This is going to come as a pretty big shock to my Young Living loyal friends.
I seriously considered doTerra essential oils first.
No really, I did. I had been introduced to Young Living by a friend, but at the time I had no loyalty to any company. I just wanted what was best for my family. So I was willing to take a hard look at anyone who was selling therapeutic grade essential oils. Since I had already been told about Young Living, I had also heard about doTerra, a competitor in the network marketing business of essential oils. And I really liked what I was seeing. I would have had ZERO problem at the time jumping over to doTerra if they were superior to Young Living.
They looked right up my alley, totally targeted at young families (check, ME!) , and had oils that sounded really interesting. The website was super positive and they looked really quality driven. Plus their oils were Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (I’ll call it CPTG for the rest of the article).
So I did some really detailed reading and this is what I ended up finding and realizing about the two companies. (Source material for this article available HERE)
Time on the Market
At the time of this writing, doTerra has been around for five years. Founded in 2008 (more on that later), they swiftly grew in market share, especially effectively reaching a younger demographic with attractive marketing.
Young Living, by comparison, has been around for twenty years. If you are grading on length of time in the market (along with time of sustained growth) it does put Young Living a bit ahead, but by itself, the length of time in the market wasn’t a make or break factor for me.
As I was reading I started to notice a large amount of similarities between doTerra and Young Living. The first that I noticed was the similarity of the AromaTouch technique (combination of massage and essential oils introduced in 2009) to Young Living’s Raindrop technique (reported to have been developed in the 1980s by YL’s founder). The techniques are similar enough to make you wonder why.
The next similarities that I started to notice was in their blends. As I mentioned before I was curious about the YL Thieves blend enough to buy some cleaning products, and so I noticed that doTerra also had a similar blend and line of cleaning products called OnGuard. In fact the only difference between the two blends was that doTerra had selected wild orange essential oil instead of lemon. Every single other oil was THE SAME.
At that point I was still willing to think that it could be coincidental. So I compared a few other blends. Valor (YL) and Balance (DT) were exactly the same essential oils. ALL of them. Raven (YL) and Breathe (DT) had four of the same oils. DiGize (YL) and DigestZen (DT) share four oils.
UPDATE: 9/23/14: DoTerra has replaced Rosewood in their Balance blend with Ho Wood, making the blend now different from their original formulation (which was seemingly modeled after Valor).
Then there is the similarity in the Slique weight loss line (YL) and the Slim and Sassy weight loss line (DT). I was starting to wonder if someone was copying the other. Then I found something.
What I found really bummed me out. It seemed that back around the time that doTerra was founded, a group of Young Living executives and high level salespersons left the company. It turned out that they went straight from Young Living to open doTerra. I did some reading and found that some of the current doTerra leadership were in fact mentioned in older Young Living literature, including their President and Chief Medical Officer.
That is where I started to have a problem. I don’t want to get into the he said/she said of it. Depending on who you ask about the exodus, you’ll hear two different stories. There is actually a lawsuit currently in the courts regarding this matter, with allegations that the similarities in products were in fact due to the founders of doTerra using proprietary information that they had as leaders at Young Living, and that these folks targeted existing YL salespersons to switch companies. I’m willing to let the courts judge the complete nature of that, but on its face, it did seem to be shady enough that I was doubting whether it was worth going to doTerra. (UPDATED 11/26/13: An additional company has come forward and alleged copyright infringement by doTerra on one of their products: See the lawsuit here. Updated 5/7/14: doTerra has now changed the product name from the one alleged to be infringing the copyright.)
Even if the execs left for good reasons, they did go and immediately found a company in direct competition with their former employer and launched multiple lines of products nearly identical in purpose, scope, and in some cases ingredients. No matter how you slice it, on its face it didn’t look right.
UPDATED October 16, 2014: Contrary to certain claims, the lawsuit has NOT been settled or thrown out of court.
A quick comparison showed me that doTerra carried 39 single essential oils and 18 blends. Young Living carried 87 single oils and 70 blends. Just based on numbers of essential oils, Young Living came out ahead.
Variety as of June 2015
doTerra currently sells 42 single essential oils 19 blends. Young Living currently stocks 90 single oils and 132 unique blends.
My initial cost comparison
In a survey of four similar blends and six singles, the cost between options averaged out to doTerra’s oils being about one to five dollars a bottle less expensive at retail. The difference is similar at wholesale. The typical wholesale/consultant enrollment kits are the same price ($150) with Young Living having a diffuser included and doTerra not including a diffuser but their Slim and Sassy blend instead. In other words, the price difference is not dramatic, but doTerra does shave off a dollar or two per bottle.
Cost Comparison as of June 2015
The $150 Premium Starter Kit from Young Living contains 10 5ml essential oils, a diffuser, and a bonus essential oil. This kit also qualifies the new member to get wholesale discount prices on all their orders.
The $150 Family Physician and S&S Kit from DoTerra contains 10 5ml essential oils and a bonus essential oil. There is no included diffuser. The DoTerra kit that includes oils and a diffuser is the $275 Home Essentials Kit. Both of these kits also give a new member wholesale prices on DoTerra products.
For a new member wanting to have a well rounded assortment of oils and a diffuser, the Young Living Premium Starter Kit is the better value.
The other item that really kept bouncing around in the back of my head was the phrase “CPTG” that doTerra uses. First thing that I found out was that it is just a trademark. It isn’t a certification of any type, and no other company could use the term CPTG to describe their products even if the quality were proven to be identical. In other words, they certify their products themselves based on criteria that they set, not some outside regulator. Now this is not a critique of their quality, we’ll discuss quality in the last section. It is just a discussion of how this trademark is presented.
The word Certified seems to imply that an objective authority has given their stamp of approval on these essential oils. However, the reality is that it is certified by THEM. That’s not bad, but it isn’t how it comes across to most consumers. The reality is that they set a set of criteria of what specific markers must be present (or not present) in the essential oils, and they test them at an outside lab. To their credit, doTerra does disclose the true nature of the CPTG trademark at the bottom of their CPTG info page, but it is in small print, and the fact that is not an endorsement by an outside agency only appears in the very last sentence.
To make a comparison, you can’t use the CPTG term for any other brand of essential oils any more than you could open a new department store and call it Walmart. Trademark law prevents anyone else from using that mark. So while doTerra’s oils are the only “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” essential oils available, that says nothing about their comparative quality versus any other company.
What this information ended up revealing to me was that doTerra is simply a re-bottler of essential oils. Nothing more. They don’t grow any of their own plants. They don’t personally distill any of their own oils. So, if all they do is re-bottle and test oils, there are quite a few other internet based companies who also do that, and for a much smaller price.
To pull it all together, when I compared the objective information I came up with this. Young Living is my choice for essential oils and essential oil products because they truly control the quality from the time the seed is put in the ground at their own or partner farms all the way through the distillation in their proprietary cookers, to the strict quality controls.
doTerra, while they do have testing protocols, does not have that level of control from the beginning. The small cost difference didn’t seem important when I realized that Young Living’s oils were handled so differently, and doTerra’s were simply rebottled from other sources’ pre-distilled oils. From that point on, it was simply icing on the cake that Young Living offers so many more singles and blends and that they have been in business for over twenty years.
And that is why I chose Young Living instead.
To read more about Young Living’s Seed to Seal quality promise:
- My personal visit to Young Living’s Mona, Utah farm
- Are Young Living’s Essential Oils REALLY better?
- Seed to Seal quality promise details
- The Young Living Seed to Seal Site
You may like:
- See the truth about essential oil labeling
- Concerned that genuine essential oils may be dangerous?
- Do you know if the essential oils you are buying have un-disclosed chemicals in them?
- Why I Ignore the “Essential Oil Wars”