The Lipstick Index

The Lipstick Index is a term credited to Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder who first used the term to explain the rise in cosmetic sales after the September 11th attacks. The idea being that during troubled economic tines, women are less likely to buy items such as dresses, bags and shoes and will go for a less expensive item for a quick consumption high. And according to the New York Times lipstick sales have risen 40% in the last few months.

One of the many books in my colour library includes one called ‘Color Stories’ by Mary Lisa Gavenas. It’s actually quite an interesting read, and the following is an excerpt from the first chapter to illustrate the point made above:

“They make it so easy. Beauty is at the entrance and exit of the store. They get you coming and going. No reservations needed. No appointment necessary. No obligation to buy. Today, the store has only been open a few minutes when the first one comes to the counter. “

‘I need a new lipstick’

“On her way to the mall this morning, she pulled her lipstick out of her purse and put it on in the rearview mirror, just like always. She swiped her same pink across the top, half of her mouth, then the bottom. She rolled her lips together to get the color nice and even. Just like she does half dozen times a day. Only this time she suddenly felt blah, bored, tired of the same old routine.”

So now, before she runs the rest of the day’s errands, she finds herself standing at the Estee Lauder counter in Nordstrom. A nice woman is nodding sympathetically and saying, “I know exactly how you feel”.
The counter display has a catchy slogan, eye makeup and lipsticks with cute names and a cardboard picture of the coming season that looks just about perfect. This one urges her to ‘Go Tropical’ On the sign, a sultry spokesmodel smiles with the nonchalance of a woman who has never carpooled, shopped at a mall, or parked a minivan. Braless, Blithe, Bikini bottom shoing her flat stomach and skinny thighs.
While the beauty advisor runs through her spiel about “instant gratification” and “doing something for yourself” the woman slowly strokes a pencil across the back of her hand. She pokes at the eye shadows. She smudges and speculates. She picks up lipsticks and swipes them on her hand. “Well, a new lipstick isn’t going to break the bank. “

“She’s buying it: The picture of the model in her bikini bottom, playtime at the counter, everything the beauty advisor is telling her about warm weather trends. She settles on Pareo, a pink lipstick that looks pretty much the same as the one she put on in her car this morning. It’s not the same though. It’s what she didn’t have before, it’s what’s in that picture of spring. “

“The beauty advisory rings up the sale and tosses in a sample of the latest skin lotion. The woman, now beaming, doesn’t bother to put on her new Pareo. She’s already running late. She grabs her little package and hurries into the main mall. She got what she came for.”

“Spring looks different. Warm and relaxed. Lush and a little luxurious.”

“She owns a piece of it already.”

“No matter what else is going on in the world, women head for the beauty department as if there’s something there they can’t find anywhere else. Whatever happens–good or bad–they keep coming. Celebrate or console, lipstick’s always available. Lipstick always fits. It’s always onward and upward in beauty.

Best of all, it’s a business that never sees a downturn or suffers a serious setback. Not during wars, Not during depressions. America’s fascination with beauty seems never ending. This year beauty profits will go up, Next year, they’ll go up again. They always do. “

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  1. thrilled by the thought

    Just found your blog through This is Glamorous. I’m excited to keep coming back! This was a fun post to read. I just barely bought my first tube of lipstick and I’m 25. Sad, pathetic, you say? Yes, indeed.

  2. After hurricane Rita hit Beaumont, TX & left my sister homeless the first thing she bought was lipstick.

    Laughing, she told me about it less than 24 hrs after Rita.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara