Are Cosmetics Recession Proof?

by Kezia on October 10, 2008

Back in May I wrote about the Lipstick Effect (a.k.a. the Lipstick Indicator), the idea that consumers will indulge in less-expensive feel-good items in a bad economy. Historically, lipstick sales surge during economic or political turbulence.

Well, here we are five months later in a full-blown recession. The news hasn’t been pretty at all—what with global financial collapse, rising unemployment, the threat of another Depression and that pert, folksy fraudbot, Sarah Palin.

Is the lipstick indicator still in effect? Are women still binge spending at Sephora and Walgreens? Are we furtively buying $32 lip glosses as we worry about our 401 (k)s? Oh, absolutely!

According to James Edwards at Brand Week, spending on beauty products and procedures (like Botox) remains strong. “Everyone thinks hard times must be triggering women to pull back on discretionary vanity products but the opposite is true.”

Cost costs while saving face

How then are we tightening out belts? As a single, working woman whose only dependent is a cat, my economic circumstances are likely different from married peeps, single mothers, college students and the under or unemployed.

Here’s how I’m cutting costs: bringing lunch to work, shopping at the farmer’s market, canceling my holiday trip to Michigan and putting the kibosh on cabs. Beauty-wise, I’ve cut out facials and scaled back on mani/pedis. I also stopped highlighting my hair four months ago—and I like the results.

So will I continue to buy my pricey European sunscreen and order my Vitamin C serum on eBay? As Sarah Palin would say, you betcha! That said, I’ll still indulge myself on the cheap with d.i.y aspirin masks and other spa-at-home goodies. I plan on masking while I watch tonight’s second presidential debate.

What about you?

Are you saving on what you need so that you can spend on what you want? Have you given up pampering treatments or stopped buying makeup? Post a comment and share your thoughts, ideas and tips.


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Punky October 10, 2008 at 8:20 am

I have def cut way back, But it has more to do with being a single gal with a mortgage then any thing else.

Ashe Mischief October 10, 2008 at 8:30 am

This is a hard one! Because in many ways, cosmetics/facials/manis&pedis/etc. are not my financial weak spot. I just had my first hair cut last night since April, and about two weeks ago I dyed my hair for the first time since June. Obviously my financial situation severely cut in to my beauty regimen & its spending!

And now, I do catch myself thinking about these things… do I spend $20+ on more Clinique foundation and mascara (they’re almost out), or do I go with a cheaper brand, like L’Oreal? I honestly think I may be going with the cheaper brand… though I’m sure much of this has to do with wanting to pay off debt and save money as much as the economy.

Kelly October 10, 2008 at 9:35 am

Well, I did buy a whole wad of lipstick the other day, but I don’t think it was related :)

jennine October 10, 2008 at 10:46 am

@punky… ooh yeah, i’ve heard homeowners usually cut back on these things..

@ashe, i’m with you on that… i used to spend $20 on this MAC eyebrow filler, but now i just use $2 drugstore kind. definatley has to do with my financial state.

Kezia October 10, 2008 at 10:52 am

@punky & @AsheMischief: i can relate to both of you. i’ve been trying pay off debt by cutting back and living within my means for quite a while. I don’t use credit cards, so i’ve had to learn how to live on cash only for the last few years.

hailey October 10, 2008 at 6:09 pm

My boss was saying the same thing, she said lipstick bath products etc go up, we can’t buy luxury cars but still need to spoil ourselves. I think I see some of this in my future too unfortunately.

WendyB October 10, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Nothing will make me give up good red lipstick!

kater October 11, 2008 at 7:29 am

I don’t know that I’ve noticed a huge difference in my spending habits, but as a student I haven’t really ever been able to buy exactly what I want all the time.

It’s easy for me to spend less on clothing and cosmetics, the problem for me is food! I am hardly ever home-it’s school at around 8 or 9 till 4, and then work 4 to 10, so my options are limited. I don’t have access to a fridge or something all day, so I end up trying to find ways to eat cheap! I eat a lot of bagels.

lacouturier October 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

perhaps women want to invest in something nice so they have one classic & fab item? lol! this was a great post!

lacouturier October 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

i love the collage, btw

please check out my blog,! =)

Poochie October 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

So maybe my buying the perfumes I’m almost out of and the Lush bath bombs were not just impulse buys…


Darn economy!


Kezia October 13, 2008 at 4:47 pm

@hailey-exactly! compared to a new car, vacation or a new designer handbag, a great lipstick or fabulous moisturizer (even the pricey ones) seem relatively inexpensive.

@wendyb- the right red lipstick is hard to find. i think it’s a worthy- and essential- investment!

Kezia October 13, 2008 at 4:52 pm

@kater- i had the same problem when i was a student. it’s challenging to eat well on the cheap when you’re always on the go. do you have access to a food co-op? bulk foods like trail mix and dried fruit are cheaper in bulk. plus, they hold up well, are good for grazing, and have a good blend of (healthy) fats, protein and carbs. ok, i’m being a total mother hen! :-)

Kezia October 13, 2008 at 4:56 pm

@lacouturier- fabulous blog! congrats on your internship. :-)

daniel July 3, 2009 at 2:29 am

i am not so interested about the makeup…… .i would like to save my money…

pink mini fridge June 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

from girls to women they all usually use cosmetics ..

but from boy to a man.. they don`t need it :)

but i love girl after they make up their face :)
.-= pink mini fridge´s last blog ..Pink Mini Fridge Buyers Guide =-.

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