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Testing the Lipstick Effect

Beauty buying goes up when the economy is down. A new study asks why.

By |
September 20th, 2012

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buying beauty products

Four years after the recession began, it's still hitting us hard. As a result, we've changed the way we shop, splurge and save money. But besides making us desperate for cash, are these hard economic times making us desperate for relationships too?

In short, yup, at least according to a controversial new study entitled "Boosting beauty in an economic decline: Mating, spending, and the lipstick effect," in which researchers claim that the economic recession has "consistently increased women's desire for products that increase attractiveness to mates — the first experimental demonstration of the lipstick effect." Basically, we're driven to buy beauty products in order to attract guys, particularly because of our need for financial security (which, apparently, we can only get from a man).

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But some of us aren't buying into this. Jezebel recently published a rebuttal in which they noted that, "the findings are based on information from a very narrow segment of women: young university students from the U.S. who said they were 'highly motivated to attract a male romantic partner' to begin with." And, as anyone who took any form of lab in high school can tell you, having a wholly biased test group automatically makes any experiment or survey inaccurate. It sounds like these researchers were looking for a result that affirmed their stereotypical hypothesis: Women only get dolled up in order to nab men (not to feel better about ourselves), and we only want men for their big, fat wallets.

As Julie A. Nelson, chairwoman of The University of Massachusetts economics department, explained to ABC News, this study only examines a small demographic. "It is not at all clear that older women, married women, lesbian women, or women from other educational and cultural backgrounds would share this so-called 'women's psychology,'" she said. "The study reinforces stereotypes about women's lives—and social value—centering on questions of their attractiveness to men."

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Not to mention that only surveying college students is particularly biased. As a recent grad, I can tell you that the prospect of facing the "real world" alone, without financial backing is absolutely terrifying. Asking college girls who are already looking for a boyfriend is obviously going to skew the results. 

So the study is not only inaccurate, it makes women look bad! What will men think of this? It just fosters the belief that women who wear makeup and take care of themselves are just doing it to find a boyfriend with a big bank account. It also falsely makes young women think that the only way to attract men is to wear lots of makeup and splurge on beauty products. Let's think a little deeper about these issues rather than perpetuating stereotypes with these unhelpful studies.

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By Samantha Escobar for YourTango.com

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