Is Younique a Pyramid Scheme?

Younique founders brother and sister Derek Maxfield and Melanie Huscroft. Younique

If you're on this page, chances are you've seen the amazing before and afters on women who have tried Younique Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes mascara. The stuff has taken social media by storm.

I myself saw the results on Facebook and had to buy to try it for myself. The person I bought it from just happened to be the person showing the before and after on Facebook. That's right, I bought mascara from a Facebook friend.

And yes, the mascara performed as promised. You can read all about it in my Review of Younique 3D Fiber Lash Mascara. I liked it so much I put it on my List of the Best Mascaras From Cheap to Steep. 

But the fact that I bought the stuff from someone other than a store salesperson naturally leads one to wonder (as others have to me), is Younique a multi-level marketing company or a pyramid scheme?

I decided to do a bit of research to find out.

The Company 

I have to admit when I first read about Younique on Facebook, I was skeptical. Younique is sold through independent salespeople as part of a multi-level marketing scheme. You know, like Mary Kay and Arbonne and Shaklee.

And I typically find multi-level marketing companies creepy.

My family has a history of getting preyed on and lured into these schemes:

  • My father drinks Veema juice that comes in the mail because one of his oldest friends swears by it. And sold it to him despite my journalist sleuthing that shows this drink is all hype and he might as well just add more real fruits into his diet. One of the top Google results for Veema? "Is Veema a Pyramid Scheme Scam?"
  • My mother bit the Shaklee bait in the 70s, lured into it by a friend from church, and our family became a part of that cult for more than 20 years.
  • I bought a boatload of Mary Kay products in high school because someone sold me on them. I now know that a 17-year-old doesn't need 6 skincare products. All I really needed was cleanser and sunscreen. 
  • And then there was that time I befriended a woman who made her living selling Arbonne products. She told me about her work and because I seemed genuinely interested (as one should be when listening to a new friend talk about her job). The next day, $400 of products were left at my midtown Manhattan office. I was told I could try them and wasn't obligated to buy them. I tried them and I didn't buy them and she never spoke to me again.
  • The same thing happened a few years later. I sat next to a super friendly woman at a sushi place near my house. When she learned I was a beauty editor, she spent more than an hour trying to get me to join her company as a saleswoman. The way she went about it thoroughly creeped me out because she never mentioned the words, "Mary Kay." She just went on and on about how much money I could make. Finally, I said, "are you selling Mary Kay products?" Flustered, she said yes and I said, no thank you.
  • My cousin sold Lia Sophia jewelry products for a couple years and inundated family and friends with party invitations. And then company went bankrupt and got embroiled in a lawsuit.

You can't read the comments section of a story about Younique without being inundated by "saleswomen" almost begging you to join their team.

It's like a cheerleader cult of mascara fiends who use a lot of exclamation points when pitching their product on social media or via email. 

But while the direct sales approach annoys me, Younique may be the perfect sorority for women who like joining things and selling things. 

So Is It or Isn't It?

Unlike some of these other more cultish, multi-level marketing companies, Younique is pretty transparent. It's pretty clear on the website's How to Join page that the founders, brother-sister team Derek Maxfield and Melanie Huscroft want you to fall in love with the product (typically the Fiber mascara), then buy into the company and sell it to your friends via social networking (think Instagram and Facebook). Everyone wins!

It worked on me. Plus, my Facebook friend isn't creepy at all. She's someone I know who has an awesome corporate job and who just happened to fall in love with the mascara and wanted to make a bit of money off of it by telling others about the product.

I have no interest in selling this stuff, I just like the mascara. 

Update: My Facebook friend suddenly stopped selling Younique in November 2015. I touched base with her and it turns out she still believes in the products and the company, she just wasn't as good a salesperson as the gig requires to be successful and she got a full-time job that required her full attention. She reports she knows someone who makes a lot of money selling Younique. As for me? I'm over the mascara. I don't use it anymore because I found it gave my lashes a really unnatural look, sort of like tarantula legs, and the makeup rubbed off on my browbone.