Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Mary Kay Emotional Manipulation

The debate rages on between the “pro” and “anti” sides of the debate about Mary Kay Cosmetics.

On one side, we have women who claim Mary Kay has a wonderful opportunity that has enriched many women. Everything in Mary Kay is optional, and only lazy losers who didn’t work hard enough and couldn’t say no to the occasional unethical director failed.

On the other side, you have women who have the ability to apply logic and reason to the situation They realize that since 99% of women lose money in MLMs, this isn’t a wonderful opportunity. They know that Mary Kay has put millions of women in debt.

They understand that manipulation and dishonesty is rampant in Mary Kay, and that women are pushed to their limits and skillfully guilted and coerced by their corrupt uplines. They see that almost no one succeeds in Mary Kay for obvious reasons: It’s a recruiting scheme that relies on the constant recruitment of new blood, who bring with it fresh credit cards, dreams of staying at home with their children, and the eagerness that allows inventory frontloading.

But you say that the women themselves are to blame for being taken advantage of by the millions of millions of Mary Kay recruiters who regularly misrepresent the “opportunity” in order to get recruits? You say they should have said “NO” to anything they weren’t comfortable with? You say they should realize that sales tactics were used on them, but the whole world is for sale and they should have said “NO”.

The problem is that the “sales tactics” employed by Mary Kay consultants and directors are dirty. They’re not just any old sales tactic. They’re crafted and taught in a way that will put most leverage on the potential recruit. Guilt and shame are powerful motivators, particularly when they relate to your family. No tactic seems off limits to Mary Kay recruiters.

An analogy of a car dealership is sometimes used to by the pro-Mary Kay crowd. They say sales tactics are used there too, and consumers just have to say “no” if they don’t want to buy a car. Plain and simple.

But let me show you how Mary Kay is different by applying a few common lines to the car dealer theory. These lines and techniques are used in recruiting, and when trying to coerce consultants to purchase unneeded product or do other things in pursuit of the Mary Kay dream that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Use your children as your reason, not your excuse: Imagine test-driving a car, looking thoroughly at the numbers, and deciding that the car isn’t right for your family. It’s too expensive, uses too much gas, and just isn’t practical for your family.

But the car salesman tells you to do it for your children. You tell him that your children deserve a financially stable family, and that an expensive purchase like this won’t meet that goal. And he tells you that you’re just using your children as an excuse. Don’t they deserve a nice car like this? Sure, you’ll have to sacrifice, but one day they’ll thank you. You can’t keep using them as an excuse to not get out there are look good in that car! They’ll resent you for that. They’d want you to make the most of this opportunity to own a wonderful car like this.

You see, it’s clear that these manipulative statements have no place in selling a car. Using your children as a guilt tool? Making it seem as if your children deserve to be proud of a car? Making you feel as if you’re just making excuses for not buying this car that you want.

Yet these are exactly the type of statements that Mary Kay directors use to get you to “do” Mary Kay, or attend more events, or try to move up the “career ladder,” or order more products for the sake of your “team.”

Even after proclaiming that God comes first, family comes second, and career comes third, the Mary Kay consultant is told to set her family’s needs and desires aside. To do it “for them,” even though you’ve already said that what’s best for them doesn’t include Mary Kay.

Don’t listen to negative people: Imagine sitting at the car dealership and telling the salesman that the car really isn’t for you, and that your husband agrees. And he says, “Your husband is just trying to sabotage you. He doesn’t want you to feel good about yourself. He’s unsupportive. He knows how good you’d look in this car and how wonderful you’d feel each time you drove it. But he wants to keep you down.”

You squirm a little at the salesman’s statements and assure him that it’s a joint decision and that you and your husband talked it over and agreed. The salesman says, “You shouldn’t listen to negative people. All they want to do is take away your dreams. They don’t know what you might be able to accomplish if you drove this car. You owe it to yourself to give it a try and not let these other people influence you.”

“This is your life and your car. Stop talking to the people who only want to ruin it for you. Oh sure, they sound like they’re trying to help by talking about economical alternatives to this car that might work better for your family. But what do they know? They’re just negative people who don’t want to see others succeed. You can show them what you’re made of by getting this car!”

The silliness of such statements is clear when you think about it in terms of buying a car. And the silliness of a Mary Kay director applying it to doing Mary Kay or trying to move up in Mary Kay is no different.

How dare she insult your relationship with your husband, and how dare she say (not imply, but say directly, and often) that your husband is trying to keep you down and doesn’t want to see you succeed. That is not only disrespectful, it is despicable to use such things to try to get someone to buy into the Mary Kay dream.

No doesn’t mean no. It just means she needs more information: Mary Kay women never want to take no for an answer, and they’re taught religiously that they should not ever accept your “no.” No is just a request for more information.

Imagine a car salesman taking every “no” he receives and pretending it’s a request for more information.

“Are you interested in test driving this Mercedes?”

“No, I’m looking for a more economical car.”

“Well let me show you all the wonderful features the Mercedes has. It’s really a bargain when you consider what you’re getting.”

“No, it’s really not right for my family. I’m looking for something a bit different.”

“Really? Well what if I gave you a free coffee mug for test driving the Mercedes? I’d really like your opinion on it.”

“No, I really need to devote my efforts to looking for a car that’s really right for my family.”

“Oh come on. My sales manager challenged me to find five people today who could give me their opinion on the Mercedes. It’s just a short test drive.”

“Really, I can’t. I want to look at some other cars.”

“Let me tell you about some of the features of the Mercedes, of which I’m sure you’re unaware. How can you make a decision about the car when you really don’t have all the facts?”

You can see how ridiculous this gets as it goes on, and no real professional uses these types of tactics. Sure, there’s usually some attempt to overcome some objections, but not to the point of silly where you keep pushing something on someone who keeps saying no.

But in Mary Kay, this is okay. Keep wearing her down until she says yes… and hopefully signs up to do Mary Kay.

But just remember that someday the pro-Mary Kay crowd will likely tell you, “You just should have said no if you didn’t want to do it. No one held a gun to your head.”


  1. Brainwashed no more

    Love this flipping analogy. Plus, what if that salesman was your family, friend or her friend. And, she says I need your help…so much emotional manipulation.

  2. NotSoPrettyInPink

    My MK recruitment experience pretty much went this way. At that time I was not as strong as I thought I was and said yes. I said yes to so much that I ended up $3600 in debt with an angry husband. He and I did talk about it all before I signed up and he just wanted me to be happy and do something I enjoyed while bringing in a little bit of money for our family. Unfortunately, all of the promises my MK recruiter made to me were a lie. I have a disability and her promises of help turned into thoughts and prayers when I really needed her. The promise of taking over some parties I had set up but just could not do turned into “I’m busy and I never said that”. That in turn quickly snowballed into me not able to make the quota and become inactive. 6 months after signing up I was inactive with a crap ton of inventory nobody wanted to buy. I was finally able to sell all of my inventory to a local lady who was more than willing to take it all at cost. I didn’t lose any money (i was very lucky and the hubby was pleased we broke even) but I did lose a lot of faith in people.
    MK may have decent mascara but that’s the reason to join their cult. LOL

    1. roo2

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is so sickening and angering how people use MLMs to manipulate and end up hurting people with their lies. I am glad you were able to sell your inventory at cost.

      To the next “contributor” to call PinkTruth a negative Nancy place that tears people down, just remember no one emails you from Pink Truth trying to sell you a trunk full of inventory that will never sell.

  3. Char

    Excellent article.

    They claim some women have been “enriched”. I’ll bet members of dangerous gangs have also been enriched……by a sense of belonging, advancing in rank, and the adrenaline rush of hurting a rival member. Those that make the “enrichment” claim in MK/MLM must identify what is providing the enrichment, and is it harmful to others.

    I’d like to add something to the car analogy because, as pointed out, it’s not just about saying “no”. Not only is the target being manipulated into buying a car, the car being sold has an engine that is inherently flawed. He’s trying to make you buy, not just a car, but a lemon of a car.

    Of course someone would buy a brand new, supposedly flawless “Mercedes” for $3600 – no gun needed. What a deal! Not only is this manipulation, it’s fraudulence for omitting what’s under the hood. His goal isn’t to sell you a good car; it’s to collect $3600.

    And off you drive, flying high, feeling like you just scored the pot of gold for $3600. Then it happens, you start to hear the noises. Turns out, it is not only a lemon, it’s not even a Mercedes.

    MLM-ing is a con game which makes successful MLMers, successful con artists. Everything they say, from enrichment to no one held a gun to your head, God, etc., etc. means nothing coming from a liar.

    Now the moral question: What if the car dealership owner and his salesmen offer you in on the deal if you bring them new “customers”? There’s some money in it for you – or so they say.

  4. NayMKWay

    Excellent analysis, Tracy; you really nailed it!

    Imagine going to buy a car, and the salesman starts peppering you with questions aimed at creating a DISC profile on you?

    And would you by a car from someone who ran an endless stream of social media posts of themselves with fake open-mouth smiles that don’t reach their eyes?

    (Wow. In every pic of Kristin “Venus Fly-Trap” Sharpe, she looks more predatory than in the last. HOW does she do it?)

  5. Cindylu

    They’ve had over fifty years to study women’s hot buttons. They’ve manipulated or bullied women into joining this mlm. Every objection has been considered and studied. Is the woman, compassionate, spiritual, a narcissist, vulnerable, home maker, strong, independent, go getter, etc. No matter what type of woman they encounter MK or her NSD’s somehow wrote a script to sweet talk them out of their hard earned cash. Things have gotten worst. Now they’ve found ways to have women get credit cards and sadly go into debt. Families are ignored and husbands disrespected. NSD’s also peddle: tapes, motivational stuff, rides in their pink car, trinkets, a chance to be in their homes or be their supposed friend. For women who crave attention, are looking for emotional support or don’t want to disappoint they fall for this mean spirited game. They are attracted by the meetings etc with love bombing and tales of female sisterhood. They want the accolades and fear not pleasing their Director or NSD. The Directors are masters of smoke and mirrors. They study you and know your strength and weaknesses. It takes a while to realize that the directors will sweet talk you into buying unnecessary products. The MK environment is controlled so that critical thinking is discouraged. It is only when bit by bit we begin to see the cracks, the lies, the inaccuracies that we awaken. It’s hard and embarrassing to realize that MK is a charade. It’s sad to become conscious of enormous amounts of unsold products, the unattainable MK goals (NSD etc). It’s also frightening to confront the the debt and devastation of family etc. It’s very painful and very discouraging (A form of PTSD).

  6. BestDecision

    Kristin Sharpe, you bet MK changed my life. I lost over a decade, self-confidence, and faith in people because of all the cheating and lying that I encountered. I lost weeknights and weekends with my family and friends toting that bag everywhere. I lost relaxing time shopping so I could hunt down my next warm chatter. I lost paying into Social Security and building my retirement by being an independent contractor. I can’t get back a day of that time, nor can I rewind the times I could’ve even spending with real friends.

    In that time, I fell in love with my career all over again. Like Pam Shaw says, “I heard God whisper, ‘Get out of here’” at my last Leadership Conference, and I did exactly that.

    BestDecision I ever made was getting away from that toxic environment.

    1. Ruby Slippers

      Exactly! You nailed it! The retirement savings I missed and 401K matches with trying to make this my full time career for over a decade. What a flippin waste! I wish I could go back, I wish I had opened my eyes sooner. I am glad I got rid of numerous toxic people from my life. Also the ones who weren’t toxic …my regular MK friends and Director…well they have all but vanished. No communication. So much for real friends in the business. Another facade.

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