Saturday, 30 May 2009

Makeup the economic situation to suit you...

Yup, with The Beauty Brains highlighting the groundbreaking revelation (ahem) published by Science Daily :

"Professor Pine’s research found that an intense emotional state, high or low, could send women to the shops. “This type of spending, or compensatory consumption, serves as a way of regulating intense emotions,” she said.

This ability to regulate emotions is crucial for mental and physical wellbeing and humans adopt a variety of means of doing so, including drugs and alcohol. Shopping is one method increasingly adopted by women."

Hmm. Yes excellent excuse. That shopping is fun for most of us could hardly qualify as debatable. However it is rather noteworthy that the old adage, lipstick sales go up when the economy grinds down, known as "the lipstick index" (as coined by Leonard Lauder) has been debunked. The Financial Times even went so far as to reclassify the trend as "The Foundation Index" when it appeared that:

"The only age group which still appreciates the glamour of painted lips is the over-60s, with 40 per cent surveyed citing lipstick as the most treasured item."

I think the reason for this perceptible generational divide is that nowadays beauty is not associated with putting on a brave face, or treating oneself. Nowadays 'Health and Beauty' has become a phrase that rolls off the tongue: almost interchangeable. If the 80s Boom Years were complemented by flamboyance - bold eyeshadow up to the browbone, and blush in a dominant angled swoop, and bright lips - then today's more sober palette takes its cue from a battered and bruised economy. No wonder that a foundation purchase would overtake the more statement like choice of a lipstick. Foundation arguably more than any other makeup, represents the hybrid between health and beauty, particularly when viewed through the lense of current foundation promises "HD"; "Anti-Aging"; "Superfit"; "Perfectly Real"; "Superbalanced"; "Even Finish"; "Smooth Skin"; "Instant Rewind" ....the list goes on, you get the idea. With healthcare now seamlessly incorporating anti-aging creams, thanks in no small part to Dove's dominant advertising campaigns which imply there is a correct way to Pro-Age(?!), foundation is no doubt seen as an extra way to safeguard and invite the healthy skin we crave.

So why is this indeed a new trend, or a symptom of our current economic showdown? And why is it that the lipstick index has faltered, or even that it existed in the first place? Well, in the first instance, let us keep sight of the fact that by announcing this, Lauder did invite a self-fulfilling prophesy. As Estee Lauder herself had successfully ingrained Youth Dew into society by 'accidentally' spilling it and flooding a shopping floor with its distictive scent, the marketing angle within a lipstick index cannot be ignored. And as the FT article explains, "The index may be a frivolous indicator - some researchers point out that lipstick sales have at times grown in periods of prosperity as well as downturns".

That Science Daily now brings a study showing that indeed, these fluctuations coincide with any extreme emotional points, seems again to simply cloud what might in fact be a non-starter. Makeup purchases, ultimately, do stand alone. Often within the bounds of impulse purchases (especially as these days everywhere from supermarkets to hairdressers to Claire's to H&M or even WH Smith's Victoria Jackson sales troops have makeup thrown in the mix). And unlike even shoe shopping, which takes minimal undressing and fussing, makeup can literally be dabbed on and approved - the easiest, quickest pick up of the shopping kingdom experience. Does this necessarily mean that it is harder to gauge the pattern, and therefore easier to manipulate the statistics to illustrate some exagerrated theory??

For my own part, I do feel more and more that my own 'signature look' should be curtailed to a light colour on the lids, some black eyeliner and some neutral lipstick and rosey cheeks. In other words, I find myself suddenly more prone to clothes and accessories shopping, than to bright eyeshadow. Whether this is a symptom of ageing or a conscious decision to stop frittering away money on shades I know are superfluous, I cannot quite decipher.

Makeover shows like Gok's Fashion Fix, and the plethora of shows that feed off the economic climate to promote cost effective ways to feel better, have lent credibility to the sense that looking good should not be related to one's financial position. Adverts for drugstore ranges that promise benefits which once upon a time were the preserve of the 'High End' ranges, also push this. I do now find myself questioning whether a £14 eyeliner is necessarily better than a GOSH or Prestige one. Even packaging for drugstore ranges seems to have got sleeker. With Boots pushing the boundary by commissioning a scientific study for its best selling 'Protect and Perfect serum' - (a move usually reserved for prescription-only medicines) the force of the consumer being entitled to expect top-notch from a drugstore range surely casts a shadow over the definition of high end creams. Indeed, Estee Lauder et al are if anything more notorious for their adverts being pulled for misleading and false promises. Could economic woes prove the catalyst to sound a death knell for high end ranges altogether?

Probably high end can rely on its niche status for now, but with drugstore range prices creeping up and all the products aping each other, even innovative ones like the Givenchy Phenomen'eyes mascara wand, or the Lancome oscillating mascara wand, how long will there even be any gravitas associated with high end anyway?

What is the future of makeup shopping, will it retain its status quo or is there shifting afoot? What do you think... have your makeup spending habits changed?


  1. Great Post Gail!
    My generation (mid 30's) Grew up beginning to wear makeup in their early teens.Heavy makeup was all the rage. The generation after mine were an "all naturale" bunch it seemed.None of the young girls wore makeup the way we did.Hair was kept in a knotted pony.Low maintenece.With the upswing on the economy and the trend of better higher end cosmetics geared toward gen Xers came the birth of store like Sephora, MAC Craze etc.
    With the economy I think alot of women are tending to pick and choose what they need to spend their cash on. Women of my generation are just starting to explore anti aging and softer makeup trends lending big purchases toward a good skin care purchase rather than a divine lipstick.
    The next generation of makeup junkies grew up very simple and low maintenence and are still fresh enough to go without any new big purchases.

    The big money I think is actually coming from HS to college age young women! The trend now is toward bolder heavier makeup like smoky eyes and dark liner.And you cant get a good smoky eye with junk makeup! and this group in general is obviously limited finacially without the ecomomy issues.

    Alot of brands seem to be making better quality cosmetics at more affordable prices.When they have a choice to sell X amount of product at $$$$ per item... Or XXXX amount of items at $ per item , it doesnt really matter as long as their profits are the same.

    And I think like everything else, the rage of "this costs sooo much it must be good" has ran its course and people are starting to investigate options that prior to all the sephoras and mac counters, were the only options to most women other than a stuffy estee lauder or clinique counter which back in the day were "old people" cosmetics

    This probably made no sense ! haha delete this comment if you read this and I am rambling like an idiot gail!


    Very interesting points! You're so right!! Xx

  3. This is interesting. I used to be awful at reigning in spending when times were bad - I think it was an element of "well i'm £x overdrawn already - why not carry on?" which was of course madness. Im' much better now. You're right about drugstore alternatives. I'm always happy to find a more affordable substitute (which is why I was thrilled to come across MAC-alike company Inglot.

    By the way - I've got a sample of EL Double Wear, on your recommendation...fingers crossed - so far I am loving it!

  4. Another thing that I think is astounding is the prices on some of the drug store cosmetics! I dont know why, but im hell bent against spending $20 on a L'oreal item in the drug store but Ill drop drop $25 on a similar item in Sephora!
    When I get things at the drug store I feel I should be getting a better deal and I dont have the expectations I do with higher end makeup.

    Maybe its the hairstylist in me that feels drug store products are inferior overall.

    And I dont care if I have to skimp on food, I will never be cheap on hair products!

    I think we all should spend money on makeup and hair stuff and save money by skipping brand name soda and buying cheaper toilet paper! Use coupons, waste less, dont buy premade foods, turn the AC from 70 to 72...
    Anything! Just dont skimp on what makes you feel good about yourself.
    warped viewpoint?
    Am I ready to change that viewpoint?
    definitly not!

    Honestly spending money stimulates the economy! So im helping out in my own way....
    you dont have to thank me I do what I can :>

  5. @Ondine

    I must try Inglot, I thought they were the same price point as MAC. Oh, looks like I'll have to get to an Inglot counter somehow! Thanks for the tip! Glad you are trying EL DW- Once tried, never forgotten. Your life has now changed: no other fdtn will ever do, trust me!! xx

  6. @errynshealthandbeauty

    I literally feel exactly the same way. One day they'll find my wasted corpse, dressed in rags, clutching a LE Guerlain quad! hahahahaha (heaven forbid!)xx

  7. I think we are a gloss generation now....with lipstick relegated to something our mums wear. Great post by the way and love the look of your blog...keep trying to figure out what make up item is from where on your background!! BBBX

  8. Fab and though provoking post... I definately spend more on makeup than any other luxury - I may wear rags but I look great from the neck up lol... I have tagged you by the way xx

  9. @BritishBeautyBlogger

    Ah yes, lipgloss - good point! Although I myself can't abide sticky lips, I think I am rather a dinosaur in that regard. Thanks, oh and I loved the background for that exact same reason!! I managed to work it out I think, have you?? haha, hours of fun eh? xxx

  10. @Mizzworthy

    Thanks for the tag! Oh and exactly, I completely agree with you. If the bailiff came round he'd never think to seize my makeup brushes, haha more fool him! (er, I think?!!) xxx