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.
It was 2012, and a friend had already shared Young Living with me. At the time, however, I had no loyalty to any company. I just wanted what was best for my family.
I was willing to take a closer look at anyone who was selling high-quality essential oils. In the course of my reading, I stumbled across DoTerra, a competitor of Young Living. And I really liked what I was seeing.
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, looked very attractive and they looked really quality driven. Plus their oils were something called Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (I’ll call it CPTG for the rest of the article).
At that time I would have happily switched from Young Living to DoTerra depending on what I found in my research.
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)
DoTerra’s Time on the Market
DoTerra was founded in 2008, and they grew quickly. They were especially effective at reaching a younger demographic with attractive, hip marketing.
Young Living, by comparison, had been around since 1994.
That did mean that Young Living was around 14 years before DoTerra, but that wasn’t a make or break issue for me. Ultimately if the products at DoTerra proved better, it would have trumped time on the market for me.
DoTerra’s Striking Similarities
As I dug deeper, I noticed a lot of similarities between DoTerra and Young Living.
Since they both sold essential oils, it was in some ways a little bit expected. But apart from selling a similar general product, there were some “exclusive” products and techniques that seemed strangely similar.
The first that I noticed was how similar the AromaTouch technique from Do Terra was to Young Living’s Raindrop technique.
DoTerra introduced AromaTouch in 2009, and Young Living’s founder developed Raindrop in the 1980s prior to founding the company.
The techniques are functionally the same. Both apply similar essential oils to the feet, back, and spine in a similar order with massage and are both loosely based on the principle of reflexology.
It seemed a little bit strange that both companies had such similar novel techniques.
Then I noticed the similarity of many of their blends. As I mentioned before I had liked 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.
The only difference between the two blends was that DoTerra had used wild orange essential oil instead of the lemon found in Thieves. 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.
In the time since 2012 when I originally made my choice, both Young Living and DoTerra have reformulated their Valor and Balance blends to replace the endangered Rosewood Oil. They now no longer resemble one another.
Then there were the similarities of the Slique weight management line (YL) and the Slim and Sassy weight management line (DT).
I was starting to wonder if someone was copying the other.
In fact, I went and compared these two companies to other essential oil companies and found that, at the time, they had almost identical product offerings.
They had similar assortments of blends (which isn’t uncommon in the essential oil world), but they had almost identical essential oil-based products from supplements, to home care, and to weight management products.
When I looked at other essential oil companies in the market, only these two had this level of product similarity.
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 salespeople left the company.
It turned out that they went straight from Young Living to open doTerra.
At the time many documents were still on the internet that are no longer available and I found some interesting tid bits.
Some of the founding DoTerra leadership were mentioned in older Young Living literature, including their President and Chief Medical Officer. In some of these audios and documents, these departed leaders praised Young Living’s founder and credited him with teaching them all they knew about oils. They spoke of his integrity and the high standards of the company with deep conviction.
That is where I started to feel really uneasy. I don’t want to get into the he said/she said of it. Over the years since I made my choice in 2012 I have been told wild and terrible stories from people fiercely devoted to each company.
Turns out that most of the terrible rumors are exactly that, just terrible unfounded rumors.
But, even when you strip away the hype and the hurt feelings that clearly exist in some people there was still enough about the situation that didn’t make any sense to me.
Why would these high-level leaders who had praised Young Living and credited its founder so passionately have left and made their own company to directly compete with their former company?
Even if the execs had 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 I sliced it, it just didn’t sit right with me.
This parting of ways was hashed out in legal proceedings over the subsequent years that led to plenty of hard feelings between members from both sides. Unfortunately, these legal actions never led to any ultimate verdict on the rightness or wrongness of the parties involved. In the end, the legal proceedings neither cleared nor condemned the execs.
A quick comparison in 2012 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.
In the years that followed, both Young Living and DoTerra have added additional oils and blends. Young Living still offers many times more singles and blends than DoTerra.
My initial cost comparison
In a survey of four similar blends and six singles, the cost 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.
Current enrollment promotions and assortments for both companies may be different, but at the time of my initial decision, that was the case.
The other item that I needed to investigate was the “CPTG” term that DoTerra uses. The word certification sounded very official, and I was curious who certified their oils for them. So I kept digging more.
The first thing that I found out was that it is actually just a trademarked term. It’s actually not an external a certification at all. Because they trademarked that phrase, no other company can legally use the term CPTG to describe their products. That is one reason why, as an un-initiated consumer, I had believed that CPTG was an objective outside certification.
In other words, they certify their products themselves based on their own non-disclosed criteria. Their oils are not certified by an outside regulator.
Now, this observation is not a critique of their quality, but the word certified seems to imply that an impartial and objective authority has given their stamp of approval on these essential oils.
The reality is that they certify their own oils. It’s not necessarily bad that they attempt to distinguish themselves by using the term “certified” but unfortunately it can be confusing to an unsuspecting consumer.
How do they certify their oils? They get an outside lab to test their oils, and then they compare those values to their internal standards to decide if their oil is “certified”.
To their credit, later in 2012 (the year I was digging into this all), DoTerra did disclose the true nature of the CPTG trademark at the bottom of their CPTG info page. It was in small print, and the disclosure that the term is not an endorsement by an outside agency only appeared in the very last sentence. That page has since been redesigned.
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 is simply a branding term and not an objective quality standard.
DoTerra’s Quality Control
When I dug into what objective quality control measures that the company was taking I came up with the following details:
- Doesn’t personally own any farms or grow their own plant material to distill.
- Contracts with some growers who sell only to them.
- Contracts with third-party suppliers who sell to both them and other companies.
- Claim that their oils are grown in the best locations.
- Provide economic benefits to developing communities and nations.
- Doesn’t distill their own essential oils.
- Doesn’t test oil quality during the distillation process.
- Doesn’t have proprietary distilling techniques.
- Doesn’t personally test their oils or have testing facilities or equipment.
- Test oils at third part labs for quality and purity.
- Does GC/MS testing
- Sell some oils that Young Living doesn’t sell.
- Claims oils are of therapeutic quality
- Claims oils are of beyond organic quality.
By contrast Young Living:
- Owns and joint owns farms across the world (in 2017 they were up to 15 total) to grow their own plant materials.
- Contracts with growers and distillers who sell only to them.
- Purchases oils from third-party growers who sell both to them and other companies.
- Say their oils are grown in the best locations to make a quality oil.
- Provides economic benefits to the local communities they do business in.
- Personally distills a large many of their own essential oils.
- Tests the quality of the oil both before, during, and after the distilling process.
- Has an exclusive distillation technique that no other company uses.
- Owns millions of dollars in testing equipment that they keep in at least 3 labs where they do their own quality control checking.
- Also tests their oils at third-party labs, including high level and high profile aromatic specialty labs and forensic labs.
- Sell some essential oils that DoTerra doesn’t offer.
- GC/MS tests their oils.
- Allows the public to tour their many global farms.
- Also claims that their oils are beyond organic quality and of therapeutic quality.
When I sat down and compared that information I realized that DoTerra just re-bottled essential oils. Nothing more.
They didn’t personally grow or distill anything. So, if they just re-bottled and sent out oils for testing, there were quite a few other internet-based companies who also did that, and did it for a much lower price.
After I compared all of those things I had a simple choice. Should I leave Young Living and go to DoTerra? Had I learned anything that made me believe that DoTerra was a better choice for my family than Young Living?
Ultimately, based on my research, I stayed with Young Living. I stayed because they truly control the quality from the time the seed is put in the ground at their own or partner farms, or at their carefully selected third party suppliers all the way through the distillation in their proprietary cookers, to the strict quality controls.
DoTerra, while they do have testing protocols, does not choose to exercise 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 re-bottled from other sources.
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 so many more years.
And that is why I chose Young Living instead.
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