January 4, 2009

The Lipstick Index: a Real or Imaginary Indicator of Economic Times? Plus Natural, Affordable Picks.

The other day I found myself feeling low and really wanting to buy a new lipstick. Not my usual neutrals, but a fuchsia shade in fact. Then I remembered something called the “Lipstick Index” that I had read about in the New York Times, the theory that in an economic downturn, women buy more lipstick. When I originally read the article I think I found the idea a bit of a stretch until I found myself doing just as it described some time later. I don’t have the budget for new clothes, but a lipstick is a pick-me-up I can afford.

Leonard Lauder of Estée Lauder originally noted this theory after his company started selling more lipstick than usual after the terrorist attacks in 2001. The Times interviewed shoppers about their lipstick buying habits in May of 2008 then again covered the Lipstick Index in November by featuring 41 picks from $1.99 to over $50. This is where I’m thrown. It seems to me that if you can afford a $55 lipstick that you may not be feeling the economic crunch quite as much?

The Big Money recently ran an article on whether it’s accurate or not that consumers spend money on little luxuries in a slump. Currently it does look like sales on “guilty pleasure” items are up and nondiscretionary spending (food and healthcare) is down. Still, it’s hard to track sales specifically of lipsticks within the mammoth cosmetics industry. And what we’re experiencing now isn’t exactly where we were at in 2001. The Big Money article’s male author (fun reading about this from a male perspective) also notes the costs of some lipsticks, quite hilariously. “Sephora’s ‘Best of Sephora’ 2008 winner? Something called NARS lipstick. Comes in a black tube. Looks reddish, not too garish. Appropriate for these muted times. Cost: $24. Twenty-four bucks! That’s like six double lattes, young scrimp-and-splurger!” A good point.

This leaves me wanting to test out this theory personally but from our mindful perspective. Many of us are familiar with how unregulated the cosmetics industry is, and how our bodies absorb what we put on to our skin (almost 5 lbs of chemicals a year). Ladies, think about it, what you put on to your mouth, likely goes in it. Gulp. So we can whittle down the list from the Times into one that only features natural products. Check out Sprig or Feel Good Style for their natural picks at a variety of prices. You can also browse Saffron Rouge, Spirit Beauty Lounge or even the new “Natural & Organic” section of Sephora.com to look at several brands. I can personally endorse PeaceKeeper’s lipstick in shade “Paint me Healthy” (at $14 the best everyday shade I’ve ever tried), and Dr. Hauschka’s Lip Care Stick (also $14, a clear balm that leaves the glossiest sheen). I’ve also been eager to try Cargo’s new PlantLove line which comes in compostable tubes.

But for where I’m at financially right now? I’m keeping it under $10. Here are my natural and more affordable finds.

Aubrey Organics: eight shades available at $7.50 each from a company that has led the way in transparency, from being the first to list all ingredients in 1967, to using innovative natural ingredients like jojoba oil and matcha green tea.

Honeybee Gardens: twenty-three shades at $9.99. Paraben-free with no mineral oil or FD&C colors.

J. Lynne: eleven shades at $6. Mineral-based and deemed perfect for adults or tweens by Ecofabulous.

Ecco Bella: eight shades of their “Long-Lasting Lip Crayon” for $10.95. I chose this one for our vegan friends, as it’s made with vegetable based waxes in addition to being gluten and preservative-free.

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Lindsey Wolf  |  Contribution: 7,660