Sigma Makeup Brushes vs. MAC Brushes Comparison with Photos

Sigma Makeup Brushes vs. MAC Brushes

Make sure you check out my standalone review for Sigma Brushes, which considers them on their merit and by themselves, not as an alternative to MAC specifically.

Q. Are they on the same level as MAC? Or are they a more affordable alternative, but not as good?

The majority of brushes are not on the same level as MAC, and there are some subtle differences that translate in application that makes me think Sigma really would be better off having their own numbering system and designing original brushes and improving upon their existing designs or similar-to-MAC brushes. Though the numbering system has made me hesitant to review Sigma since I first heard of the brand (because I don’t like copycats, diversion, knockoffs, etc.), I think they could do just as well without the MAC numbers. I think it automatically invites very tight, very critical comparisons between the two brands.

Sigma Makeup brushes are definitely a more affordable alternative to MAC brushes or any other high-end brushes. They are good, but not always great and sometimes just so-so. Like all brush ranges, not all brushes are made equal. Some brushes aren’t as soft, others not as useful. I have all of the currently available MAC brushes, and there are certainly brushes that I have no use for and some that I don’t love or even like. To expect every Sigma Makeup Brush to be outstanding or to surpass MAC or other high-end brands is a very tough expectation to meet.

I think if you go in with “this is an affordable alternative” rather than “this is exactly the same or better” mindset, you won’t be disappointed. (Of course, also make sure you’ve read my thoughts on the brushes themselves, because some might still disappoint you–e.g. 187!)

See brush-by-brush comparisons, photos, and more Q&A…

All photos show Sigma Makeup Brushes brand new–they have not been washed or used, they’re right out of the package, so my MAC brushes may look dirtier (I swear I cleaned them all, but I think I might have forgotten one or two) and some of my white-bristled brushes I’ve never been able to turn 100% perfectly white again. This post focuses exclusively on how Sigma brushes stack up to MAC brushes, because this is the most common question I’ve seen asked.

Q. How do they compare to MAC brushes of the same number? (e.g. quality of the handle, hair, shedding, similarity to, worse/better)

First, one common denominator: nearly all of the Sigma Makeup brushes are heavier (the handle being heavier) and thicker/larger in diameter in comparison to MAC brushes. Most of the Sigma Makeup Brushes are also longer.


MAC 109 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS109 Brush


MAC 109 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS109 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS109 Brush / MAC 109 Brush


MAC 109 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS109 Brush (Handle thickness comparison)

SS109 vs. MAC 109: The MAC 109 is denser, softer, and the brush-head itself is about 2mm longer. I found the SS109 to be fluffier and not as densely packed as the MAC brush; the shape itself is a little more domed and not as flat. My MAC 109 doesn’t shed very much (maybe one bristle for every 2-3 uses), but I do have some trouble with my SS109 shedding. The SS109 splays out more, while the MAC 109 is rounded and tapers in.


MAC 150 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS150 Brush


MAC 150 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS150 Brush (Handle thickness comparison)


MAC 150 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS150 Brush


MAC 150 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS150 Brush (Length comparison–MAC is 5-6mm longer)

SS150 vs. MAC 150: The MAC 150 is more domed and tapered inward, while the SS150 flares out more and then has a wide dome shape. The SS150 has the same softness (which, by the way, the MAC 150 isn’t ultra soft, it’s soft but could be softer) as the MAC 150, but the SS150 differs greatly in its shape and density. I think the SS150 is more similar to MAC’s 134 (even though Sigma also offers the SS134). The SS150 is flatter and denser, not as fluffy as the MAC 150. The SS150 sheds like nobody’s business, while my MAC 150 doesn’t shed much at all. The SS150 is also the smelliest, most troublesome brush out of all the Sigma brushes I’ve tried–it sheds, smells, and bleeds. The weight difference between these two also feels the largest–the SS150 is distinctly heavier than the MAC brush, even though it’s shorter.


MAC 168 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS168 Brush


MAC 168 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS168 Brush

SS168 vs. MAC 168: The MAC 168 is tighter, more compact, and it retains its shape a lot better than the SS168, which was splayed when I first opened it and still splays out even when I re-shape it after washing. The SS168 is fluffier and better for diffusing a blush than it is for cotouring, just because I find the lack of firmness makes it more difficult to contour the hollows of my cheeks. (Please keep in mind that I’ve had my 168 forever, and I didn’t always know how to clean them, so mine is a little discolored–it does start off white!)


Sigma Makeup SS182 Brush / MAC 182 Brush


MAC 182 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS182 Brush

SS182 vs. MAC 182: My MAC 182 is a Couture 182, which means it has a square handle and is thusly not *exactly* the same as the permanent MAC 182. (And yes, I still own TWO of the Couture 182s, and I love them dearly!) These two are almost equally soft. I’d say the MAC brush is just slightly softer against the skin, but it’s really close. The SS182 does a really good job replicating the feel and density of the MAC 182. The MAC 182 sheds less than my SS182, but neither sheds much at all. The SS182 smells after washing, though, and my MAC 182 always just smells like whatever I washed it in (baby shampoo).


Sigma Makeup SS187 Brush / MAC 187 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS187 Brush / MAC 187 Brush


MAC 187 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS187 Brush


MAC 187 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS187 Brush (Handle size/length comparison)

SS187 vs. MAC 187: I found that the differences between these two were more pronounced than in many of the other comparisons. The MAC 187 is significantly softer and it is much more dense. It also holds its shape better and has enough firmness/density so you can use it for stippling. The SS187 feels a little fluffy and floppy in comparison. The SS187 is nearly an inch longer and significantly heavier with a thicker handle.


MAC 188 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS188 Brush


MAC 188 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS188 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS188 Brush / MAC 188 Brush

SS188 vs. MAC 188: Like the previous comparison between SS187 and MAC 187, the SS188 is just not as dense or firm as the MAC 188. The 188 is tighter, thinner, and doesn’t flare out like the SS188. The SS188 brush-head is about 1-2mm longer in length.


MAC 190 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS190 Brush


MAC 190 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS190 Brush

SS190 vs. MAC 190: These two are very, very similar. The MAC 190 is a little softer, but otherwise the two brushes are identical.


MAC 194 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS194 Brush

SS194 vs. MAC 194: I don’t think these brushes are comparable. The MAC 194 is thinner, skinnier, and longer. They’re two totally different brushes. The SS194 is considerably longer than MAC 194.


MAC 209 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS209 Brush


MAC 209 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS209 Brush

SS209 vs. MAC 209: The MAC brush is skinnier overall, but it’s also more straight/narrow and comes to a point, but it’s not as tapered as the SS209, which almost bulges at the bottom and middle before it comes to a thin point. The SS209 is also a good deal longer and the handle thicker than the MAC 209.


MAC 219 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS219 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS219 Brush / MAC 219 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS219 Brush / MAC 219 Brush

SS219 vs. MAC 219: The photos do a really good job showing just how different these two brushes are. The SS19 is a fluffy, dome-shaped crease brush, whereas the MAC 219 is more penci-shaped, more pointed and less domed, and it is much tighter/compact and not nearly as fluffy. I find that both are good to have on hand, but the SS219 is not like the MAC 219. Just think of them as two different brushes entirely! The SS219 is also over an inch longer than the MAC 219.


MAC 224 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS224 Brush


MAC 224 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS224 Brush


MAC 224 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS224 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS224 Brush / MAC 224 Brush

SS224 vs. MAC 224: The SS224 is about 10mm longer than the MAC 224, even though the MAC 224 brush-head is 3-4mm longer than the SS224. Much like the 219 comparison, there are enough differences between these two brushes that make them less than identical. The MAC 224 is longer, skinnier, and not as dense–it’s very soft and floppy in a sense. The SS224 is shorter with more of a domed shape rather than a tapered edge like the MAC 224. The SS224’s shorter brush-head allows you to have more control over it.


MAC 239 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS239 Brush


MAC 239 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS239 Brush


Sigma Makeup SS239 Brush / MAC 239 Brush

SS239 vs. MAC 239: One of the most noticeable differences is the fact that the MAC 239 is white-haired, while the SS239 is brown. The MAC 239 is much, much better than the SS239 at picking up, packing on, and blending eyeshadow. The SS239 is larger, denser, and stubbier in comparison to the MAC 239. The SS239 actually reminds me of an old, long-discontinued Benefit eyeshadow brush I used to use. These just aren’t very comparable to me–it doesn’t mean the SS239 is bad, it’s decent, but it’s not the same as the MAC 239.


MAC 266 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS266 Brush


MAC 266 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS266 Brush


MAC 266 Brush / Sigma Makeup SS266 Brush

SS266 vs. MAC 266: Even though the angle of the MAC 266 looks much more severe than the SS266, they are actually the same. (Maybe your eyes are better than mine and didn’t think that, but I put them side by side, and the angle continues perfectly.) As you can see, the SS266 is skinnier and a smidgen shorter. The SS266 is also just under an inch longer than the MAC 266 with a thicker handle–I like my eyeliner brushes on the shorter side for more control but that’s a personal preference.


Sigma SS275 Brush / MAC 275 Brush


Sigma SS275 Brush / MAC 275 Brush


Sigma SS275 Brush / MAC 275 Brush

SS275 vs. MAC 275: The SS275 is significantly smaller than the MAC 275, which isn’t a bad thing. It actually kind of reminds me of MAC’s 272. The SS275 is a little more angular towards the edge in comparison as well. Like most Sigma brushes, the SS275 is also about half an inch longer than the MAC 275. The SS275 fits better in my inner corner than the MAC 275, actually! The SS275 sheds a bit more than my MAC 275 (which doesn’t shed at all). It’s not particularly worrisome, but it’s worth noting.

Q. Do you like the Sigma or MAC Kabuki (182) better?

I like the MAC 182 better, but it is really a tight race. I prefer the square handle of my MAC 182, which is actually not even what MAC 182 normally comes equipped with! I find MAC is just the littlest bit softer. Is it worth the huge price difference? No, I don’t think MAC is $25+ better by any means. I also like that my MAC 182 doesn’t smell after washing. I’m not that bothered by the scent, just because I don’t notice when I actually just use the brushes rather than specifically going out of my way to smell to see if there *is* a scent. The SS182 hardly sheds, is incredibly dense, very soft, and it retains its shape well after washing. I didn’t have any bleeding with the SS182 either.

Q. How does the weight of the brush compare?

The weight of the Sigma brushes seem heavier than the MAC brushes overall, and the difference is more noticeable in the face brushes, just because the handles are significantly thicker. Nearly all of the Sigma brushes are longer than MAC brushes.

Q. Why do they have the same numbers as MAC brushes?

According to Simone, when they originally launched their brushes, they didn’t have numbers. Customers requested that numbers be added to the brushes so they could refer to which brush they were using. Simone has told me that they are slowly phasing out the MAC-based numbering system and will have a new numbering system in place by the end of this year.

Q. Do you think these would last a lifetime like MAC brushes?

If you don’t use them very often, sure. If you use them everyday, I don’t think they will last you as long as MAC brushes. I see some of the ferrules loosening up over time with heavy use (I put ’em through the ringer, trust me!), a few brushes have some shedding/dye issues that could be fixed, and the smell might get worse after a couple of years (can’t say either way). These are just some concerns I’d have for lifetime use. I think they’ll last you a few years, and if you have to replace them in a few years, I think the low cost of even an entire set is certainly worth a few years’ of usage, you know?

I know several makeup artists who can vouch for their MAC brushes being as good today as they were 15 years ago when they first bought them–but they also take meticulous care of their brushes. With good care of your Sigma brushes, I imagine you can get several years out of them. You may have to hot glue the ferrule back on after a few years, but the brush itself seems to hold its shape, not shed so much that you’re missing half a brush six months later, etc. It is unrealistic to expect that Sigma = MAC (and unfair to hold Sigma to MAC standards, considering their price point, to be honest) in every single way.

Q. Do MAC brushes fit in the brush roll?

Yes.

Please feel free to ask any additional questions you may have.  Thanks for reading!