Products in the drug category are more heavily regulated and tested than all the others. That’s why they are allowed to claim they diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. You may say, well let’s get our research together, show if our products can do those things, and be regulated as drugs so we can say those things too! We don’t want that to happen. To be a drug, the product must be the same every time. That means synthetic. The very thing that makes these oils special (the fact that God made them and YL just didn’t interfere!) would be taken away. I mention this category only to show that we can’t MAKE OR IMPLY “drug claims” with our products since they aren’t in this category.
If you were a member before Summer 2015, you may have noticed that the labels and wording on our bottles has been changing. Thieves used to say, “supplement” AND describe topical/aromatic uses. Many single oils and blends were categorized (and therefore marketed and labeled) as both cosmetics and supplements. The FDA recently said that Young Living would have to choose which category a product went in- it could no longer be in two at once. That is why we now have Thieves Vitality as a “dietary supplement” oil, and Thieves (regular) is marketed as a “topical/aromatic cosmetic” oil. The Vitality line gives us over 25 options for dietary essential oils. For compliance, this means it is unlawful for YL members to market Thieves Vitality’s topical application methods, or Thieves (regular’s) oral ingestion methods. The product’s advertised application method must match its category.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of people make claims outside of the proper category for a product and then try to make it ok with a disclaimer like, “Statements made on this website about Young Living Essential Oils have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician. I am not a medical professional. Information for educational purposes only.” While disclaimers are great, and are sometimes required, WE STILL CAN’T make claims outside of what is allowed in that product’s category. Putting a disclaimer on it doesn’t make it ok, they aren’t “get out of jail free” cards.
You may wonder, “Why should I be compliant? Will it really make a difference?” YES. It’s important for all of us to be compliant. Even Young Living as a corporation has to be compliant. YL passed their 2015 compliance evaluation with a 100% PASS! PRAISE GOD! That’s unheard of in this industry. The members however… not so much. And that’s important because, as members, we are counted as representing the company.
If members’ compliance got really bad, Young Living would be shut down and have their inventory forcibly removed! :’( That would mean no more oils for us. We can’t let that happen, right? Now, if you’re non-compliant and YL finds out they may take action by, first, educating you and giving you an opportunity to correct it within a certain time frame. If, after that time frame it’s not corrected, they may temporarily suspend your account. Don’t freak out, though! Once you’ve cleaned up everything, you’ve got your account back. Generous, right?
The number-one, most immediate goal should be to clean up our online presence. That includes blog posts, social media, websites, graphics, videos, etc. It’s not just things you write, either, it’s also things other people write that you share, that you “like” on other people’s pages, or comment on. All those things count as you AND the original writer being non-compliant (even things you pin to your boards on Pinterest count!) (accd. to FTC). The reason this is the first goal is that it’s the biggest threat to YL compliance. (But keep in mind that compliance counts when you’re talking one-on-one as well.)
You may wonder, “But what about my constitutional right to Freedom of Speech?” Freedom of Speech does NOT cover you to say whatever you want about YL products. It’s because we, as members, have the opportunity to make money if someone believes our claims and buys the product through us. This applies even to members who are not actively taking advantage of the Compensation Plan (all members agree to compliance through the Member Agreement at signup). If, however, you’re a retail customer or unrelated to Young Living (no opportunity to make money), you can say whatever you want about the products. For example, I can share about the benefits of chia seeds freely, because I do not sell those and have no financial investment in them.
Remember, friends don’t let friends be non-compliant. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep YL safe. If you see a friend being non-compliant, contact them privately, with love, and let them know about compliance, that they are NOT in trouble, and ask if they would please change the wording or delete the non-compliant info. Most people break compliance because they simply don’t know that it exists! Or if they do know, they’re not exactly sure where all the “lines” are. The people that I’ve contacted in this way were just grateful that I had their back!
Now that you’ve got a really good foundation of what compliance is, why it’s important to follow, how to start cleaning things up, and to whom it applies, let’s go into a little more detail about what you can/can’t say! My goal with this Basics of Compliance class is that you learn enough to not put your foot in it when you post online about the oils. This is the most immediate threat to YL I see, and what I wanted to address. This is also the first level of understanding that YL members need to know about compliance. If you’re interested in the YL business or sharing and presenting more often, you can learn the rest of compliance and the nitty-gritty stuff along the way through trial and error and personal research.
Let’s start with some things it’s never ok to say. The name of any disease, condition, symptom, disorder, etc. If you hear it and know it’s in one of those categories, it’s not ok. Those ones are fairly simple to avoid. However, compliance can get tricky with things that we don’t think of as diseases, but still count as “disease claims.” That includes things like bruises, pests (fleas, parasites, mosquitos), itchiness, pain, sunburns, etc. We can’t talk about those. Don’t worry too much if you accidentally mention one of these “uncommon” ones as you learn. They aren’t the “big bads” but, once you learn, they should be avoided.
We also cannot state or imply our products can replace medicine. Saying, “Replace your medicine cabinet with XYZ oil!,” “XYZ oil is like Valium in a bottle.,” “I don’t need my _______ prescription since I started using XYZ oil!,” “XYZ oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory!,” or sharing a post about the plague breaking out and posting, “I’m so glad I have my XYZ oil so I don’t have to get the plague vaccine!” These things are not ok, and if you post them my reaction will be one of two things right before I message you to please take that down…
In the above post about non-compliant statements I mentioned, “I don’t need my _______ prescription since I started using XYZ oil!” That’s because even if it genuinely happened to you, it’s still non-compliant. Personal testimonies are not covered by anything or given special privileges if you cross a compliance line (FTC.)
You may say, “What if I share research? Studies with legitimate claims and proof about what an oil or specific YL product can do?” Nope. Not ok. Even if you have research, documentation, or proof of a product accomplishing something outside of it’s Cosmetic or Supplement category, it’s still not ok. This applies even to essential oils in general. If you share a link to a blog post where XYZ blogger, Dr., scientist, or whoever shares about the benefits of lavender and it’s effects on ABC disease, it’s not ok to share, even if they were talking about a different company’s lavender or just lavender oil in general.
You may be a little disgruntled about all the things you can’t say, but, remember, part of why we got into essential oils was so that we could educate ourselves and take personal charge and responsibility for our health. If you start diagnosing and prescribing oils to your friends and family, you’re just setting yourself up as the new expert on the block and instead of taking charge of their own health, they’ll probably put it in your hands. It’s time to encourage generations of people to educate themselves, make wise and informed decisions, and stop being sheeple.
Staying compliant has a lot to do with focusing on the wellness lifestyle, rather than disease. We call this, “Living Above the Line.” Above the line is where wellness, healthy food, exercise, emotional balance, and health live. Below the line is where mental negativity, illness, anxiety, laziness, and dis-ease live. We focus on maintaining our lives above the line. That’s why we talk about promoting, maintaining, and supporting (PMS) our wellness. We aren’t talking about treating things below the line, but maintaining them above it with LIFESTYLE CHOICES!
Here are the types of claims that are acceptable for the Dietary Supplement category. 1. Structure-Function, 2. Nutrient Content, 3. Health Claims. Structure-function claims (most common) describe an ingredient’s effect on the structure and/or function of the body. “Helps support a healthy immune system.*” S-F claims require disclaimers. More freedom if it’s a normal body process, though: “May prevent hair loss associated with aging.” Just hair loss wouldn’t be ok to say, but if it’s qualified with the normal body process (like aging) it’s ok.
Check out the list of acceptable claims here.
The second type of permissible claim for Dietary Supplements are Nutrient Claims. These “expressly or implicitly describe the level of a nutrient in a product, using terms such as “high”, “low”, and “free” or compare the level to another food, such as “more”, “less” or “lite.” The third type are Health Claims which have two main characteristics: 1. describe the relationship between a food, food component, or dietary ingredient and the reduction in risk of a disease or health related condition. 2. are written by the FDA or scientific body of the government (a.k.a. you can’t write these yourself or get them off a blog!). i.e. “Diets high in omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of ______.” It’s a claim the government has already made about an ingredient, so you can claim it for your products containing that same ingredient!
Now, if you’re wondering what you can say about YL aromatic or topical use products that fall into the “Cosmetic” category, here’s what the Sharing Young Living the Right Way FAQs document has to say they are for: “cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” (p. 5). Regulations prohibit members from describing cosmetic products in any way that implies or states it will have a physiological effect on the body or body system, i.e. no structure-function claims for cosmetics.
Remember that these rules don’t just apply to Young Living. They apply to every cosmetic and dietary supplement company out there. Now, I’m sure you’ve seen other people on Facebook or Instagram advertising all the XYZ cures and miraculous before and afters for their products. Yes, it’s illegal for them, too. Don’t get upset though. One person described it like this: it’s like they are driving 25mph over the speed limit hoping there’s not a cop down the road. They’ll get caught. In the meantime, just focus on positivity, superior education, and making sure you and your team are above board!