This Drugstore Makeup Feels Seriously Luxe

A makeup habit can be expensive, more expensive than even your average latte-a-day addiction. So when a line like CVS exclusive Makeup Academy claims to unite quality products and affordable prices, the prospect is quite tempting. CVS isn't particularly well-known for its vast supply of luxe makeup lines; esteemed lines including L'Oreal and Neutrogena offer well-formulated basics, but when you're in the market for a matte persimmon-colored lipstick or a highly pigmented gloss, department stores tend to offer a greater selection of superior products.

Enter MUA, which offers over 100 lip products in a mind-boggling array of formulas and shades, as well as an impressive range of makeup brushes and false eyelashes. And in a delightful twist, each individual product rings in under $20. Capturing the essence of more expensive products and offering them at a competitive price point seems to be MUA's modus operandi, especially in the case of its lip color offerings.

The brand's Color-Infused Balm channels the look and feel of Nivea's Repair And Beauty Balm and Benefit's Fakeup Concealer, providing the user with a sheer color base with a conditioning balm for a dewy, natural effect. MUA's Liquid Lipstick, meanwhile, replicates Giorgio Armani's covetable Lip Maestro by depositing a thick, matte layer of color onto lips. And riding on the summer 2014 lip crayon trend is the lightweight-finish Lip Color Crayon, which feels like the most luxurious balm when applied to one's pout.

For those who prefer emphasizing their baby blues over their lips, MUA's array of false lashes ranges from the ultra-thick Glamour Maximum Volume Lashes, which appear to be a remnant from Cher's exploits in the '60s, to the Natural Ultra-Fine Lashes, which read more doe-eyed and sweet than dramatic. And in what seems to me a particularly genius idea, MUA's corresponding lash glue is available in clear and black formulas, for those who like the idea of concealing the lash line with a darker-colored base.

After curiously examining each product, I decided to give the Liquid Lipstick in Rose and Natural Feathered Lashes a try. The lipstick transformed from a rich gloss into a beautifully matte stamp of dusty-rose within minutes. Though the formula had to be retouched after a peck from my male friend, I was impressed by how much I enjoyed the shade and its glamorous, Debra-Messing-circa-1998 effect on my pout.

And the eyelashes? I may well be addicted. After a kindly makeup artist graciously helped me attach each strip to my lids, I peered curiously into the mirror and suddenly understood how female celebrities consistently manage to channel a bright-eyed, femme fatale look on the red carpet no matter how little sleep they've had. An unexpected allergy attack left a corner of one lash unglued mere minutes post-application, but I was convinced my newly enhanced gaze still set a few hearts aflutter on the train home.

MUA may be riding the coattails of higher-end brands like Clinique and Armani with several of their formulations, but really, who can say no to a similar beauty product at one third of the price? Perhaps that latte habit is destined to be more damaging to your bank account than beauty expenditures after all.

Images: Tyler Atwood