The so-called “Lipstick Effect”–the phenomenon of women buying more beauty products during economic downturns–gets a lot of attention during recessions. It’s a purchasing pattern that can be traced back to the Great Depression; the economy takes a turn for the worse, so women want to buy something pretty to cheer themselves up. It’s been documented a lot, most recently in 2008, like when Lehman Brothers went bust but L’Oreal posted increased sales. The conventional thinking is this: The economy sucks, so we need to cheer ourselves up with some hot pink lipstick and glitter nail polish. It’s much more pleasant writing a rent check with nice nails, right?
A new study, however, points to a much more Darwinian cause for our desire to run out and get a new blush once the Dow drops.