The lipstick index is a term coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of Estee Lauder, used to describe increased sales of cosmetics during the early 2000s recession. Lauder made the claim that lipstick sales could be an economic indicator, in that purchases of cosmetics – lipstick in particular – tend to be inversely correlated to economic health. The speculation was that women substitute lipstick for more expensive purchases like dresses and shoes in times of economic distress.
Lauder identified the Lipstick index as sales across the Estee Lauder family of brands. Subsequent recessions, including the late-2000s recession, provided controverting evidence to Lauder's claims, as sales have actually fallen with reduced economic activity. Conversely, lipstick sales have experienced growth during periods of increased economic activity. As a result, the lipstick index has been discredited as an economic indicator. The increased sales of cosmetics in 2001 has since been attributed to increased interest in celebrity-designed cosmetics brands.
In the 2010s, many media outlets reported that with the rise of nail art as fad in the English-speaking countries and as far afield as Japan and the Philippines, nail polish had replaced lipstick as the main affordable indulgence for women in place of bags and shoes during recession, leading to talk of a nail polish index. Similar sentiment was noted during the coronavirus pandemic, when the mandated use of face masks to prevent the spread of the disease resulted in an increase of eye makeup purchases, suggesting a Mascara index.
- "Lip service", The Economist, January 23, 2009
- Maureen Dowd, "Oedipal Loop de Loop", New York Times, December 2, 2001
- Emily Nelson, "Rising Lipstick Sales May Mean Pouting Economy", The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2001
- Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, "Lunchtime Snap: The Shaky Lipstick Index–Sales go Down, not Up, as Economy Falters" , The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2008
- "Economy "Lipstick Index" Is Now A Nail Polish Index". Jezebel.com. September 14, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
- "Is There Really A Nail Polish Index?". Metapolish.com. April 27, 2012. Archived from the original on July 29, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
- "Nail polish is the new lipstick | Inquirer Lifestyle". Lifestyle.inquirer.net. April 27, 2012. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
- Scott, Fiona Sinclair. "Our grooming habits are changing". CNN. Retrieved 2020-05-11.