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What can lipsticks tell us about the economy?

Lipstick sales, amongst other small luxuries, can actually predict the state of the economy. This phenomenon is aptly named the ‘lipstick index’.

Caitlin Hall


rows of different lipsticks on sale in a variety of colours and brands

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Lipstick sales, amongst other small luxuries, can actually predict the state of the economy. As has been proven, whenever the country’s finances slow down, consumers turn to everyday indulgences rather than bigger purchases—such as lipsticks. This phenomenon is aptly named the ‘lipstick index’.

Even if they’re forced to tighten their belts, people still want to treat themselves. They don’t want to rid themselves of the high they get from ‘splurging’, they just adjust their idea of what a ‘treat’ constitutes. As a result, they’ll likely swap what would have previously been a carefree £100 shopping trip with the careful consideration around the purchase of a singular £8 makeup product.

The reason lipstick sales, specifically, have shot up 60% since last year might be due to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. In 2020/2021 the wearing of face masks meant you wouldn’t have even seen anyone’s lipstick (even if they did wear it, masks smeared it all over their face). With no lockdowns on the horizon, lipstick wearers can once again wear their favourite shades.

Recent statistics show that more and more people are returning to the office to work, due to the energy crisis (which has made remote working much less appealing); this action might also be responsible for the increase in lipstick sales—after all, one of the benefits of homeworking is the freedom to wear no make-up and being able to wear more comfortable clothes.

We recently wrote about the ‘rise of the moments economy’, which showed how people are choosing to spend their money on day-to-day activities, as opposed to saving up and spending a large amount on one or two extravagant purchases, such as a new car or a holiday abroad. We took this notion even further, and talked about what work would look like in the future, when AI is responsible for all our production and service output. Our ‘jobs’ then would be to simply spend our basic income, with an emphasis on making memories and spending time with our loved ones—a movement that has been growing for many people since the pandemic.

A holiday abroad might give people one big experience to look forward to each year, but many people now are preferring to enjoy smaller experiences, more often. The first half of this year was awash with news stories covering the chaos at various airports and flight cancellations…it makes sense that people might not want to spend all their money on one big experience that could be cancelled at any time.

As a result of the cost-of-living crisis, consumers are being forced to live within their means more than ever before; for many, foreign holidays are off the table completely. If you’re living pay cheque to pay cheque, and you regularly have to choose between heating and eating, spending a few pounds on a new lipstick would feel like the epitome of luxury.

Now that winter is approaching, the news is full of horror stories around escalating energy prices and how grocery shopping is becoming unaffordable. Many of us are already dreading Christmas. Parents will be thinking of creative ways to explain to their children why Santa can’t bring as many presents this year, and families will be cutting down on their spending around the festive period.

We’ve seen a number of local ‘Christmas light switch ons’ cancelled, with councils claiming that they just can’t afford an extravagant event in the current circumstances. If your house usually resembles Clark Griswold’s from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you might also be revising the number of lightbulbs you’ll power this year.

The sentiment ‘it’s the thought that counts’ will become more apparent this year. Few people are offended if they don’t receive expensive presents or gifts; most people simply appreciate being thought of at all. Christmas 2022 may see simple, well-thought-out gifts trumping lavish, extravagant presents. Experiences will likely prove extremely popular this year, and the promise of spending time with a friend or loved one.

The last two winters have been far from normal, with many seasonal events cancelled due to Covid concerns, or because families were forbidden from getting together. If you were hoping that Winter 2022 would see things finally back to normal, you’re sorely mistaken.

For reasons that are, once again, largely out of their control, people will be forced to think about how they will enjoy this year’s festive celebrations.

woman applying red lipstick in a mirror

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