In June a montage video appeared on Instagram promising a cure-all to the ailments of modern life.
A white woman, sitting in a car, films herself on her camera.
“After about five minutes of taking the strip,” she says, “I just felt this overwhelming sense of calmness and peacefulness.”
“Within minutes I had immediate relief of severe joint discomfort,” says another.
“I was diagnosed with ADHD last August,” another poster writes, “ANYWAY, I’ve decided to stop taking my medication [...] But I’ve decided to look into other methods of clarity, focus, motivation, and CALM.”
In the comments she posted the hashtag #elomir and encouraged readers to get on her “VIP list” to buy a new product.
The posts kept coming. Women, many blonde, often at home in their athleisure-wear or out in their cars, filmed videos of themselves opening a white wrapper and placing a small yellow square, about the size and shape of a mint breath strip, on their tongues.
“Don’t sleep on this!” the posts advised, “It’s not just hype.” Many of the captions on these posts promised “instant impact” from the yellow strips, saying they would help a long list of maladies, including “energy, mood, gut health, focus, anxiety, joint pain.”
“This little piece of yellow goodness is going to 𝙝𝙚𝙡𝙥 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚 it’s mind blowing,” one caption read. Many of the posts were accompanied by a string of hashtags: #hitthestrip #joinmystripclub #littlestripofsunshine
The yellow strips, called Axis Klärity, are the only product currently made by a company called Elomir, founded in September 2021. Elomir describes itself as a “Network Marketing” company—a structure more commonly referred to as an “MLM” or “multi-level marketing” business. Critics of these kinds of businesses say they are often “pyramid schemes,” in which the company makes a profit, often at the expense of the sellers they recruit. (Well-known MLMs in the U.S. include Amway, HerbaLife and Avon.)
Elomir’s yellow strips are not available to buy in stores; instead “brand partners” can purchase them to sell on to others. Notionally, this means they have an opportunity to make a profit from reselling their strips, as well as from recruiting other sellers. Elomir’s website describes their strips as an “income opportunity” for partners. A pack of 30 strips—one month’s supply—currently costs $89.
In an August Instagram post, CEO Van Nyguen said that the company had already paid out $1.2 million in commissions, despite the strips not yet being available to regular customers–only “brand partners.” An official Elomir group for sellers currently has over 5,600 members.
The launch of these little yellow strips has prompted a backlash in the anti-MLM community, a loose network of bloggers, YouTubers, Redditers, and civilian investigators who make it their mission to publicize what they see as the false claims and exploitative practices of these companies.
“This product is the epitome of a scammy miracle supplement,” said Hannah Alonzo, a YouTuber who makes videos about MLMs and scams, in a video about Elomir posted in July. “In my opinion, Elomir is a scam. It presents very, very much as a pyramid scheme—unapologetically so. It is my belief that you should avoid this company at all costs.”
Ceara Manchester, an activist who runs the anti-MLM Instagram account @MLMombie, has been tracking the rise of Elomir. She first heard of the company when sellers jumped ship from a now defunct MLM, Black Oxygen Organics, which sold bags of dirt (under the name “fulvic acid”) for $110 a pop. BOO, as the company was known, claimed the dirt could aid brain and heart functioning and detoxify the body.
Although Manchester is against all MLMs—calling them “cults”—she is particularly incensed by companies offering unregulated health and wellness products, which she sees as dangerously misleading.
“They have these cure-alls,” Manchester says, “and then people don’t go to the doctor, or don’t take their medication, because they’re being sold this snake oil.”
Manchester, and other critics of Elomir are particularly concerned about health claims being made by sellers, including advice to give the strips to children, particularly those on the autism spectrum or with behavioral problems.
On Aug. 23, Elomir CEO Van Nyguen shared a “testimonial” on Instagram from a mother who had given the strips to her autistic son. “Since taking the strips,” the mother writes, “he has been able to talk in sentence form” and has “benefited tremendously.”
“So happy for this mama!” Nyguen added to the post.
A warning affixed to the bottom of Elomir’s official website cautions: “This product is not for use by or sale to persons under the age of 18.”
However, in a private Facebook group for sellers, Elomir provided a stock image of a little girl holding up a yellow strip for brand partners to use in their own advertising.
“If a parent or guardian wants to give the product to a person under the age of 18 or under medical supervision, as a company, we ask them to consult with their primary doctor,” a spokesperson for Elomir told The Daily Beast.
The company did not respond to questions from The Daily Beast about online claims it is taking advantage of sellers and eventual buyers.
Internally, Elomir has been coaching sellers to avoid making any medical claims when they advertise the strips, in order to avoid scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates MLMs.
“You cannot say ‘cures’, ‘treats’, ‘heals’,” an Elomir spokesperson told a group of sellers in an internal Zoom meeting held in June, “You need to watch what you say in every conversation, especially on social media.” (A recording of the meeting was obtained by The Daily Beast.)
Sellers were also told to avoid referencing specific issues like: “pain”, “migraine”, “seizure”, “anxiety,” “depression,” and “ADHD” among others. They were provided with an alternative set of terms in a handy infographic.
“Instead of ‘pain’ you would say something like ‘muscle aches’, ‘discomfort’, ‘tightness,’” the Elomir representative said, “you can’t suggest that your supplement is a substitute for a drug.”
The Daily Beast found multiple examples of Elomir sellers suggesting the yellow strips could work as an alternative to medication for children.
“If you’re on the fence about trying medication or your babes are already on medication, please give this natural strip a try,” one seller wrote in a social media post shared to Reddit.
“I know some that are reluctant about giving their kids a prescription,” wrote another seller on Instagram, “It’s like a fruit roll-up they put on their tongues and it dissolves. It’s all natural so there is no harm done, and you can cut it in half or even more.”
“Can kiddos use the strip? Any age limit?” a seller posted in an internal Telegram group for brand partners. “Yes, it is kid friendly, berry flavor,” another replied. “We cannot say to give it to kids under 18,” another seller cautioned.
“With the school year starting y’all need them,” a user called rissalesi_official said on TikTok. “You, your kids, your teachers, everybody.” In response to a comment asking whether under-18s could take the strips, the poster responded that she gives them to her own kids.
In a Telegram group used by Elomir sellers, some raised concerns about possible side effects from taking the strips. “A very small number of people have mentioned a headache,” one poster wrote, “Whenever we introduce something new to our bodies, our bodies take time to adjust.”
It’s these kinds of non-scientific claims that worry critics like Kat Benson, a registered dietitian and anti-MLM YouTuber who has also been watching Elomir’s launch.
The yellow strips have three ingredients that Elomir describes as a “proprietary blend.” These are curcumin (a substance derived from turmeric), vitamin B1, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
Benson says curcumin and vitamin B1 are usually found in sufficient quantities in a varied diet and there’s no need for most people to take them in supplement form.
The third ingredient, NAC, is currently under review by the FDA. It is used in clinical settings to treat overdoses of acetaminophen, and for specific conditions like cystic fibrosis.
NAC is a powerful antioxidant, Benson says, but it can also be found in high protein foods and is produced naturally in the liver. But there’s not enough available research about NAC, Benson said, to convince her it is completely safe to take in supplement form.
“I would not feel comfortable giving this to a child,” she said.
Benson is worried that people will spend money buying Elomir’s strips rather than seeking standard medical treatment.
“They’re taking advantage of people who maybe need medical help,” Benson said, “The pricing of it, in my opinion, is ridiculous. They’re taking the resources of people who are just trying to find answers.”
Critics like Manchester and Benson are also concerned for sellers who sign on as “brand partners”. The vast majority of MLM sellers—99 percent—actually lose money, according to a 2017 report from the Consumer Awareness Institute. A 2018 survey of MLM sellers by Magnify Money showed a fifth never made a single sale, and less than half managed to earn $500 over the previous five years.
Candice Gibbs, a Florida-based mother of one, was looking for a way to bring some extra money. She saw a Facebook friend posting about Elomir and thought she would try it, despite having been involved in two previous MLMs with mixed results.
“I get suckered in,” she said, “I believed all the stuff everyone was saying.”
Gibbs was impressed by the company’s young CEO Van Nyguen, who she watched on Facebook Live. She also trusted the reputation of Terry LaCore, the owner of Elomir’s parent company.
Gibbs paid $270 to get three boxes of strips sent to her. The company told sellers they were having production issues and needed to buy a new machine.
While she waited, Gibbs was encouraged to begin selling and recruiting.
“I started being that person everyone hates on Facebook,” she said. She wrote posts and went on Facebook Live to talk about Elomir’s new amazing product—despite having never tried it.
One box of strips finally arrived. Gibbs was told the other two boxes would be sent later. She tried the strips herself and said that perhaps she felt calmer, but she wasn’t sure if it was the power of suggestion. She began to have doubts about Elomir and its miracle product.
Ultimately, Gibbs left the company after watching an Elomir representative use tarot cards in a mandatory Zoom coffee session to ask “spirit” questions. The remaining boxes of strips never arrived.
Ultimately, like most MLMers, Gibbs lost money during her time with Elomir, spending $270 and earning only $40.
But for the one percent who run the companies, or get it at the very top of the chain, MLMs can be highly lucrative.
Toan and Van Nguyen, Elomir’s CEOs, are a young couple who previously ran an Airbnb business and invested in cryptocurrency, according to their social media accounts.
But the company was founded by Terry LaCore, a Texas-based serial MLM entrepreneur. LaCore has operated in the world of MLM for decades, and is president of LACORE™ Enterprises, a parent company that encompasses a network of business including a pharmaceutical manufacturer, testing lab, logistics company and payment platform.
LaCore founded Elomir in the fall of 2021 and the company’s website describes itself as ”a brand within the LaCore Enterprises eco-system.” It is one of over 100 companies LaCore has registered at a single address, Texas business records show.
These include other MLMs, like Prüvit, which sells a “Ketone” dietary supplement drink and B:Hip, which sells dietary supplements that “might increase sexual responsiveness” and a personal lubricant called “Pleasúr”. In 2021, LaCore branched out from MLMs to start True Patriot Network, a conservative version of Facebook that markets itself as a “pro-Faith, pro-Family, & pro-Freedom platform.”
LaCore’s long history of involvement in MLMs has not been without scandal. In 2008, LaCore was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for securities fraud arising from his time as a director at another direct-selling company, Natural Health Trends Corp. LaCore, and another director, were accused of receiving $2.5 million in undisclosed payments from the company’s top distributor. Both men were investigated and fired, but the SEC ultimately did not take any enforcement action against the company.
Terry LaCore did not respond to a request for comment.
Ceara Manchester called on company executives to be more transparent with sellers and the general public.
“There is no way as the head of the company that you don’t know that the majority of people under you are losing money,” Manchester says, “How can you sit there and know that you’re making your money off the backs of 99.7 percent of the people in your company, who are failing?”