It has been said that lipstick is recession proof. Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of cosmetics company Estée Lauder, believed so strongly in this theory that he coined the term the “lipstick index” in 2001 to explain the surge in lipstick sales during the recession of that year. But, according to a recent TIME magazine blog article, “Lately, the lipstick theory hasn’t been holding up. Lipstick sales – on the decline since 2007 – continued to fall in 2010.” So what’s next on the list of life’s small luxuries that can, in theory, help boost our spirits during these trying economic times? According to Lauder, it’s nail polish.

Just this past September, Lauder told TIME writer Roya Wolverson, “I picked up this signal from my granddaughters. All of a sudden there was nail enamel in these strange colors. That’s the way the world is going: Notice me.” In her article, Roya goes on to explain that “nail polish is another affordable pick-me-up, but it now offers all kinds of crazy new shades to inspire the recession-prone splurge.”

Estee Lauder Nail Lacquer Ultra VioletBut let’s not just take the word of a cosmetics king, whose empire has lots to gain from an uptick in recessionary spending on nail polish (Estée Lauder’s nail lacquer goes for a budget busting $19.00 a bottle). Market research firm NPD Group also claims that nail polish took over where lipstick left off with a 65% sales increase since the first half of 2008.

As Lauder sees it, “We have long observed the concept of small luxuries, things that can get you through hard times and good ones. And they become more important during harder times. The biggest surge in movie attendance came during the 1930s during the Depression.” The TIME article points out that this trend is similar to the increase in lipstick sales during the 2001 recession and nail polish in the current one.

Since the economy still sucks, clearly we should all be buying lots of nail polish for a feel good way to help ride out the financial storm… or so the theories and data above would like us to believe. So, if we’re going to spend, let’s make sure we spend wisely and on the right colors. Harper’s Bazaar says, “nude is in” for nails in spring 2012. “After an excess of neon and oddball colors, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction with an emphasis on pretty, wearable shades of cream and beige.” But, the on-the-pulse beauty editors are not entirely ruling out bright nail moments for this spring. They also tell us there will be some color in shades of classic reds, chic corals, soft pastels, and mellow yellows mixed in with cool ombre and metallic designs. Finally, a seasonal color palette that almost every woman who still likes to play with nail polish can embrace.

Here are some of our favorite finger tapping and toe curling “nudes” to get you excited for spring: Essie Like Linen, Zoya Vivienne, OPI Designer… De Better

Nail Polish Nudes