OMG: “The Lipstick Effect”
Posted by Katie Ostoich on June 25, 2012 at 10:19 AM
What do we do when the economy is in the toilet? Buy more beauty products. A new paper by researchers at Texas Christian University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Arizona State University says that women are more likely to buy beauty products during recessions. The researchers call this the "lipstick effect": The more insecure the economy, the more money women spend on beauty products.
Look, I know it sounds kinda sexist. But the paper includes five studies that proved the researchers' hypothesis. And since women earn 19 percent less than men on average (ugh!), it's maybe not so surprising we may boost our search for greater financial security by looking better. And some of the implied sexism may be self-reinforcing: Since we on average still are relatively worse off than men in their careers, we may feel we have to compensate by wearing more makeup and nicer clothes.
The paper's authors theorize that since the supply of financially stable men falls during recessions, the price that women choose to pay for their attention spikes. They say this impulse is rational because moneyed men are more able to afford raising children well. Hah.
Women's beauty spending may not just be about attracting (rich) men, though. Previous research has found that consumers generally spend more on luxury goods during recessions in order to feel better.
And really ladies, men don't care about eye shadow or bronzer when evaluating physical appearance: one of many factors when choosing a partner. Men tend to pay attention to a woman's waist-to-hip ratio, facial symmetry and physical similarity to themselves -- and there's not much that makeup can do to change any of those features.
Our verdict: OMG. I would have never thought about it in these ways, and clearly, these findings may not put us in the best light. But it makes sense that we’d want to feel more confident and secure, and beauty products are a simple way we can feel like we have more control.
Have you noticed yourself spending more on beauty products or treatments like manicures or blowouts?