Economic recession may increase a woman’s desire to buy beauty products, a series of studies headed has revealed.
The research, conducted by Sarah E. Hill from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, showed that women who were primed with news of the economic recession reported an increased interest in purchasing goods they believed could enhance physical attractiveness, including lipstick, perfume and designer jeans.
The same subjects reported a decreased desire to purchase consumer goods that could not enhance attractiveness.
The beauty products industry has consistently enjoyed periods of sales growth during times of economic downturn, dating back to the Great Depression.
Journalists have dubbed this anomaly the “lipstick effect.” Many have previously speculated that the lipstick effect stems from women reallocating their spending from costly indulgences to cheaper ones—an explanation that Hill’s research discredited.
“We found that the lipstick effect applies specifically to products that enhance beauty, even when those products are more expensive,” Hill said. “Recession cues increased women’s desire to buy high-end cosmetics and designer clothing, but not to buy budget-line beauty products, which were rated less effective at improving one’s appearance,” she said.
Hill’s research indicated that the lipstick effect is deeply rooted in women’s mating psychology due to which all the focus is on physical appearance.
“While economic recessions are a recent development in human history, fluctuations in prosperity and resource availability are not,” she said. “Human ancestors regularly went through cycles of abundance and famine, each of which favours different reproductive strategies,” Hill said.
Hill’s research demonstrated that the increased desire to purchase beauty products, designer clothing and accessories was fully mediated by a heightened preference for mates with resources.
The studies also showed that the lipstick effect functioned independently of women’s own financial access.
“Women of both higher and lower economic status expresses an increased desire to buy luxury beauty products when primed with recession cues,” Hill said. “This suggests that an uncertain economic climate leads women to heighten mate attraction effort irrespective of their own resource need,” she added.
The study will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.