It’s the underrated makeup product that will give you a truly flawless finish
With complicated skin care products like essences and vitamin C powders on the market, it’s hard to believe a little ol’ makeup setting spray has so many stumped. But for all those wondering what does setting spray do and should I even bother with one, be confused no more. We set the record straight. The best news? Your makeup is about to look SO much better.
What is setting spray?
If you were to go off how it sounds, you’d be forgiven for thinking a makeup setting spray sets your makeup in place so it lasts longer. But that would be the role of a makeup fixing spray. “Setting sprays merge everything together to emulsify makeup on the skin, holding it in place,” says M.A.C Senior Artist, Carol Mackie, “while fixing sprays make everything last longer on the skin”.
Since we’re clearing thing up, allow us to throw another hat in the ring: a makeup finishing spray. “A finishing spray is the most moisturising and lightweight of all [three], so is more of a refresh that can be spritzed throughout the day,” says Alphie Sadsad, Sephora Australia National Artistry Lead.
So setting sprays don’t help your makeup last longer then? It’s not their bread-and-butter, but you will find most formulas can help in that department. Mostly because as your setting spray gets to work melting your makeup into one flawless, airbrushed layer, it binds it to the skin rather than leaving it floating on top of the surface.
Most setting sprays are formulated with botanical extracts and are an oil and water emulsion. The oils in the formula ‘burst’ the microspheres in makeup to give you that fresh-faced finish.
Setting sprays are the final step in your makeup routine, unless you’re applying a fixing spray (they seal your look by coating it in a protective film so should always go on last). If you like to use a makeup setting powder, sweep it on before your setting spray.
Different types of makeup setting sprays
Now that you’re clear about what a setting spray is, you’re good to go, right? Hold up just a second. There’s a makeup setting spray out there for just about every skin type, so choose wisely. Good news is the options are pretty straightforward to navigate. If you have dry skin, pick one that contains nourishing oils; for oily skin types, reach for a mattifying setting spray. Sensitive skin types should search for an alcohol-free formula, and any redness-prone complexions will love the soothing effects of a spray enriched with ingredients like aloe vera. There are even waterproof setting sprays for ensuring your makeup not only lasts a dip in the pool, but also survives hot, sweaty summer days.
The top 10 makeup setting sprays
Makeup setting sprays are one of those products that once you try them, you’ll never go back. Finding the best setting spray makes ALL the difference. So start your shopping spree ahead of the game: these are 10 of the most-loved makeup setting sprays.
#1 / Skindinavia The Makeup Finishing Spray
Meet one of the pioneers of makeup setting sprays. Even after a decade and all the new setting sprays that have made their way onto the market, Skindinavia still has a loyal following. What’s super neat about all of their setting spray formulas is the addition of Temperature Control Technology®, which cools down the surface of the makeup so it won't melt off as the day goes on. We also love that the formula is oil-, paraben- and sulfate-free, and there’s a bridal version that works to keep your makeup surface shine-free for better photography. Winning!
Talk about a crowd favourite. According to the Daily Mail UK, a bottle of this elixir is sold every 15 seconds. It’s currently sitting pretty with a five-star rating on our site, has 462 five-star reviews on Mecca’s website and it has received high praise in many, many Reddit forums. Then there’s the seven-day study Urban Decay conducted, whereby 78 per cent of their 50 participants said All Nighter helped their makeup last for 16 hours; and over 80 per cent said their makeup not only looked better, it stayed on better (even in the T-zone) without settling into fine lines. Also worth mentioning is Urban Decay’s setting sprays were all developed in partnership with Skindinavia, so all those positive points above apply to this bad-boy, too.
#3 / M.A.C Prep And Prime Fix +
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this product has the word ‘Fix’ in its name, because it’s not a fixing spray. It is formulated to do exactly what a setting spray is designed to do – melt your layers together for a flawless finish that just so happens to last, too. “I have one literally everywhere!!!” says Mackie. “With a light spritz at the end of your makeup application, caffeine and green tea extract act as anti-irritants, so it’s perfect for setting and finishing.” Fix+ also works as a refreshing spray, giving skin a final dose of nourishment after your skin care but before your makeup.
#4 / NYX Professional Makeup Setting Spray
Lightweight? Tick. Stops makeup from slipping, sliding and disappearing off your face? Tick. Can survive a car accident and hospital stay? Apparently the NYX Setting Spray delivers on that front, too, according to a fan who left a beyond-glowing review on Ulta’s website: “I was hit by a car and through the hit itself, the rain, the ambulance ride, and the hours in the hospital my makeup stayed completely intact the entire time”.
One of our Beauty Crew members, Chelsea L., also had all these wonderful things to say about it:
“A light setting spray that blends your makeup together and creates a powdered look without the dryness/cakeyness. Works great on dry and oily skin. Leaves no tackiness or white dots like some pesky setting sprays. Lasts all day for work and all night (even when sweaty). With the price I had my suspicions, but this has become my Holy Grail product and I actually have a bottle at my desk for a mid-day touch-up (not a necessary step but it's so refreshing).”
#5 / Tarte Cosmetics Rainforest Of The Sea 4-in-1 Setting Mist
And the award for prettiest packaging goes to…This stunner would probably take out the multitasking category, too, because as the product’s name suggests, it’s a multipurpose formula that primes, sets, hydrates and refreshes skin – depending on when you apply it in your beauty routine. As a setting spray, it keeps your makeup looking might fine for 12 hours.
#6 / Marc Jacobs Beauty Coconut Setting Mist
“I love the Coconut Setting Mist from Marc Jacobs Beauty - it’s got serious staying power, delivers a gorgeous, natural-looking glow and smells amazing,” says Sadsad. We also think the freeze-frame technology used in the formula is worth a mention: it sets makeup but leaves skin feeling nourished, comforted and not at all sticky. Plus, just imagine that bottle on display in your bathroom – so darn pretty.
#7 / Gerard Cosmetics Slay All Day Setting Spray
This is the best setting spray for oily skin. Since powder makeup formulas are generally the go-to for oily skin types, you’ll love how this spray helps remove your base’s powdery finish and replaces it with a naturally-dewy (not greasy) look. One Adore Beauty shopper, Stephanie, shared this review on their site: “I love this spray! I have oily-combination skin, I live in North Queensland and I recently stopped wearing foundation because I'm sick of it sweating off and looking gross half way through the day. This setting spray fixes that, it's refreshing and I also love the smell. I can wear my make up all day/night in hot, humid weather and it stays put. This has been a game-changer for me!”
The Slay Setting Spray comes in nine scents, because you know, a girl needs options.
#8 / e.l.f Matte Magic Mist & Set
You can always rely on e.l.f cosmetics to take the cake in the affordable-yet-high-performing category. On a Reddit thread that asked for drugstore makeup setting spray reviews, Redditor Ponykitty cast her vote for e.l.f: “I just finished a bottle of the ELF matte setting spray. I have fallen asleep in my makeup and still look quite decent.” Talk about long-lasting and endurable. Anyone got sensitive skin? You’ll love the addition of aloe, green tea, cucumber and vitamins A, C, and E in every bottle.
#9 / Cover FX High Performance Setting Spray
Fancy an alcohol-free formula? Done. How about some anti-pollution protection for good measure? You’ll get that with every spritz of this stuff, too. In another makeup setting spray thread on Reddit, Redditor DiamineRose reckons this one is the best of the best. “Cover FX High performance setting spray for me. I like that it doesn't have alcohol in it like a lot of brands. I got 18 hours out of a makeup look easy and it showed no signs of breaking down/cracking. And I can't keep anything on my chin usually.”
Another Redditor in a different thread claimed, “It makes me look like a Victoria's Secret Angel. Well, it doesn't, but it gives me the confidence.” We’ll take two.
A couple of other things it has going for it: It’s vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, talc-free, fragrance-free, sulphate-free, paraben-free, phthalates-free and mineral oil-free. Thank you very much.
#10 / Too Faced Hangover 3-in-1 Replenishing Primer & Setting Spray
One of the newer setting sprays to hit shelves, it didn’t take long for the Hangover Setting Spray to become a cult favourite. “I think I'm on my 6th bottle of this, and just re-ordered another one,” shared Mecca shopper ChelsChelsChels, who is just one of the 58 people to give the product a full five stars on Mecca’s website. “I really love this setting spray! I work in a restaurant, there’s a lot of running around and heat and by the end of the day my makeup is still fresh!!” shared another happy customer, JoJo 25, in her review.
A note about fixing sprays: To tell a makeup setting spray from a fixing spray, take a peek at the ingredients. If alcohol is one of the first ingredients in the list, it’s a fixing spray. Alcohol evaporates instantaneously on contact with skin, which is key to a fixing spray sealing your makeup good and proper. If you want to put your makeup in lock-down for the day, try L'Oréal Paris Infallible Fixing Mist or Maybelline New York Master Fix by Face Studio Setting Spray.
If you’re a DIY fan and are wondering how to make setting spray, a word of warning: a beauty blogger’s homemade recipe was making the rounds on the Internet a little while back. We asked an expert to weigh in on it – this was her verdict.
Did you know there’s a setting spray for perfume? Yep, we were intrigued, too – get up to speed on the one-and-only fragrance setting spray on the market.
Do you currently use a makeup setting spray? What's your favourite one? Let us know below!
Main image credit: Getty
Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.