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2014 Trend Watch: Even Tight Budgets Make Room for Beauty

By Daniel Baker

According to Body and Soul, Australian women are spending a pretty penny to stay pretty, in spite of global financial uncertainty and tight budgets here at home. What accounts for their spending hard-earned dollars on cosmetics and elective cosmetic procedures? Women want—some would say need—to look vibrant at home and at work.

A smooth complexion, taut skin, and features that pop help them achieve their goal.

The emotional benefits of looking youthful are just as important as the personal and professional ones. Splurging on a cosmetic purchase or procedure delivers fast and immediate gratification, despite the economic impact. “We see people making economically irrational decisions to lift their mood,” Jaime Cassavechia of the entertainment PR firm Susan Blond Inc. told Forbes Magazine.

Despite cutting back on pedicures and making other bottom-line-focused sacrifices in her own beauty regime, Cassavechia admits that she herself still indulges in the occasional splurge. “I did splurge on a MAC lipstick and gloss at Henri Bendel,” she told Forbes, “but in my business you have to feel confident and look fabulous.”

It’s a phenomenon some call “The Lipstick Effect” 

The Lipstick Effect

The Lipstick Effect traces its origins back to the 1930’s and America’s Great Depression. It says, in essence:

“…when facing an economic crisis consumers will be more willing to buy less costly luxury goods.  Instead of buying expensive fur coats, for example, people will buy expensive lipstick.”  Wikipedia

Cosmetics offer immediate gratification and a brush with luxury, yet are available at an accessible price. In the book The Over-Spent Americans, author Juliet Shore notes that during hard times, consumer’s purchase higher-priced, more prestigious and branded lipsticks, notably Chanel. This is in contrast to less visible beauty products, such as foundation, which are applied in the privacy of a woman’s bathroom.

Traditional Not Trendy Drives Sales

As for bigger-ticket items like in-office cosmetic treatments and procedures, money-conscious consumers are choosing traditional over trendy. Instead of flocking to the “it” treatment of the moment – plasma facials, goldfish pedicures, bat guano peels – Australian women are staying with traditional cosmetic enhancement procedures, including breast augmentation, laser facial rejuvenation, face lifts, and other doctor-assisted procedures.

These procedures provide excellent outcomes and lasting benefits, making the cost well worth the reward.

On the other hand, it may just be that women love lipstick. In 2009, The Economist reported that data collected by the market research group Kline & Company showed lipstick sales sometimes increase during times of economic distress, but have also been known to grow during periods of prosperity. In other words, there is no clear correlation.