Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

If it was such a miracle product, Estheticians everywhere would be selling it. If it was safe, if it was effective, and if it had published, peer reviewed, public scientific research, this product would be the hottest new commodity in the skin care industry to carry in spas and salons.

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi=Level Marketing Company

Ingredient Misinformation

The active ingredient, nerium oleander, causes "massive oxidation, reduction of protein synthesis, and can promote cell death." This is what was learned when nerium oleander was originally being tested by Nerium Biotechnology for cancer treatment. Unfortunately inflammation and oxidation are the cause of most skin problems, including acne, sun damage, and premature aging. Protein synthesis should be increased for anti-aging effects. The company abandoned using it as a cancer treatment and decided to use it as an anti-aging ingredient, but won't publish exactly why.

When trying to tell a pushy Nerium rep on Facebook that I wasn't interested in a product with a toxic active ingredient that causes cell death and inflammation, I was told by the rep, "There are 2 different types of oleander, one is toxic, the other is not. We use the non toxic one, like the plants you see ALL OVER Florida!"

Poison ivy and garlic mustard are all over Wisconsin, but I'm not going to recommend them for your face.

When I asked her which type of oleander was used (even though I already knew, I always want to gauge the knowledge of reps), I was directed to the company's 'safety video'. Despite what the rep tried to claim, nerium oleander is also toxic, just not as toxic as yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana), which is so toxic that one seed can kill you. It's considered "safe" because it's in such small doses in the product. The video includes a lot of doctors skirting around the way the product actually works and focusing on the toxicity and safety, claiming that nobody has died from nerium oleander poisoning, despite two children being killed from it.

Obviously eating a bunch of leaves is not the same as applying a cream with a very small amount of extract, but the plant is poisonous and has caused poisonings, illness, and deaths, contrary to what their safety video states. A woman died from drinking tea made from oleander. Another woman murdered her husband by poisoning him with oleander and antifreeze. Another woman became seriously ill. The company video references and debunks urban legends about boy scouts dying from toasting hot dogs on oleander sticks in great detail, trying to downplay the toxicity of the plant. Oral consumption and smoke inhalation is toxic. They claim topical application in small amounts, over long periods of time, is not harmful. They refuse to reveal exactly what concentration of nerium oleander is in their products.

The FDA has both types of oleander listed in the Poisonous Plant Database and has denied applications of companies trying to use oleander as herbal and dietary supplements.

According to, "Oleander extracts -- in carefully controlled doses -- are in the early phases of testing to find out whether they are effective in treating cancer. There have been numerous reports of poisoning and death from ingestion of oleander, oleander leaf tea, and its extracts. It has killed adults, children, pets, and livestock. Even a small amount of oleander can cause death due to its effects on the heart. Inhaling the smoke from burning oleander or eating honey made from its nectar can produce poisonous effects. Since such tiny amounts can cause death, oleander supplements and extracts from any part of the oleander plant should not be used except under the careful observation and controlled conditions of a clinical trial." (bold added)

This is regarding nerium oleander being used to treat cancer cells. There are no studies that prove that nerium oleander has positive effects on healthy skin cells.

Even in the smallest concentrations, it's a toxic, inflammatory extract that causes "massive oxidative stress" and free radical damage. Good skin care means reducing damage. An ingredient that causes damage mixed with ingredients that reduce damage makes for a backwards product.

The company maintains that their formula is safe, effective, and non toxic, based on studies they've done. Real scientific studies are published and peer reviewed. These studies can not be accessed because they're "proprietary information," claiming that their secret formula will be stolen and replicated.

Sorry to break it to you, Nerium International, but nobody wants to copy your formula. We want you to publish your studies so other people can confirm or counter your claims that these extracts are good for healthy skin cells. The consumers and critics want to know the concentration of oleander in your product, information that is kept completely secret.

They originally sought approval from the FDA for Anvirzel, a cancer fighting drug, and were denied. They received a warning from the FDA regarding the wording used to promote this drug.

Since Anvirzel was not approved, they used the extract to create an anti-aging cream. They now say they don't need FDA approval because their product is classified as a cosmetic product, not a drug, a brilliant marketing response and a line their reps love to parrot. Cosmetic anti-aging products "reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles," not treat or cure diseases. Their reps doing individual sales pitches are not being watched, and can get away with saying whatever they want, including that these "miracle" products "erase wrinkles."

Marketing Lies

Nerium itself doesn't distribute before and after photos, they encourage their Brand Partners to take before and after photos of themselves. This means zero quality control over the accuracy of these photos. In the digital age, anyone can use Photoshop, lighting, and makeup to create the effect of fewer wrinkles easily. These photos also do not prove that other treatments have been done between these before and after photos. Nerium reps rely heavily on these dramatic before and after photos to make their sales.

A real before and after photo has the exact same setting, lighting, camera, angles, pose, facial expression, and focus, with no other treatments or products. A real before and after photo isn't clearly Photoshopped and is very high resolution.

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

The resolution of this photo is so bad that it's impossible to see if the color change is due to lighting, Photoshop or just a layer of makeup.

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

Clearly blurred and lit completely differently. Notice that her eye and lip color is washed out, showing that the photo is washed out, giving the appearance of fewer spots.

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

This before photo is clearly the same man several years older than the 'after' photo, which also looks like the blur tool has been used. Nerium also doesn't turn eyebrow hair back to brown, despite the lack of grey hairs in the after photo, "four days later".

Nerium: The Poisonous Plant Turned Into A Poisonous Multi-Level Marketing Company

Another set of photos with dramatically different lighting and skin softening. Notice the focus on her eye and how different her hair looks. These are not accurate before and after photos. did a great article showing how easy it is to manipulate before and after photos here: Lies, damned lies, and before & after photos

Fake Endorsements

Nerium is also being sued for using a Photoshopped "before and after" picture of Goodfellas actor Ray Liotta, who has never used the product and had never heard of the company before his picture was used as a testimonial. The company defends itself by saying that representatives used the photo, not the parent company itself, giving them an easy legal out.

MD Anderson Cancer Center has been credited as helping "discover" this miracle ingredient.  They posted a statement setting the record straight that they are not affiliated with Nerium and do not endorse their product.

Pushy and Rude Representatives

These representatives, or "Brand Partners," are known for being extremely pushy, having unwavering belief in the product despite contrary evidence, and constantly trying to get you to go to the company's website for information instead of being able to explain the details of products themselves.

Even if a Nerium sales rep does take a legitimate before and after photo, it doesn't stop less honest Nerium reps from taking those photos, Photoshopping them, and redistributing it for their own sales.

Of course not every representative is this way, but all of the ones I've come in contact with (many) have been. When the only people who say a product is amazing are the people who are selling it, it's immediately suspicious. Multi-level marketing companies entice you with an expensive miracle product and then say you can have yours for free if you get other people to buy the product. Then you're indoctrinated by a set of views, opinions, brilliant marketing, and often lies, creating a cult-like group of crusading sales people. You're tempted with huge rewards like cars and vacations if you can sell enough of the product.

Offering skin care advice when you have no education about skin care is one of my biggest pet peeves. Literally anyone can sign up to be a sales rep for multi-level marketing skin care companies, and with very little training, can be offering 'advice' to 'clients' without knowing how the skin or the product actually works on a cellular level, not knowing which skin conditions need to be treated by an Esthetician or Dermatologist. This has been proven time after time with Nerium reps; they can never answer questions about skin care or the product without referring you to corporate. When contrary evidence is presented, they have no real answers.

Not all multi-level marketing companies are bad. There are so many in existence that to make a blanket statement like that would be ridiculous. Every company is different, has different goals, different ideals, different products. Every sales rep is also different. However, most people who join multi-level marketing companies are not successful and often lose money.

These Brand Partners truly believe in this product, and I admire the level of determination they have to defend it, but their aggressive approach is very unappealing. I never pressure clients to buy anything, because my clients know I'm recommending products based on their wants and needs, not because I have a minimum sales quota I'm desperately trying to reach. It's not about the money for most Estheticians, it's about client comfort, satisfaction, and results. If I need to recommend a home remedy because a client isn't able to purchase their ideal skin care regimen, I always will. I've also recommended specific products from lines I don't sell if that specific product will work better than something I have on the shelf.

Nerium does set a minimum sales quota for their partners to stay partners, and it is apparent in the way that reps push their 'miracle product' in every way they can. A really good product sells itself; it has effective, safe ingredients, it works, and it has an appropriate price point for the quality. A really good product doesn't need to be pushed this hard to sell.

Nerium representatives can also be incredibly rude to strangers just to try to hawk their product. One of my Esthetician friends, Vanessa Cruz, shared her story of having extreme cystic and pustular acne, made worse by being in the military.

"Years and years of picking my acne and subjecting my face to harsh conditions like Iraq air and sun really did a number to my skin. After I generally cleaned up, I started working on my scarring. I have spent the better part of 5 years doing microdermabrasion, deep peels, O2 laser resurfacing, micro needling and professional products to work on my scars. My skin looks 10 times better but no where near flawless. I was at grocery store a few months ago feeling really happy with my micro-needling results and makeup free when a woman approached me and told me that I could be very pretty if I took care of my skin. If I had heard of Nerium and that it could fix my scarring. I wanted to punch her in the face right then and there. My self esteem hit the floor and I suddenly wondered if everyone else at the grocery store thought I looked that bad.

The woman was older and had 2 other much younger adults with her who looked embarrassed. I tried to end the conversation by telling her I had my own facial products and she then proceeded to tell me that my legs could look more tone by purchasing her Nerium body product. Since that day, I can not look at another Nerium rep without feeling anger. I honestly felt so down about my skin for weeks after that encounter even though I know better as an esthetician. I can't imagine how many people they insult regularly."

Nerium Needs to Control Their Reviews

Nerium claims that their company is growing so quickly that can't "deal with" controversial reviews. They have started harnessing the power of SEO, using "Is Nerium a Scam?" as titles in their obvious sales pitches, trying to water down the vast amount of negative reviews with their positive pitches. Their marketing team is brilliant- their pamphlets, packaging and promises are slick and attractive. They have polished, professionally done videos and infographics ready and available to attempt to counter criticism.

A really good product doesn't have hundreds of reviews and blogs online about how terrible it is. I did a lot of research about this product when I first heard about it, and then again when I decided to write about it. There are so many articles about how it's not effective. More reviews and links are available at the bottom of this post.

Amazon review by a former brand partner

Questions Raised About ‘Real Science’ Behind Age-Defying Skin Cream

Paula's Choice Nerium Review: Poor

Truth In Aging: Nerium Oleander, NeriumAD's Toxic Active

Bare Faced Truth has some fantastic, in depth articles about Nerium:

The Flaccid Truth About NeriumFirm

Topical Nerium oleander: “OK” , or “Unsafe at any Concentration”?

The Evil MLM’pire of Nerium Int’l. Strong Medicine, Strange Bedfellows.

When you don’t have the answer — stonewall & bully. NeriumGate, part 1.

This last one is especially fascinating- Nerium saw that was criticizing the product in their blog posts and insulted them instead of replying with science that proved their claims.

There are tons of positive reviews online as well, mostly by Brand Partners who have a vested financial interest in the company. They insist criticism only comes from people who haven't tried it or are "biased," which is definitely untrue. I'm sure some people have seen improvement in their skin, but none of these cases are controlled studies that prove they aren't placebo, or even just the effect of having a regular skin care routine instead of applying nothing at all.

The negative reviews always sound much more honest, probably because they aren't ended with a sales pitch. Many people report small, unimpressive effects, no effects, or even reactions and rashes that won't go away.

The Bottom Line- Prove it!

The difference between a scientist and a believer is that scientists will adjust their views based on new evidence. Believers will continue to believe no matter what evidence is shown to the contrary.

If Nerium International really wanted to become the best and biggest skin care line in the world, they would release their research papers to the public for peer review. Using a study to say a product is safe and effective, and not letting anyone read the study, is ridiculous. "Real Science, Real Results!" is their tagline, but they seem to have forgotten the requirements for "real science."

Would you trust a tobacco salesperson that said, "Of course cigarettes are safe! We did a study showing they're really great for your skin, but you can't read it because it contains all of our secrets. You want to buy a pack? It will be cheaper or even free if you sign up to sell packs to other people! That's how I got my free pack! You can even win a Lexus if you sell enough packs! It's such a great business opportunity!"

This ludicrous example may seem extreme, but it's exactly what's happening. "We took a known poison and made into a miracle anti aging cream! Believe that it's safe and effective because we said so! You can trust us! Promise!"

The company likes to compare their studies with Botox, a known toxin that can be safely injected into the skin. The difference is that Botox has be researched for decades and these studies are peer reviewed and available to the public, so that the consumer can do their own research before they decide whether to use the needle or the bottle for their anti-aging product needs.

Is Nerium safe? Only time will tell for sure.

Is Nerium effective? According to everyone who doesn't sell it, no.

Is Nerium a wonderful business opportunity? Only for the top on the pyramid, just like other multi-level marketing companies.

Sorry Nerium reps, I won't be adding a $110 quack product to the available products at my spa. I like my products so safe and organic that you can eat them if you really wanted to, and so effective that I don't have to bully people into buying them.