Boosting beauty in an economic decline: mating, spending, and the lipstick effect

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2012 Aug;103(2):275-91. doi: 10.1037/a0028657. Epub 2012 May 28.


Although consumer spending typically declines in economic recessions, some observers have noted that recessions appear to increase women's spending on beauty products--the so-called lipstick effect. Using both historical spending data and rigorous experiments, the authors examine how and why economic recessions influence women's consumer behavior. Findings revealed that recessionary cues--whether naturally occurring or experimentally primed--decreased desire for most products (e.g., electronics, household items). However, these cues consistently increased women's desire for products that increase attractiveness to mates--the first experimental demonstration of the lipstick effect. Additional studies show that this effect is driven by women's desire to attract mates with resources and depends on the perceived mate attraction function served by these products. In addition to showing how and why economic recessions influence women's desire for beauty products, this research provides novel insights into women's mating psychology, consumer behavior, and the relationship between the two.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Cosmetics / economics*
  • Economic Recession* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Unemployment / psychology
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Cosmetics