Written by Frosty Rose

One of the core questions that gets asked around here (and every other anti-MLM platform) often is: Why would anyone join Mary Kay? And why would you stay?

In my opinion, it boils down to one thing—MK directors are highly skilled at making new recruits feel good! Love bombing is a term that gets thrown around entirely too much these days, but let’s take a look at an online article, 10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love, to decide if Mary Kay recruiters really fit this definition.

  1. They lavish you with gifts. Well, not extravagant gifts, sure. But you got that mascara for agreeing to do a “practice interview.” And the pretty pink ring for signing your agreement. The money bag for making your first sale (probably to your mom, but still). And that’s before we even get into the corporate-level gifts (star consultant, queens court of sales, yadda yadda). The sheer volume of gifts as a new consultant is overwhelming. Yep, MK fits this one.
  2. They can’t stop complimenting you. “Oh my gosh, where did you get those cute shoes?” “Did you just get a haircut? It looks amazing!” “Your makeup looks incredible!” “You’re so sugar sharp, you’re going to attract every sharp woman in a 10-mile radius.” Yep, check.
  3. They bombard you with calls and texts. Well, to be fair, director training says to keep all new consultants “in your hip pocket.” So, to them, it’s totally normal to call you at least once a day, text every time they’re thinking of you. “Girl, have you heard about the new holiday products?!? You have to order 10! They’re going to sell out so fast!!” “How are you doing on your Power Start?” “Have you done your booking calls yet today?” “What about that practice interview we did yesterday—is she going to be your first recruit?” Check.
  4. They want your undivided attention. “You can’t chase two rabbits and catch either one.” Give this business 30 days of real work and you’ll build a solid foundation for forever success! Until the 30 days lapse. Then it’s 90 days. Or a full year. Or just until you’re in too deep to see your way out. Check.
  5. They try to convince you that you’re soulmates. You know you never ever wanted another career other than Mary Kay. It’s the best opportunity out there for women! You’d be a fool to work another J.O.B. for $20 an hour when you could be earning over $100 per hour at a skin care class! Don’t you want to be a good mom to your kids and be there for them when they need you? After all, your time is your own in Mary Kay and you get to decide your priorities. Check.
  6. They want commitment and they want it now. The ABSOLUTE BEST time to buy your inventory package is in your first two weeks as a consultant. That’s when you get all your bonuses. How silly would you be to give up all that free product? It’s not a very wise business decision, right? You need a full store inventory right this minute! Check.
  7. They get upset when you try to place boundaries. What do you mean you’re not available for Monday night success meetings? You really think soccer practice is more important than Saturday morning Muffins and Makeovers? You need to treat your business like a business if you expect to be successful—and that means “suit up, show up, and go up.” “Wait, you don’t want me to call you at 9:30 at night? Well, that’s when I’m available—I’m on the phone with my own customers at appropriate business hours. You’ll need to work with my schedule if you expect me to train you.” Check and check.
  8. They’re overly needy. I’m not even getting into this one. Just check.
  9. You’re overwhelmed by their intensity. So. Much. Makeup. And that’s just the start. Everything is THE MOST EXCITING THING OF YOUR LIFE!! If you’re a low-key personality style, well, you’re just wrong. You need to be enthusiastic to attract all those people to you! How else will you be successful?!? Fake it till you make it! OMG check.
  10. You feel unbalanced. It’s a heady feeling to get this much attention and recognition, especially for MK’s target market. They go after women who aren’t used to recognition, applause or ‘atta-girls. It’s enough to turn anyone’s head. And that’s why the manipulation works. Once you finally find your balance again, once things calm down a bit, you find that your center has shifted—and getting back to the woman you were before all this love bombing is a whole other process.

Here’s the thing, love bombing is manipulation, pure and simple. It plays on the new recruit’s emotions, finds her deepest needs, and convinces her that the only way to fill those needs is with Mary Kay. And then when she starts to question, when those critical thoughts start nagging at the edge of her consciousness, it’s almost impossible to pull back. Because when she is “negative,” or suffers from “stinkin’ thinkin,” or, heaven forbid, gives up on her God-given dream and quits Mary Kay, all that affection evaporates.

If she’s lucky, her Mary Kay circle simply disappears and she discovers that all those “friends for life” that she made had a shorter shelflife than an overripe strawberry. If she’s unlucky, her BFFs go on the attack—call her a quitter, lazy, a loser, a demon, or worse. Because for the group to admit that there is any way to happiness other than as a Mary Kay national sales director would undercut their justification for relentlessly recruiting anyone within a three-foot circle. And that would be the beginning of the end.


  1. Aaaaaargh. You know who else does this? Abusive partners, that’s who. Starts off flattering and romantic, quickly turns suffocating, and before you know it you’re in over your head and too confused and isolated to know what to do next.

  2. “Why would anyone join Mary Kay? And why would you stay?”—

    Or any other company, group, or organization using the same manipulations? Mary Kay cleverly uses the tried and true tactics that fall under the cult umbrella. Stephen Hassan’s B.I.T.E. Model is an excellent resource used to evaluate if one is being subjected to cult manipulation. MLM is often mentioned in the analysis.


    In a 2022 Psychiatric Times article, the B.I.T.E. Model, MLM, and love-bombing are all discussed.


    Key Snippets:

    Critical questions about the leader, the doctrine, or the organization’s policies are avoided or forbidden. Rational analysis, critical thinking, and even constructive criticism are deemed wrong. When members express this, it is turned around on them as a weakness of character and lack of devotion. All other groups and their belief systems are illegitimate, evil, or, at the very least, not useful.

    Multilevel Marketing (MLM). Consumer protection agencies have labeled pyramid schemes that defraud the public with false claims of becoming rich as illegal. These plans could be described as Ponzi schemes with people instead of money. Recognizing its inherent dangers, Noah Joshua Phillips, who served on the Federal Trade Commission, noted that even MLM experts shared the need to better define undue influence for the international problem of MLM.6 Specifically, although existing laws penalize the company and, in some cases, attempt to levy fines, no attention is given to the psychological harm done to those ensnared. Harm on such individuals can include loss of marriage, loss of relationships with family and friends, and loss of real career opportunities. Further research needs to be done to determine the public health harms, which include alcohol and substance addiction, depression, panic disorders, sleep disorders, and even suicide.

    Emotional Control. Individuals are often initially “love-bombed” and flattered, sometimes with overt flirting to make them feel “special.” However, cult love is conditional upon being a good cult member and is quickly withdrawn if the person makes trouble by asking problematic questions. Members are required to always be grateful and happy, as they are part of the chosen people who “know the truth.” They believe they have the key to the world’s salvation. Members often sing songs written about the leader, the doctrine, or the group to keep positive. Listening to music, and especially singing cult songs to themselves as well as in the community, helps members access positive emotional states.

  3. I’ve never been MK, but in my college years, I joined a campus church that turned out to be overly authoritarian and spiritually abusive. Much of what I read here about MK seems eerily similar to that church. I can understand why some people consider MK a cult. If it walks like a cult and quacks like a cult…


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