LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An anti-aging cream using the extract of a toxic plant has millions sold on the results.
Before and after pictures of NeriumAD users suggest they may have found the fountain of youth — and these users have signed on to sell it.
"I'm obsessed with it. I use it all over me. I love the product. I'm one of those people ... if some is good, a lot is better," Nerium International CEO Jeff Olson tells CBS2's Lisa Sigell.
Nerium executives say they have the only product on the market that uses a patented extract from the nerium oleander plant, which scientists searching for medicinal uses found had anti-aging properties.
"It does great things, whether it be with wrinkles, or tightening of the skin or improving the appearance of discoloration," Amber Olson, vice president of marketing, said.
But search "nerium oleander" on the Internet and you'll see this: "Poison: Toxic ... if ingested."
While noting allergic reactions are possible, as with any natural botanical product, dermatologist Gene Rubinstein says the extract is not harmful when used as a topical cosmetic product.
"With oleander there's probably minimum absorption into the bloodstream, and so there's probably no danger to the patient," he said.
Nerium costs between $80 to $120 a month.
The company says it is up to $300 million in sales in two years and boasts almost rock star-like conferences coast to coast.
Still, critics are wary of the science behind the product and the company's multi-level marketing approach, in which where friends sell to their friends, who sell to their friends.
"I think there's a lot of hype associated with products, and in the long run many of them do not meet expectations," Rubinstein cautioned.
But CEO Olson says he's not in the business of pushing products on consumers who aren't interested.
"We're not trying to get people to buy a product they don't want. We'll buy it back," he said.
CBS2's two independent testers, who had no connection to Nerium or its salespeople, say they loved the product so much they may even turn to selling it.
"You wonder if it's all in your mind or if it's actually in the mirror, but I did see a big difference," one of the participants said.
Olson said some of the people selling the product are supplementing their income. For others, it's now a full-time job.
for more features.