Estee Lauder's (NYSE:EL) 97-year-old founder may have passed away earlier this week, but her namesake company's quarterly results today imply its brand's lasting appeal. If makeup can be considered a safe haven in tough economic times, look out when times get better.

Fiscal third-quarter numbers came in better than expected due to increased sales volume towards the end of the quarter, Estee Lauder said in its conference call (transcript courtesy of CCBN StreetEvents). Profit increased by 26% to $98.3 million, or $0.42 per share. Net sales increased 15%, and if you take out the foreign currency benefits, they increased 10%. Both the U.S. retail recovery and a pickup in European travel were cited as reasons for the pretty picture.

The company had a tough act to beat this time around, when you consider last year's third-quarter earnings, which rose 79%. It expects full-year earnings of $1.59 to $1.62 per share, with a 13% increase in sales.

Estee Lauder encompasses more than just the self-titled line of cosmetics. It's also the name behind popular brands like MAC, Clinique, Prescriptives, and Aveda. Rivals include the likes of L'Oreal (which, despite its drugstore image, also provides Lancome and Kiehl's), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and Revlon (NYSE:REV). There's also the living-room approach to marketing cosmetics, embodied by Mary Kay and Avon (NYSE:AVP).

However, many of these competitors appeal to a different demographic than most of Estee Lauder's brands, which are featured in luxury retailers like Neiman-Marcus (NYSE:NMGA) or Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN). And one thing you'll notice about the recent retail revival is that interest in high-end goods has been at the forefront of the recovery.

As a result of Estee Lauder's passing, the company will receive a $0.06-per-share earnings benefit related to royalties it won't have to pay to her. In addition, it may buy back preferred shares from her estate, resulting in savings of another $0.06 in interest expenses.

The current climate's one where a more confident consumer puts her best face forward, and Estee Lauder's brands seem to be showing strong traction with shoppers. Now that the stock's trading at 27 times forward earnings, with revenues growing at levels reminiscent of strength back in 2000, Estee Lauder may be getting ready to turn investors' heads once again.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned. She happens to be a loyal Prescriptives customer.