Cosmetics sales at companies such as L'Oréal have surged as the economic downturn drives women to forgo larger purchases and instead treat themselves to smaller items.

The change in spending patterns has been dubbed the “lipstick effect” and has boosted sales for cosmetics companies with L’Oréal reporting a sales surge of 5.3 per cent in the first half of the year.

While women treat themselves with small luxuries such as make-up, men tend to buy smaller gadgets rather than cars, according to The Daily Telegraph.

In the Great Depression, between 1929 and 1933, industrial production in the US halved while sales of cosmetics soared.