Is Mary Kay A Pyramid Scheme? Answer Might Surprise You

So you are probably here because you came in contact with a Mary Kay seller or you were curious to see if Mary Kay is the real deal or a pyramid scheme.

The moment I hear about recruiting people to make money my mind immediately goes towards those same thoughts.

Luckily, for the last 3 years, I have been reviewing make-money opportunities just like Mary Kay and have become really good at spotting make money online scams.

After reading this post, you’ll know exactly if this is that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or run for the hills. At the end of the post, I’ll also provide you with an alternative just in case Mary Kay isn’t for you.

Now let’s get into it.

Mary Kay MLM Review — Is Mary Kay A Pyramid Scheme?


Name: Mary Kay
Founder: Mary Kay Ash
Type: Beauty product Multi-level Marketing company
Price: Free to join and after a minimum of $200/ month

Mary Kay is a beauty product company that markets its products using Multi-level-marketing. When we’re looking at the definition of a pyramid scheme and what the law considers a pyramid scheme it’s not one.

This doesn’t mean anyone can become rich by selling Mary Kay in reality there’s only one specific group that tends to succeed with Mary Kay. Read my review to find out if you belong to that group or if you’ll be wasting money.
Similar to: Younique MLM program, Young Living essential oils MLM program 
Recommended: Only for a very specific group

>>> Click here to learn about my highest rated make money online opportunity

What is Mary Kay?

Mary Kay is one of the oldest multi-level marketing companies in the world. Mary Kay sells and manufactures beauty products for women.

The company was founded in 1963 by Mary Kay Ash and went from a small business that sold 1 foundation and 4 skin cares to a billion-dollar company that sells more than 2000 products.

According to the website, Mary Kay’s mission is to enrich the lives of women and their families all over the world. They have a history of donating to a lot of women-centric causes, renewable energy, and recycling programs.

At the moment, Mary Kay HQ is based in Dallas, and even during the corona pandemic is still active.

Is Mary Kay a Pyramid scheme?

In short, No. Mary Kay isn’t a pyramid scheme (when you look at it from a legal perspective).

What is a pyramid scheme? oxford languages
Definition: a form of investment (illegal in the UK and elsewhere) in which each paying participant recruits two further participants, with returns being given to early participants using money contributed by later ones. 

The key thing is that no product is being sold by the company. In other words, the members are basically financing the company.

Mary Kay has over 2000 products so you can’t exactly call it a pyramid scheme.

Does that mean you should immediately start signing up for Mary Kay and start your entrepreneurial endeavor? No.

Just because it’s not a pyramid scheme doesn’t mean there aren’t things about the company that worry me.

In the rest of this post, I’m going to show you exactly what worries and why I think that the majority of people thinking of joining won’t succeed and most likely will lose money.

How does Mary Kay work?

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

How exactly does Mary Kay work?

At its core, Mary Kay is an MLM company. According to Wikipedia, MLM stands for multi-level marketing its a marketing strategy for the sale of products or service where the revenue is derived from a non-salaried workforce.

You become a part of this workforce the moment you join Mary Kay.

The earnings of the workforce come from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation system.

This compensation system allows you to make money using 2 methods:

  • Direct Selling
    Re-selling products person-to-person and earning a commission.
  • Recruiting
    Recruiting people to be in your “team” and earning bonuses based on their performance.

Sounds pretty simple right?

Well, this next part is where it gets complicated.

In the past, I have been pitched by a lot of independent sellers of MLM products to join their “team” and have been told about all the great things that are possible but there are a few things you have to take into account.

1. You have to be “active”
Just signing up and trying to sell and recruit people isn’t enough to be seen as active you need to purchase Mary Kay products monthly to be deemed as an active seller. On average you’re spending a minimum of $200 a month.
2. Your team needs to be active as well

Your team’s performance is based on how many people are active on the teams.
3. Higher tiers require you and your team to spend more

There are multiple tiers in the Mary Kay MLM program and the higher the tier, the more money you can make. You’ll have to invest more financially to get in those tiers.

This is basically the gist of how the Mary Kay MLM program works.

If you want to know exactly what to expect I have a Mary Kay brochure here that was posted on pink truth explaining the tiers and all the requirements needed to make money on every tier.

Who can benefit from Mary Kay?

Who would benefit from investing in Mary Kay:

  • Expert salesmen and recruiters
  • Extrovert with influence in their community
  • Online influencers

Who shouldn’t invest in Mary Kay:

  • People that aren’t naturally social
  • People that hate recruiting
  • People that can’t take financial risks

Pros and Cons


  • You have a proven brand on your side
  • Earning potential is high
  • High-quality products


  • You have to stay active
  • Hidden fees
  • Too much competition
  • The marketing model has a bad reputation

What products can you sell?

Mary Kay has more than 2000 beauty products.

The products can be divided into 4 categories:

  • Looks (new)
  • Clinical solutions
  • Skincare
  • Books

According to their website, their best-sellers are mostly anti-aging creams, sunscreens, and make-up removers so if you end up becoming an independent seller these are most likely the products you’ll have the most success with.

Here are a few examples of those products:

Mary Kay Affiliate Product Lash intensity

Mary Kay Timewise age suncreen

Mary Kay Timewise Miracle set 3D

Can you make money with Mary Kay?

Yes. You can make money as a Mary Kay independent seller but it’s definitely not for everyone.

According to the FAQ page on, they state who can succeed with direct selling for Mary Kay.

A direct-selling opportunity is a viable option for people of all ages, genders, and income levels. It is an especially good opportunity for those who want more flexibility and control over their lives and who:

  • Have an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Like working with people.
  • Desire a less structured working environment.

The truth is a whole lot more is needed to succeed with Mary Kay.

Earning a decent income with Mary Kay or any other MLM company is incredibly hard.

Why is it so hard to make money with Mary Kay?

I have summed up the reasons why it’s hard to make money with Mary Kay into 4 points.

1. MLM’s are often associated with pyramid schemes
MLM’s have a pyramid recruiting structure that you often have to join to be able to make decent money or at the very least not lose money. The problem is a lot of pyramid schemes disguise themselves as MLM programs making it difficult to differentiate the two.

2.You have to consistently invest your money to earn commissions
You’re only eligible for bonuses and commissions if you’re “active” which requires you to buy their products. The bigger the bonuses the more product you have to buy. You do get discounts but if you can’t sell the products I can see you easily fall into a financial deficit.

3. Too much competition 
You don’t hear as much about Mary Kay as in the past but there are still an insane amount of independent sellers around the world. You’re selling the same products that millions of others are trying to sell which makes it that much harder to stand out and succeed.

That’s a lot to overcome for someone that doesn’t have any sales or recruiting experience.

Multiple studies have shown that the majority of people that get into MLM lose money rather than earn it.

On the pink truth website, there’s an article that references 2 different reports from researchers named Robert FitzPatrick and Jon Taylor. They did separate studies using different methodologies, and both concluded that over 99% of distributors lose money.

So what if you have sales and recruiting experience?

Direct selling is hard for 99% of people but I have family members that have excelled in direct selling but that’s mostly because of their influence in their communities or because they have been in sales for over a decade.

To them selling the products and recruiting comes ridiculously easy but they’re both exhausted from keeping their “teams” engaged.

If you’re part of this group you could have a lot of success but you’re still playing against the numbers so I couldn’t recommend it.

My Personal Take

Legally speaking it’s not a pyramid scheme but I think unless you’re a sales and recruiting expert the chances of succeeding with MLM is slim. I’m more of a play the numbers guy and it seems like with Mary Kay the deck is stacked against you.


Is Mary Kay a Pyramid Scheme? No, but the chances of succeeding with Mary Kay are extremely low.

Mary Kay Alternative  

Let’s be honest unless you’re very skilled at selling and recruiting, MLM’s seem like a bad deal.

What if I said to you there’s a method to make money online that doesn’t require you to buy products upfront and after that try to sell them?

Sound like a better option for most right?!

If you want to make money online from anywhere including your own home I recommend you to look at Wealthy Affiliate.

It’s the platform that taught me how to create an online business revolving around my interests.

Wealthy Affiliate banner

That’s all for today. If you have any questions or you just want to show some love don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

See you at my next post!

Photo of author

About Rogier

I’m an Affiliate Marketing and SEO veteran, Blogger, and Pinterest Marketer based in The Netherlands. On this website, I share my learnings about online entrepreneurship, and digital resources while enjoying life to the fullest.

6 thoughts on “Is Mary Kay A Pyramid Scheme? Answer Might Surprise You”

  1. Nice write up here that I can resonate a bit with. MLM and the Pyramid Scheme tactics are no good. I know from experience when the deregulation of electricity happened in my region giving the “customer a choice.” Getting caught up in that for a few months, chasing friends and family and ruining some relationships was a hard lesson learned.

    This is a good write up on Mary Kay because the difference is they do have tons and tons of actual tangible products to sell. Certainly you can try your hand at that. But in the end, every MLM company or program prides itself on recruiting people to a “team” and preaching residual income so many levels deep.

    The average person trying to start their own business or side hustle will not succeed well with this model. I like the alternative to that with Wealthy Affiliate. Kudos!

    • Hey Brian, 

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I  also know a few people that have ruined relationships chasing the MLM dream but I have also seen the opposite of this situation with family members which is almost cartoon weird to experience.

      I agree MLM programs aren’t a good fit for most people.

  2. I have heard about Mary Kay for many years but I haven’t joined it. This is an interesting case study. They are a solid brand, they have good products but their marketing model is questionable. Viewing companies from this hones approach is very helpful. I will continue saying no to Mary Kay but I learnt that most companies are a mix of good and bad things.

    • Hey Ann, 

      I agree. There’s always a mix of good and bad things with companies like these. The key is to be aware of them before you start investing.

  3. I have looked at quite a few MLM schemes and all of them with perhaps the exception of one looked like the ” impossible dream”. Still people become involved and people lose money, friends, and even sometimes partners. 

    Mary Kay has been around for ages, I have seen it advertised on T.V. but still all the money is made at the top. 

    You are better off with Wealthy Affiliate.


Leave a Comment