Most of us in the beauty industry know about the term “the lipstick index.” Coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the board of Estée Lauder, it was used to describe increased sales of cosmetics during the recession in the early 2000s. Because women weren’t spending as much on clothes, shoes and purses, they were allocating their miscellaneous spending toward lipstick. It made sense: Lipstick is a simple, yet relatively wallet-friendly item that changes your look instantly without breaking the bank. Later, during the recession of 2008/2009, we saw a dramatic rise in sales of nail polish, and a surge in popularity of nail art—for the very same reason. Currently, the embrace of natural products is what is piquing the interest of the beauty industry, with retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom carving out areas dedicated to natural beauty lines. But what’s driving this? During economic upswings, interest in natural skin care and the like tends to surge. Think about it: the last time natural products experienced near-ubiquitous popularity was in the late ‘90s, another time of relative economic prosperity. This was the era of Origins and Aveda. Even non-natural brands had a wholesome bent or at least marketing that veered in that direction. Here, some thoughts on why consumers are more interested in natural and organic products as of late.

The Clean Eating Movement

The Gwyneth-ization of the culture has had resounding effects. It makes sense that those who are taking a deeper look into all they ingest — whether for pregnancy reasons or otherwise — would also turn to the products they use on their skin. Farm-to-table beauty is the natural progression following the success of farm-to-table eating. 

More Disposable Income

Natural products tend to cost a bit more, sometimes even more than science-focused brands, such as Skinceuticals and dermatologist-created brands of the world. Natural-focused brands such as Tarte, BeautyCounter, RMS Beauty, John Masters Organics, Goop and Josie Maran boast beautiful packaging, sensibly sourced ingredients and a sparkling social media budget allocation — all costly elements that add up to a heftier price tag at the register.

The Infinitely Instagrammable Look

Clean, white and either gold, rose-gold, or Millennial pink packaging tends to get the most buzz in the beauty space. The packaging of these new Instagram-friendly indie brands touting natural ingredients, like Herbivore, ILIA, Youth to The People and Moon Juice products, for example, garners many a post and a re-gram. Because brands are relying on Instagram and YouTube as a major avenue of revenue, it’s what’s outside that counts and many natural brands are doing it well.

They’re Cruelty-Free

With more and more makeup brands expanding to Asia, where animal testing is a safety requirement, there’s more awareness and buzz about the brands who refrain from global domination in the name of sales. With more of us turning to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, that growing market of consumers is also opting to support brands that are certified as not having tested on animals.