They say that when even when financial times are tough, a woman will often buy a lipstick even if she can't justify splurges. Judging by Estee Lauder's (NYSE:EL) sparkling first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, lots of women have been buying lipsticks... eyeliners... fragrances... anti-wrinkle products... you get the picture.

The company -- whose makeup bag packs such high-profile brands as Clinique, Prescriptives, MAC, Aveda, and Bobbi Brown, not to mention the self-titled line -- reported a quarterly profit up 14%, with net sales up 9% to $1.35 billion.

The fountain of youth ideal was a strong theme for the quarter, as some of Estee Lauder's strongest sellers were in skincare, including anti-aging preparations, with sales up 10% to $462.9 million. Fragrance sales rose 12% to $331.1 million.

It's apparent that women are turning to anti-wrinkle creams in droves (and I know a few men who have asked about products to forestall the ravages of time). Avon (NYSE:AVP) also posted some pretty profits yesterday that Estee Lauder might very well envy, also aided by anti-wrinkle products, as well as a new youth-oriented line.

It would appear Estee Lauder held up well when you consider the loads of other well-known brands vying for attention. And just in case you were wondering, many of the well-known cosmetics are owned by names you might not expect.

Rivals include France's L'Oreal (which also markets Lancome and Kiehl's), Revlon (NYSE:REV), which also sells Ultima II and Almay, Shiseido, LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton (the name behind Christian Dior, among others), and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), which houses Max Factor and CoverGirl.

In a bid to woo more customers, Estee Lauder plans to offer its products through Kohl's (NYSE:KSS). This move could funnel in more customers as its products gain more exposure than their typical higher-end department store counter venues.

The urge to put on a good face is boosting cosmetic retailers' profits, and Estee Lauder is obviously one of the beneficiaries. Its expansion into Kohl's also bodes well for growth going forward. Its shares were up $1.06 to $37.82 in Tuesday's trading.

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