The lipstick index and eyebrow pencils


One of my friends sent a message to our WhatsApp group noting that she had discovered that she had a shockingly large collection of eyebrow pencils (I counted 17) for someone who rarely applies makeup. She couldn’t understand why and in her own words was left "speechless". My explanation was the lipstick index.


The lipstick index is a term coined by Leonard Lauder where he put forward the theory that during times of financial hardship the purchase of lipstick increases because of several reasons. Firstly, as a low priced item it doesn’t make a dent on your pocket unlike purchasing a new pair of shoes for example but you achieve the same retail therapy sensation of having purchased something new. Secondly, during times of austerity women make more effort to attract financially stable males – therefore they spend more on items such as lipstick in order to make themselves attract more attention. Interestingly, when I teach makeup classes and I ask students to give me 5 reasons for wearing makeup, the reason “to be noticed/to attract attention” is always one of the first ones to come up. I then have to give them the less obvious reasons such as the need to camouflage blemishes and scars (you’d have to enrol for my course to get the other reasons).


By my observations I would say the Lauder lipstick index theory holds true. The phenomenon of “social media influencers” provides us with rich fodder for research. No makeup influencer or slay queen worth her weight would ever step out in public (or post a selfie on Instagram or other social media sites) without lipstick – that includes the trending ombre look created using two different shades of lip pencil and lipstick/lipgloss. Note too that lipstick doesn’t only come in the shades of red. One can wear a natural/neutral colour lipstick. In recent times the Covid19 protocol of mask wearing had somewhat hindered the ability to show off one’s lipstick in public. Covid19, however, resulted in the eyebrow taking centre stage, followed closely by the artificial lashes as points of attraction on the face. Both the eyebrow pencil and the artificial lashes retail for a song – with the cheapest eyebrow pencil costing usd0,50 and the cheapest lashes costing usd1.00. Makeup users can afford to spend on an eyebrow pencil and owing to challenges with small change/coins in our part of the world, one is likely to take advantage of the “dollar for two” promotions. So someone can easily find themselves with a large collection of eyebrow pencils.


Those who can afford to will of course go for the more convenient yet expensive, longer lasting semi-permanent makeup options as a form of retail therapy. These include microblading/microshading of lips and eyebrows as well as the individual eyelash extensions. Not only are these options waterproof and smudgeproof they provide the perfect made-up look for weeks without the need for daily application and re-application of lipstick or eyebrow pencil.


Tell me your views of the lipstick index theory.