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

Going Into Debt Even If You Work Hard

A sales director shows us how easy it is to fall into debt in Mary Kay. Even though she wasn’t making money, she has stayed in for years and tries to live the dream.

I started MK about 8 years ago. I was a stay at home mom with 2 children, who worked part time for extra money. I was a prime candidate for MK. I wanted to be successful and I wanted my husband and HIS family to be proud of me. I had a dysfunctional child hood growing up so all the “surface” support and love I saw hooked me immediately into the Pink Dream.

I was recruited in with $4,000+ in Mary Kay products. I started out strong, but here’s where it comes together. When I was in car qualification for my 1st of 3 cars, I was a little short on production during the 2nd month. My director suggested I just charge the needed amount of $3,000 because she was sure I would be earning that car. I did earn that car and thus began my cycle of credit card debit. It got deeper and worse each month. My credit cards became a stone around my neck.

I hid my debt for a while, but then my husband found out. We took a second mortgage on our first home which we didn’t even have to have a down payment for because our credit score was so good. After we did this I just knew I could start with a clean slate and really make money. Wrong! Before long I was back into the same mess. Why?? Why? Wasn’t I successful? I was driving a “free” car, after all.

Now I know (even though I hate to admit it) I was emotionally manipulated. I heard about how I was a leader in our unit and needed to perform. (Remember the woman inside who was so desperate for someone to love her and see her as someone valuable?) My team was looking to me. To fail at Mary Kay would be to fail them.

I thought my children needed a mother who was stable and successful. Becoming a director was a gift to THEM, in my mind. Being a director was the only way a person like me could ever make a living. How many times did I hear, “What are you going to do, wait tables?” I was convinced that outside of Mary Kay I was nothing, I could never become anything. Mary Kay was the ONLY way.

Because of the emotional abuse I had suffered from my mother growing up and the “abusive” situation I was in with my mother-in-law, I didn’t want to disappoint my senior director whom I thought cared so much about me. So I charged my credit cards and recruited on and on. I repeated everything I was taught.

I went through a divorce (no fault of Mary Kay) and became a single mother trying to survive on my Mary Kay income. I was told that I should NOT get a job outside of Mary Kay. People won’t recruit if they think you can’t make a full time income in Mary Kay. Your unit will fall apart if you start working for someone else.

They convinced me that I was going through a temporary “down time” and I could work my way out of it. I was trying to make a living for me and my children plus absorb all the new director start-up costs.

My husband and I filed bankruptcy when we divorced, so I had no credit available. My children and I lived on CASH only. I thought I was doing so much worse than other directors, but thanks to Pink Truth I now know they just had the credit cards to LOOK successful.

My production came from actual consultants, because I didn’t have the option of charging production on a credit card. I never felt good about getting women started with the big inventory packages. I just saw too many women with no sales and thousands of dollars of Mary Kay debt. But the attitude at all the director meetings was that everyone was sooooooo successful.

In all honesty I should have been getting food stamps for me and my children and some kind of Medicaid. But I was so brainwashed into the idea of looking the part of a successful director. Well successful directors don’t apply for food stamps. (After all how could I warm chatter women who just signed me up for food stamps?)

I felt guilty all the time. I needed to be working. I had to be on the phone in the evenings. Where were my children? Being quiet while Mommy “worked”. I was trying to set up those appointments. During the day, I had to warm chatter to get those new leads. It was an awful endless cycle. My church family prayed for me to be blessed. What I really needed them to know was my gas had been shut off and I needed help getting the rent paid.

Now God didn’t abandon me and my children. He did take care of us, but I am sure it would have been easier other ways. My prayer life and relationship with the Lord became focused on one thing: Me asking Him to help with my Mary Kay business. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

I suffered and so did my children. After a few years of being single, I remarried. My new husband never complained about Mary Kay. He prayed with me that God would bless my efforts and bless the businesses of the women in my unit.

We rejoiced together every month that my unit hit $5,000 in production. But still there was never money. My husband’s income was covering my Mary Kay expenses. I would tell him I just needed to get back on my feet. When the day came that the company was about to pick up my career car and my director status was in jeopardy with the company because I owed them money, I sat down and started doing the math. We should have been able to live on my husband’s income just fine without me even working. Not richly, but just fine.

Slowly the pieces started coming into place. It took several months and then I started asking myself, “Why am I paying so much money to be in Mary Kay?”

I started seriously considering getting out I saw a comment left on a blog with a link to Pink Truth. I peeked at the site and I started to see myself in so many ways—I couldn’t believe it! There were my life and my experiences staring out at me.

I was so ashamed of myself and I felt so much guilt I had been hiding it all these years. I truly thought I was the only one!!! Truly!!! I am hurting so deeply over the choices I have made over the past several years. I was so naive. I just thought I needed to get my act together. I thought I needed to find my superstar. I though I needed to get my personal business up and running. I thought I needed to get right on my thought process. On and on…

I am considering sending back my product. I am scared of what my senior director will say. I am certain it will be the end of our relationship. It is so sad to say, but I think our relationship has been about what I could do for her.

If you are reading this then I want to tell you something. You are great and you can be successful outside of Mary Kay. We hear so much about how bad the JOB world is. Be proud of what you do and the contribution you make to your family and your community. Please do not base your self-esteem on what the pink ladies around you are saying. I have a new focus on my relationship with Christ. He is the center NOT Mary Kay. God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for you. That is all the assurance you will ever need about your worth and value.


Smarter Now


  1. Samantha Kittana

    I have read Pink Truth every day for years. I think of these women who have stories like this and it breaks my heart to read this but it also makes me so happy that these stories have a home and can save countless others. I’m a convert to Islam, and there is a Hadith (account of the life of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) that talks about how the Prophet PBUH said that removing a harmful object from the road is a form of charity. I don’t believe that this is just a literal comment. How many women have come here and because of the knowledge and the truth here have removed the harmful object (Mary Kay or another MLM) from the road (their lives)? How many women have regained what they lost, all because of the contributions from Tracy and others here? It’s amazing to think about. Keep up the good work!

  2. BestDecision

    Your Senior isn’t going to be your friend anymore because you’ll be labeled a “quitter” and “negative”. She’ll say, as they all do, that you were lazy or didn’t want to work your business “the Mary Kay way”. She’ll deny she taught you to finish your production yourself. She’ll lie to your unit and that of her own to cover up the truth about why you were miserable and left.

    Take it from me: It’s worth it to send your product back. It’s healthy. It’s an incredible feeling to get that money back and be free from having to push that brand when your heart isn’t in it anymore. My Senior has done everything I just mentioned above, and it hurt at first. Now it just shows her true colors, and I’m grateful I now see them.

    More people than not are miserable in MK. You aren’t alone!

  3. J

    Thank you for sharing, I can imagine there will be several women who read this, shaking, realizing they’re not alone. I think that’s the number one way mk keeps consultants/directors. If no one talks about being poor, then surely you’re the only one.

    Slowly, we start to see everyone in our unit is poor. Like the lady in the barely running Pontiac grand am, or the lady who is excited over a goodwill find because more she has 2 skirts, the lady who is taking doubles of any snacks, the director’s daughter who really doesn’t want to be there. Your senior director who seems to be an endless supply of mk trinkets and dollar store note pads.

    We were all poor, but harassed to be ashamed of that truth—to fake it, but not till you make it. No, fake it so you don’t make others uncomfortable with your poor-ness.

    Your senior is abusing you, intentionally or not, it’s abuse. It’s a relationship that only functions when you take all the punches to the gut (and then say thank you).

    Please send back your product, if not for you, send it back for your senior. She has to see the consequences of this abusive cycle if she’s ever going to get out. That is your money, you have the right to it. Someone who won’t support you doing the harder thing (drawing a healthy boundary and saying this really ends today) is not a friend. She’s protecting herself, no matter how she tries to spin it (“I don’t want you to lose the opportunity’, what if you need it in the future?”). Return it and walk away from that superficial relationship.

    1. Ruby Slippers

      Yes send it back! I’m stuck with $5000 worth of MK because I was still delusional (thinking it would be better) after I stepped down as a Director. Don’t make my mistake!!! Please! It’s going in the landfill or trying to sell it. Because of COVID, shelters are not taking it. I’m sick of looking at it.

  4. Cindylu

    Thank goodness you realized that MK was the problem. Once we understand that it’s not us that’s the problem but MK, we can be released from the burden of this mlm. It’s sad what families go through just to maintain the illusion of MK. The divorce rate in MK must be quite high. It’s mostly smoke and mirrors. The constant pursuit of keeping the pink car means that pride gets in the way. Once we realize the pink car is a false idol, then returning product and leaving MK are necessary. It’s hard to admit that MK doesn’t work. We’ve been conditioned to believe that with hard work sales, recruits, cars and NSD are attainable. Sadly they’re not without being fake. Enjoy your new found freedom. I’m sure with time, you’ll slowly become aware of what is important. Your family, your ethics, your faith and not the delusion of investing in depreciating products. Good luck with the rest of your future.

  5. Chelsea

    Goodness gracious I’m sorry you have had so much pressure and debt and self esteem that has been battered and broken. You are beautiful just being you. Mary Kay ladies are not typically there for anyone other than themselves and to look and feel better about them selves. I’ve met a tiny handful of ladies who are truly genuine and genuinely care. Please take care of you screw your leaders and never look back. Blaze your own trail of recovery.

  6. enorth

    “I am scared of what my senior director will say”

    Woman, stand up for yourself! Return the products and get your money back. Don’t let your senior director continue to manipulate you.

    1. Heather

      Yep!! Send it back! Who cares what your senior is going to say? It’s all likely to be venomous words coated in honey. Honestly, your senior doesn’t care about you. She cares about herself and no one else. Send your product back. Be done with that albatross.

  7. Pinkiu

    Your director is not your friend. You are her paycheck. It’s the evil of a down line. You look at each person as a $ rather than a real friend. A true friend does NOT convince and manipulate friends into debt. It’s true that she won’t be there once you send the product back, but here’s the thing…who needs the money more? You or your director? Are you willing to sacrifice your financial well-being because of fear that your director will say? YOU will be FREE! Isn’t that worth it? Here’s the thing, you can send your product back and never answer your SDs phone calls or texts. Ignore them.

  8. Lazy Gardens

    That is YOUR money tied up in the product, money you really need. Call and get the return process going as soon as possible. Your director will probably try to persuade you to not return it … she’ll say it’s such a little amount after all the things MK will deduct, she’ll say she has tips to help you sell it, and imply you are a quitter as if closing a money-losing business is a bad thing … ignore her.

    You will get back 90% of the price you paid and 100% of the sales tax you prepaid! That can be several hundred dollars, maybe more.

    “Your director is not your friend. You are her paycheck.” … YES!

  9. NayMKWay

    Dear “Smarter Now”:

    Send it back. Send it back, send it back, SEND. IT. BACK.

    Worry not what your senior will say. She will hate you for leaving, that’s a given. She will stop speaking to you once you are no longer putting money in her pocket. She’ll bad-mouth you to all your former pretend-friends about how you didn’t have the right attitude, didn’t work your business, yada, yada. She’ll dish everything but the truth, that Mary Kay is a scam, and you finally saw the light.

    So what’s she going to do if you send product back? Not talk to you even more? That’s an upside, not a downside. It may not feel like that now, but you’ll see your relationship with her for what it is soon enough, just as you saw through the facade of your relationship with Mary Kay the company. Breaking away is a process, and it’s painful. But you have to do the right thing for yourself and your family.

    Here is the calculation you should be doing: How can you best recover financially? What is the best way to cut your losses? Send it back, is the answer. The alternative is trying to sell it, but no one will want to pay you any more than you paid for it, and you won’t sell it all. Send it back.

    The sunk-cost fallacy keeps people locked into a losing situation very easily, even if they know better. There’s an attraction to staying the course, and to keep doing what you’ve been doing because you’re comfortable with it. But what you’ve been doing is digging yourself a financial hole. It’s time to put down that shovel and walk away.

    Send it back. Send it back. SEND. IT. BACK.

    Love and peace to you from one of your new friends.

Comments are closed.