Lipstick a big seller in tough times

What comfort items (food or otherwise) have you purchased over the past few weeks and months?
What comfort items (food or otherwise) have you purchased over the past few weeks and months?

Lipstick is on everyone's lips at the moment. Apparently, lipstick sales have increased steadily in the past few months.

Perhaps it's the "lipstick effect" as it was called in previous recessions.

It's been observed that spending on small luxury items increases when there's an economic downturn.

Fewer holidays and big household items, but increased spending on 'little' luxuries such as perfume and lipstick.

In a different take on the lipstick effect, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Chieti, Italy, reported the findings of their study to examine the possibility that makeup can indirectly influence academic achievement and cognition through self-esteem.

One hundred and eighty-six female undergraduate students took a simulated university examination.

Participants were randomly assigned to three groups, which consisted of wearing makeup, listening to positive music and colouring a black and white drawing of a schematic face.

Results showed female students who had put on makeup received higher grades compared to those who did not, the researchers wrote in an academic paper published in 'Cogent Psychology'.

I'm reminded of a ward round in our local hospital 35 years ago.

"The patient in bed four is wearing lipstick," whispered the professor of internal medicine.

"That is such a good sign! She's recovering. We'll probably sign her out by the weekend. Sometimes we depend on cosmetics for signs of recovery.

"The moment a female patient takes the effort to find her base, there's an upswing in the prognosis.

"Add lipstick and rouge and there's no need to assess vital signs," he said, while students scribbled his findings.

Nurses clucked about her colour. "Was the shade of lipstick a predictor of long-term recovery?," they asked.

Applying makeup is mainly a female phenomenon and we're programmed from an early age. To feel alive (or if we're feeling lively), we colour our faces and perfume our bodies.

Our mothers taught us. Hours of looking up at mum in the mirror. Pat, puff, squirt, and the final pout to marry lip and dress colour.

At what age do we start wearing make-up? I was about 10 when I first tried some vanishing cream.

My freckles refused to disappear and I developed a rash instead of a flawless skin.

I later reached for my mother's base and plastered my freckles into submission. They amalgamated into a large brown mass.

I realised that freckles were my fate. I wish that we had been allowed to wear make-up at school.

Perhaps my self-esteem and my grades would have improved, if I'm to believe the latest research.

After school I did a make-up course. Colour coding was the rage and the girls queued to find 'themselves'.

The experts had decided that each of us was a season.

Life would take on another dimension if we discovered our true colours. I was an autumn and was secretly disappointed.

The beauty about colour and makeup is that you can reverse your condition if you're feeling down. You can get out of yourself by painting your face.

We laugh at the lipstick on our teeth or the eyebrow liner that went off course, or the base we forgot to even out which looks like we were pelted with mud.

A friend regularly arrived at work with parrot cheeks, having forgotten to blend in her blusher.

Then the hilarious mascara eyes. Dark circles under the eyes earning sympathy votes at the end of the day from the males and giggles from the girls.

And the essential re-application of lipstick during the day as most of it heads off on the takeaway coffee cup. Our tell-tale lip prints are unique, like fingerprints.

"Less coffee, more work, girls," says the chief executive scratching about in the bin, identifying female culprits by lip-reading and colour codes.

The choice to put colour in our lives remains our responsibility. We must have fun with our faces - even more so in a recession.

Let lips erupt 'Fire Engine Red' or 'Petunia Pink', whatever it takes to look and feel alive.

Who knows, we may even improve our collective cognition in the mix.