When MAC released their Penultimate Brow Marker ($16.50), I snatched it up right away and it's been a daily-use product for me ever since. I even ranked it among my 2010 Best of Beauty for it's ability to create a clean, precise line without looking harsh or overly drawn-on. It applies easier and stays on better than any pencil, powder or gel I've ever tried and I've never had it smudge or smear. Love.
So, of course, when I saw that bargain powerhouse NYX had their own version of my beloved brow mainstay, I had to try it. At $9.75, the NYX Eyebrow Marker rings in at a nice discount over the MAC version. I actually picked mine up for a minuscule $4.87 during a Cherry Culture sale; Ulta often has discounts that can be used on NYX as well, so it's worth it to keep an eye out.
One difference that's hard not to notice is that the NYX version comes in two shades, Medium and Deep, versus MAC's one "Universal" shade. I chose the NYX Marker in Medium, which turned out to be a pretty decent match. When swatching, I feel like the NYX version (bottom) is more neutral in tone and maybe a hair lighter compared to MAC's marker (top) which leans a little bit to the red-brown side. Honestly, if I were going to label one of these "Universal" it would be the NYX version. I will say that these difference were slight on my hand and unnoticeable on my brows. Also, the feathering you can see in this swatch never occurred on my brows, with either product.
Upon looking at the felt-like applicator tips on the markers, again, we're talking almost identical. The MAC version (right) appears tad bit longer than than the NYX (left) but this could be due to the slight fraying on the tip. Otherwise, the broadness of the marker and the fineness of the tip are carbon copies, and apply as such.
Aside from a slight color difference on my hand, and of course, the color of the packaging and the slight difference in size (MAC's marker is 1 gram, NYX's is 1.04 g) these two products are more alike than they are different. Even the plastic tube is startlingly similar; in fact, I noticed that both the MAC and NYX version have similar, 3-digit embossed factory codes on the end of the marker. According to the packaging, both items were manufactured in Germany. Interesting. A quick peek at the ingredients proves that these two formulas are identical, with the possible exception of colorants. I say possible exception because whereas NYX lists the colorants on their list without qualifiers, MAC's packaging lists colorants as "+/-" (in other words, "may contain any or none of these, we're not telling cause it's a secret").
While I'm not saying the MAC and NYX are the same exact product, for all intents and purposes, they perform identically. Given the similarities in packaging, manufacturing and ingredients, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it were discovered that these originated from the same vendor. So, which would I buy again? You'd better believe it's gonna be the NYX version!