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If you don’t already use a make-up setting spray in your make-up routine, you’re missing out. They make your make-up look less powdery and more blended, and can act as a shield against sweat and rubbing and general clumping as well. If you’re wondering how they work, or how to find a dupe, I’ve got you covered!
Types of Setting Sprays
There are two types of setting sprays:
- sprays that shield against sweat, rubbing and clumping, AND make your make-up look less powdery/more blended
- sprays that only make your make-up look less powdery and more blended (this can also help with clumping)
Confusingly, the name “setting spray” is used for both. “Fixing” is usually only used for the first type that shields.
Setting Sprays That Shield
Let’s start with the shielding and de-powdering sprays. These contain polymers dissolved in a solvent, usually alcohol. Polymers are long molecules like plastics which are great at forming films that don’t budge.
When the setting spray is sprayed onto your skin, the solvent evaporates, leaving behind the polymer. The polymer droplets merge together to form a film that holds your make-up in place and provides some waterproofing power.
The solvent also acts to dissolve your make-up slightly and help it merge together so it looks more blended. Unfortunately, if you spray too much, the solvent will dissolve your make-up and make it run, so make sure you use a fine spray (test new sprays on your hand before you ruin your face!).
These types of sprays will generally have a polymer in the first 4 ingredients. The most common polymers found in setting sprays are PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone) and AMP-acrylates copolymers.
If you’re looking for a dupe of a setting spray that works well for you, a good place to start are different setting sprays with the same polymer. While the other ingredients in the formulation will also make a difference (for example, the dewy and matte NYX setting sprays contain the same polymer, and some sprays like Algenist Splash Hydrating Setting Mist contain beneficial skincare ingredients), the polymer is crucial to how well it performs.
A lot of the same polymers are used as the holding ingredients in hairspray, so hairspray can work as a make-up setting spray in a pinch!
Examples of settings sprays that shield, sorted by polymer and listed in alphabetical order:
- Cover FX Setting Sprays
- Dermablend Makeup Setting Spray
- Hard Candy Fast and Fabulous Makeup Setting Spray
- Kat Von D Lock ‘N Load Makeup Setting Mist
- L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Spray + Set
- Mary Kay Makeup Setting Spray
- Maybelline Master Fix
- Skindinavia Makeup Finishing Sprays
- Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
- Wet ‘n’ Wild Photofocus Setting Spray
- elf Mist & Set
- L’Oreal Infallible Fixing Mist
- Make Up For Ever Mist and Fix
- Rimmel Insta Fix & Go Spray
- Ben Nye Final Seal
- Cinema Secrets Super Sealer Mattifying Setting Spray
- Model in a Bottle Original Makeup Setting Spray
Setting Sprays That Only Set
The second type of setting sprays are the ones that don’t hold make-up in place, but are used to reduce the powdery dry look and moisturise skin after makeup application. They also tend to have more beneficial skincare ingredients in them than the first type of mist, and they usually contain more humectant ingredients like butylene glycol and less alcohol. If the spray doesn’t have a polymer in the first few ingredients, it’s probably one of these.
For example, here are the first five ingredients in Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray, which shields and sets:
Aqua / Water, Alcohol Denat., PVP, Dimethicone PEG-7 Phosphate, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate
And here are the first five ingredients in MAC Prep and Prime Fix+, which only sets (confusing since it has the word “Fix” in its name!):
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract
One advantage of this type of spray is that you can usually use them as convenient skincare mists in their own right without having to worry about having a film on your face, but they won’t have anywhere near the staying powder of the shielding type. If you already have a humectant toner, you can try putting it into a spray bottle and seeing how it works – many of them will work to blend make-up this way!
Like for the first type of spray, make sure you have a fine mist, so that it doesn’t make your make-up run.
Here are some examples of this type of spray. I’ve focused on products that are recommended for use post-make-up, since those are the confusing ones:
- ArtNaturals Natural Makeup Setting Spray
- Bella Jade Botanicals Makeup Setting Spray
- Gerard Cosmetics Slay All Day Setting Spray
- GlamGlow Glowsetter Makeup Setting Spray
- Heritage Products Rosewater and Glycerin
- Innisfree Jeju Sparkling Mineral Mist
- MAC Prep and Prime Fix+
- Marc Jacobs Re(cover) Perfecting Coconut Setting Mist
- Mario Badescu Facial Spray
- Pixi Glow Mist
- Tarte Rainforest of the Sea 4-in-1 Setting Mist
How Do I Use Make-Up Setting Sprays?
Both types of spray are used the same way. After your finish applying your make-up, hold them at arm’s length and spray them across your face a few times. Most brands recommend doing it in “X” and “T” shapes.
- Close your eyes when you spray!
- Apply mascara after spraying, or wait for it to dry first.
- Take a deep breath before spraying.
- Spraying too close can lead to larger drops and your make-up running.
Now go forth and spray!
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