When economic times are tough, people usually cut back on luxury items that are not necessities. Although lipstick is not classified as an inferior good (one which people buy more of because they can’t afford their preferred item), women seem to be ramping up their spending on cosmetics when their incomes are suffering the largest blows.
What could explain this strange trend?
Want More?Make Over Your Makeup Cabinet and Cut Your Costs
The “Lipstick Effect” was first identified by the chairman of Estée Lauder, who noticed that lipstick sales were soaring after the 9/11 terrorists attacks and the subsequent deflation of the economy. In a New York Times article published in 2008, economists explained the data by arguing that cosmetic purchases could be seen as “small indulgences” and “morale boosters” in a tough economy. If you can no longer afford that $250 designer dress, why not splurge on a little lipstick to up your spirits?
A new study, however, is rethinking the reasoning behind the observed Lipstick Effect. Women are re-budgeting during economic downturns to spend more on beauty items because they are increasingly concerned with attracting men, it says.
The researchers say that when women become more insecure in their ability to support themselves and earn money, they increase their cosmetic spending to attract a partner who can provide them with greater financial security.
And it’s not just lipstick sales that follow the business cycle. Shoe styles are also affected by the state of the economy. The worse the economy, the higher the heel.
So are these findings sexist nonsense or substantiated by fact? Whether we are spending more on lipstick to make ourselves feel better or to attract the attention of others, the trend stands: When our wallets are tight, our lips are glossed.