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What Does Setting Spray Do?

It’s a must-have whether you love minimal makeup or full glam.

December 13, 2023


There are three types of people probably reading this right now — those who don’t know or use setting spray, those who know what it is but haven’t quite figured out how to make it work for them or they feel like they can take it or leave it, and the die-hard setting spray lovers out there. Touted as the holy grail for making makeup stay in place all day, setting spray could be the difference between having a face full of glam stay intact through a celebration or having a face full of glam sliding down your collar before the cocktails are served. The latter group knows this.

This simple makeup product can help your foundation, concealer, eyeshadow, and whatever else you have on stay put. All. Day. Long. So whether you’re new to the world of makeup spray, or still trying to find one that’s effective, take notes because we’re about to teach you all about your new beauty essential. Here, learn everything you need to know, including what setting spray really does and the scoop on our best makeup setting sprays.

What Is Setting Spray?

It’s so disheartening to see all of your hard work — because applying a full face of makeup can definitely be hard work — fade away before lunchtime. That’s where makeup setting spray comes in to save the day. Think of it as a top coat for your makeup. You spritz it on your face, over your makeup, as the last step of your routine and it helps keep your look from fading, transferring or migrating throughout the day.

Do You Put Setting Spray on Before or After Makeup?

Setting spray is meant to be used after you’ve applied your makeup, as its purpose is to “set” your look in place. Don’t get me wrong, we’re always here for an unorthodox use of makeup products, but if you’re new to setting spray reserve it for the end of your application process. 

Some pro makeup artists will use setting spray during the application process to set each layer of face products (meaning, they spritz after foundation, then after concealer, then after blush — you get the idea). But this is a complex technique that takes skill to prevent the final look from appearing cakey or stiff. If you plan to do this, practice with your daily makeup first — don’t experiment on a special occasion!

Do You Really Need Setting Spray?

If you find yourself in a rush and therefore asking, does setting spray really make a difference, the answer is a resounding yes! Just like you use hairspray to hold and enhance your hairstyle, a makeup spray does the same for your makeup. We know it’s not always easy to keep your makeup looking fresh from morning through the end of the day, but setting spray can help keep the need for midday touch-ups to a minimum. The whole purpose of using a makeup finishing spray is to help prevent your makeup from sliding, smudging, creasing, or fading quickly. You can take a chance and forgo it, but you’ll find out quickly how much of a difference it makes.

Do You Need Makeup Primer and Setting Spray?

Many people believe that setting spray and makeup primer are pretty much the same thing because they can both contribute to a long-lasting makeup look, but they aren’t the same.

Makeup finishing spray is sometimes similar to makeup primer, but you use setting spray as the final step in your makeup application. Makeup primer is a product used pre application to create an even base for your products to lay on. Primers typically come in creams and gel form but can sometimes come as a spray.

On the flip side, makeup setting spray is used to lock in your look; it’s a finishing touch. With that said, there are makeup setting sprays that double as primer sprays and can be used to start and end your makeup looks. Just pay attention to the labels on your products to know if you’re working with a double-duty spray.

If you’re looking for a face primer that blurs the look of pores and smoothes skin over time try L’Oréal Primer Prime Lab Up to 24H Pore Minimizer
. There’s also a formula to reduce dullness, reduce redness, and reduce excess shine.
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Is Setting Spray Bad For Your Skin?

It’s common to hear that specific makeup products are bad for skin, including makeup setting sprays. But that’s not always true. Not paying attention to the ingredients in your setting spray can cause your skin to freak out. If you have sensitive skin, for example, find a makeup spray that’s fragrance-free and formulated with ingredients you know your skin won’t react to, like hyaluronic acid, green tea, or aloe water, to keep your skin in healthy shape. When you find a formula that complements your skin type, you should be good to go. And as with any face product, if you don’t follow the directions for proper usage, you may not see the results you’re looking for.

Is Setting Spray or Powder Better?

Since you’re now well-versed on the purpose of setting spray, you may be wondering if setting powder is a better option. After all, both products are similar in the way they can help extend the life of your makeup. However, makeup finishing sprays and finishing powders have a few differences that you should note. 

Setting powder may be a better pick for someone with oily skin or one who prefers a matte finish. If you have dry skin and want a dewy glow, setting spray could be more suitable. Of course, there are mattifying sprays and glow-boosting powders, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.

Our Favorite L’Oréal Paris Makeup Setting Spray

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray is a long-lasting formula with a micro-fine texture to help set your look after you’ve finished putting on your makeup for a just-applied look all day and night. Especially perfect for those with oily or combination skin, this oil-free offering is lightweight and non-comedogenic to give your makeup a refreshed and balanced feel.

After you’ve finished applying your makeup, shake the bottle, hold the spray eight to ten inches from your face, and spritz it in an “X” and “T” motion. Just make sure to avoid spraying it directly in your eyes.

Next: Do You Apply Concealer or Foundation First?

Photo Design: Sarah Duvivier

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