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Fierce Mommy: Budget Beauty

A blogumn by Stephanie Myers

A few weeks ago, when H and I were watching yet another report about the depressed economy and layoffs, I pointed out that H’s company (a prominent retail cosmetics company) should be pretty okay.  I told him about the “lipstick rule” – something I’d first learned about at a Mary Kay/Avon-esque cosmetics party.  The idea was simple: women will find ways to buy their favorite beauty products.  In some cases it could be something as small as a lipstick that they budget in to buy.  Yet that lipstick is more than a lipstick, it’s a way to feel beautiful and bring a little luxury into a budgeted lifestyle.  At the same cosmetics party (held after the dot-bomb dropped) one woman talked about her mother saving pin money for a her favorite face cream during the Depression.  I reasoned to H that his company might see a decline in sales but, if the Lipstick Rule held, it would probably not be so bad.

Today H sent me an article today about the “Leading Lipstick Indicator“, a term coined by Estée Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder (aka The Lipstick Index) after he saw a very specific trend occurring during financially turbulent years.  During times like these most of us wouldn’t consider buying couture because it costs too damn much; an $8 lipstick at Walgreen’s hurts the wallet a whole lot less in comparison.

“History can be our guide here. As a Harvard professor explains: “The decade of the Great Depression, cosmetic sales increased 25 percent.” After the downturn following Sept. 11, lipstick sales doubled.”

What’s the lipstick indicator say right now?  As you might have guessed, lipstick sales have shot up 40% in the past few months in shades with price tags that run the gamut from budget to boutique.  Another facet of the Lipstick Indicator? Vibrant look-at-me red, apparently a shade that sees popularity during economic upswings, has given way to neutrals like pink, brown, and taupe.

So while many women and their families are cutting back, the lipstick represents inexpensive luxury – an innocent indulgence.

How do you treat yourself when the budget is tight?  I like skin care products more so than lipstick but they are not going to be nearly as affordable.  I have a friend who I hope can school me on how to make my own beauty products using ingredients like honey, avocado, egg, or Epsom salt so I can have all the beauty of a day at the spa for pennies.

Photo Credit: sparkieg/