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What Does Setting Spray Do?

Updated on December 28, 2018

Women often wonder what does setting spray do that makes it a crucial part of every makeup artist's beauty stash. Does it really work to achieve the long-lasting makeup wear? Many celebrity make-up artists such as Gloria Elias-Foeillet and Mia Yang swear by the wonders of makeup setting spray for heavy-duty wear especially during demanding events. It is like the hairspray to a perfectly made up hair, holding it in place, allowing it to last and stay up the entire day and night.

What does setting spray do?
A makeup setting spray is used at the end of a makeup session to help tie all the makeup together and make it lasts longer. A setting spray prevents smudges and budges so the makeup elements will stay in place regardless of environmental factors such as the wind and temperature changes.

Most makeup textures such as eye shadow and blush are in powdered form. When applied to the face without any support such as primer and setting spray, it can get cakey with sweat or blown out with the wind. A setting spray provides the finishing layer to hold all those elements in place.

How long does it lasts?
Most setting sprays are primed to help set make up the whole day. The time period usually means anywhere from 8 to 16 hours a day. 16 hours staying power is usually offered by specific brands and is not the standard. In fact with the 8 hours promise, it may still be necessary to put on a second spray in the middle of the day especially if the hot weather is unforgiving.

A setting spray however, should be able to prevent makeup from caking, fading, melting, and settling into fine lines even on hot, humid, cold and windy weather. Its efficiency may also depend on some factors such as having oily to combination skin. In such cases, there are specific makeup and setting spray for oily skin available in the market.

Tips on how to use makeup setting spray
Tips on how to use makeup setting spray | Source

Tips on How to Use Makeup Setting Spray

  1. It is very important to shake the bottle thoroughly before using. The contents tend to separate but needs to be homogeneous before using for a smoother finish.
  2. Hold the spray bottle a few inches away (6 to 8 inches) for an even misting. Never use it heavily in one spot. Setting spray usually has alcohol content and can dry and irritate the skin when not used accordingly.
  3. Spray it across the face in a "T" or "X" motion to cover all essential areas. Avoid getting it in your eyes. Wait for it to air dry and do not attempt to dry it out faster with a blower or the makeup can be ruined.
  4. Reapply setting spray after several hours within the day if necessary, but do not overdo it.

Makeup Tricks with Setting Sprays

  1. Use a setting spray on beauty blender before applying foundation. Dab the liquid foundation on the face. Dampen the beauty blender or foundation sponge with a setting spray before spreading the foundation evenly on the face.
  2. Use sweat-resistant sprays during hot days and hydrating setting sprays during cold climate and dry air.
  3. Some makeup and foundation would already contain SPF but it would not hurt to add a little more protection from harmful UV rays with the help of a setting spray. Use a setting spray with SPF 50 content if planning to go under the sun. Reapply it throughout the day if needed.
  4. Spray it on eyeshadow brush before applying on the eyelids. Dip the brush on the powdery eyeshadow then spray the brush with setting spray. Quickly apply on the eyelids as it will dry up fast. This will help prevent the eyeshadow from creasing and smudging.

However, this does not work well if you need to blend various colors together. If blending is necessary, simply complete the eye makeup first then close the eyes and mist around the area to set the makeup.

Can You Use Setting Spray As a Primer?

A primer is very different from a setting spray. A primer also helps hold the makeup, but it won't be as efficient when it comes to longevity, as compared to putting on a setting spray as a final touch.

A primer is used as a base before applying makeup. It is meant to smoothen out the face texture to blend the makeup easier. It helps fill in fine lines so a matte look can be achieved.

A setting spray is like the clear coat after a colored nail polish. It dries really fast so blending makeup will not be as efficient if the setting spray is used first.

Those who already have smooth and even skin do not really need to use a primer. They can directly apply the makeup and just finish it up with a setting spray. The setting spray will provide a slightly glossy finish. It is easier to use and can be sprayed again after a few hours if the climate or temperature becomes too harsh.

Tips and Warnings When Using Setting Sprays

Most settings sprays contain alcohol and different types of polymer so it is not recommended for daily and heavy use. It can easily dry out and irritate the skin. Just a light mist will go a long way.

Make sure to close both eyes and mouth before using the spray. It will really sting if it gets in the eyes and the taste won't be pleasant either.

Because of the alcohol content, those who have sensitive skin may feel a slight sting after spraying. The sensation should be gone in a few minutes, but if it continues to be painful, then there may be some irritation with the product. Wash the face and discontinue use immediately.

Checklist for Finding the Right Product for You

There are a lot of setting sprays in the market and finding one may require trying out different brands. Again, here's a checklist of what is to consider before any purchase:

  1. Longevity - Is it mostly for day or night use? Some setting sprays have an all-nighter setting spray that lasts for extended periods.
  2. Type - There are various types of settings sprays and the most popular are the mist and sprays. But there are also powder options that give a matte finish for a more flawless look.
  3. Weather conditions - There may be a need to buy several types of setting sprays depending on the climate. Hot and sunny weather may require products with SPF while the cold and dry climate needs the help of a hydrating mist to keep the skin soft.
  4. Skin type - Those with dry skin should choose a setting spray that does not contain alcohol as it can irritate the skin. Choose one with hydrating and moisturizing properties to keep the skin soft while the makeup is set.
    Oily to combination skin needs a setting spray that either gives a matte finish or is oil-free.

Setting sprays are not for everyday use. These are often necessary during important events such as weddings, photo shoots, hosting and other events that subjects a person to different exposures. It is also ideal for occasions that last the whole day, from morning to evening, so that the makeup stays in place.

Go for the best setting spray with the most positive reviews and recommendations by makeup artists because they are the ones with the most experience when it comes to makeup longevity. The best setting spray will make makeup last for hours without melting and the face should feel silky and hydrated.


  1. What are makeup setting sprays, Beauty Heaven. Retrieved on Dec 28, 2018
  2. How to use makeup setting spray, WikiHow. Retrieved on Dec 28, 2018
  3. Does setting spray really work?, Byrdie. Retrieved on Dec 28, 2018
  4. How to use makeup setting spray, ColoreScience. Retrieved on Dec 28, 2018
  5. Primer vs. Makeup Setting Spray, MakeUpandBeauty. Retrieved on Dec 28, 2018


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