If you live in a hot and humid climate, have very oily skin, or if you’d like a little something extra for those nights when you go out and party, then you should definitely consider adding makeup setting sprays to your routine.
I find that my basic makeup routine is good enough for most days, but if I know I’ll have a long day with few opportunities for touch-ups, then I definitely reach for one of my favorite setting sprays.
In this post, we’ll explain exactly what setting sprays are (and what they aren’t), and we’ll help you figure out exactly how they work so you can find out if they’d be right for you. We’ll explain how to use setting sprays properly to keep your makeup intact throughout the day.
In this article:
How to Apply Setting Spray
Here are the steps to applying a makeup setting spray:
- Apply Your Makeup
Begin by applying your face makeup as you normally would. You don’t have to change anything, so feel free to use a primer, foundation, concealers, and a setting powder, not to mention your eye, cheek, and lip makeup.
- Shake It!
Take your setting spray bottle and give it a firm shake.
- Hold the Bottle Away from Your Face
Hold the makeup setting spray away from your face and slightly above it. Depending on the type of spray nozzle, you might want to hold it as close as 8 inches or as far as 12 inches (I’m afraid you’ll have to experiment and figure it out for yourself).
- Spray It!
Begin spraying your face. Some sources recommend spraying in an X-shape or a T-shape, but I actually recommend rapidly pumping the nozzle a few times and then moving your face into the mist. It’s easiest to do this in sections like the right side of the face, middle of the face, and then the left side of the face.
- Fan Your Face
If you feel like your makeup setting spray is taking too long to dry, or if you want to speed things up a bit, fan your face with a piece of cardboard and your setting spray will set much more quickly.
Fixing & Makeup Setting Spray Tips & Tricks
- For really intense longevity for those super hot, long days, spray your setting spray unto your skin after every makeup step. Spray it on after priming, again after applying foundation, and one final time after powdering the skin.
- This one only applies to the non-fixing makeup setting sprays: spray your makeup sponge or brush with your hydrating setting spray before dipping it into your foundation. This will give your complexion a more long-lasting and smooth finish.
- You can use makeup setting sprays to get a nicer eyeshadow look, too! Spray you brushes with setting spray before dipping them into your eyeshadow. Your eyeshadow color will become more intense, and the overall application will have less fallout. Doing this with metallic eyeshadows will give you a sort of “foil” effect.
- Setting spray can also help fix small eyeliner mistakes! It works kind of like a thin makeup remover that doesn’t leave a residue behind. You spray it on an angle brush, and use it to smooth out your eyeliner line in cases of smudging or if one wing is thicker than the other.
Setting Spray FAQs
Makeup setting sprays are often compared to hair spray, and I can understand why. Also known as makeup finishing sprays, makeup setting sprays are liquids that come in a spray bottle meant to be sprayed unto the skin after the makeup application is done. Their purpose is to increase the longevity of the makeup and to prevent any creasing, smudging, or oiliness. They also help to take away a powdery look from the makeup.
The most powerful of fixing sprays work with the help of polymers like PVP. These polymers are dissolved in a liquid, but once they’re misted over the skin they merge to form a film that holds the makeup and makes it more waterproof. This is why the strongest makeup setting sprays sometimes also feel a little heavy on the skin.
Gentler makeup setting sprays work by simply rehydrating powder and foundation after they’ve been applied, allowing them to meld together into a more cohesive layer. This helps set them in place somewhat and get the makeup to last a fair bit longer, but it’s hard to compare to the polymer-based makeup setting sprays.
Some fixing sprays have other benefits. Many makeup setting sprays also contain silicones that have a blurring effect on the skin, so they end up making the foundation look a lot smoother. Other makeup setting sprays can contain an SPF to boost your sun protection, while others will double as skin care with a collection of nourishing ingredients.
So you already know what makeup setting sprays are and how they work, but you may come across both setting sprays and fixing sprays on the market since the two products are often hard to distinguish from one another.
Generally, if you have oily skin or if you find that your makeup melts off very quickly, you want to opt for a traditional fixing spray with polymers in it. There is some confusion out there, since some setting sprays are labeled with the word “fixing” and vice versa, so you’ll have to look for the polymer ingredients to know if you’re looking at a fixing spray or a gentler makeup setting spray.
If you have dry skin and you find that your makeup tends to look very powdery, then you might prefer a more hydrating makeup setting spray, which is less long-lasting and is more appropriate for everyday use.
Gentle setting sprays may or may not include alcohol. What they do always include is water, humectants like glycerin and butylene glycol, and perhaps some botanical extracts and oils.
These makeup setting sprays help to increase makeup’s longevity by helping the foundation and powder to become a denser, more solid layer. They also give the skin a more radiant and dewy finish by infusing the makeup with additional moisture. This makes them great to use throughout the day.
Some of these makeup setting sprays also have an SPF, so they can double as sunscreen, while others might have some silicone in them so they can double as primers before makeup.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think that makeup setting powder is a key part of a basic makeup application, and a setting spray is rarely a great alternative.
Setting powder works by absorbing oil from the skin and from your foundation, and setting it into place so that it does not move. Throughout the day the skin may begin to produce oils again, which is where a makeup setting spray can come in to help fortify the makeup against the new oils. That is why it is best to use setting spray in conjunction with setting powder.
It is perfectly okay to use setting powder and foundation without a setting spray, but setting spray applied straight unto foundation without any powder will simply not be as effective or long-lasting. Some exceptions do apply, like when the skin is too dry to handle powder or when the foundation one uses self-mattifies.
Makeup setting sprays are kind of like the next level for makeup longevity after primer. Primers, like setting sprays, became a staple of the makeup world only in the last 15 years or so, and they are also touted as the secret for long-lasting makeup.
You can certainly use primers and makeup setting sprays together – there are even setting sprays out there that can double as a primer! By using them together you can have super long-lasting makeup that is also perfectly soft-focused and even on the skin.
However, it’s also okay to use them separately. Some people find that primers don’t work for their skin – they break them out, or they find it difficult to blend their foundation with the layer of primer below it. No matter the reason, under those circumstances a makeup setting spray can make for an excellent alternative.
Other people find that primer on its own works perfectly well to keep their makeup in place, and it also has some additional properties that make the skin feel smoother and blur the pores. In other words, your best bet is to play around and to see what works best for you!
Photos via @ohhellolover, Instagram