The Lipstick Effect

Friday, March 20, 2009 - 8:01pm

Women may be cutting back on buying designer duds and Jimmy Choo shoes, but some just can’t sacrifice their beauty products. Our Emily Turner tells us why the tiny tube of lipstick is still scoring big at the cosmetics counter.

Cheryl Hamrick headed to the mall this afternoon to pick up a sympathy card for her co-worker. In need of a quick pick-me-up she headed straight to a cosmetics counter. “Lipstick makes you feel good, it makes you feel good about yourself.” For Hamrick, a $14 purchase offered her a temporary feeling of comfort, the type of comfort women all over the country are seeking as the nation’s financial future continues to look bleak.

Linda Fletcher of Merle Norman says, “Even when things are bad, the one thing that makes her feel better is her lipstick.” It’s a trend referred to as the lipstick effect, where women buy cosmetics as a substitute for more expensive luxuries in times of economic uncertainty. Not just for the instant gratification, “It just makes you feel more attractive and a little more glamorous if you will,” but to satisfy an urge without draining their bank accounts.

The phrase was coined by Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estee Lauder after lipstick sales soared after 9/11, but the phenomenon can be traced all the way back to the Great Depression—while industrial production was sliced in half, the sale of cosmetics rose. “Whenever the economy got bad, women loved to buy a bright lipstick.” It’s a small purchase that goes a long way.

When it comes to men, experts say they’re finding comfort in purchasing small gadgets and fast food.