The Datamonitor subsidiary said sales of health and beauty products in the UK increased 4.7 per cent in 2007 to £15.6bn, outperforming total retail sales growth for the fifth year running. Embracing lipstick theory, which predicts that lipstick sales rise when the economy falters, the market research firm expects the gap between growth in total retail and health and beauty to widen further in 2008. Beauty ahead of the pack While lower spending on home improvement and expensive consumer goods is forecast to pull overall retail growth down to 2.8 per cent this year, beauty is expected to build momentum. "In uncertain times people are still willing to spend money on making themselves look good and feel good," said Carol Ratcliffe, the author of the report. "If you're holding back from buying expensive items, there is more scope for smaller indulgences. "Health & beauty products are ideal for this: it doesn't cost much to treat yourself and even premium brands are relatively accessible." Price inflation Weighed against this theory is the fear that rising raw material and energy costs will be passed onto consumers causing them to tighten their beauty purse strings. While Verdict does predict price inflation, the market research company is confident that the impact at the check-out will be minimal. "Higher prices won't put people off buying health & beauty items," added Ratcliffe. "Most of these products are seen as essential so the majority of people will be spending more this year on health & beauty." Men drive growth Within the beauty sector, Verdict tipped the men's toiletries market as a driver for growth predicted a 7.7 per cent increase in sales in 2008. The company said wider availability and a better selection of brands and products will encourage more men to try out new products. Set against this generally optimistic picture, research rivals Mintel offered a word of warning to beauty manufacturers entering the men's market. In a report published this week on the male skin care market, the company said men remained attached to traditional products while skin care lotions and potions are not having the impact many once predicted despite relentless marketing efforts. "And with all the talk of the new aged man and metrosexuals, everyone has been waiting for British men to really buy into looking after their skin. But this has clearly not happened," said Alexandra Richmond, senior beauty analyst at Mintel.