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Setting Spray Guide

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The rise of beauty influencers and accessibility of makeup tutorials across the interweb has set new standards for everyday makeup applications.

Some are easy to comprehend and implement, while others are more challenging and require technical knowledge. One I can get behind and fully vouch for, however, is the use of a setting spray to complete and set my makeup.

Personally, I can’t live without them. They have made my job as a professional makeup artist easier and provided me with excellent results. Whether you like your makeup to look matte with no shine or you like a dewy finish, there is a setting spray out there to fit your needs. 

In this Setting Spray Guide, I’ll explain what setting sprays are and why they should be an essential product and step in your makeup routine. I’ll explore the different types out there and how you can assess them to choose the right one for you. Lastly, I’ll address the common concerns or questions many people have about setting sprays, and I will give my top recommendations that I have tested and used professionally and personally.

So, let’s dive straight in!

What Is Setting Spray?

Invented in 2007 by Allen Goldman for Skindinavia, setting spray is a versatile cosmetic product created to help makeup last longer and stay in place throughout the day or night. Setting spray was designed to help minimize the number of times touch-ups would need to be applied between takes on film and theater actors. 

People mainly apply them for usage as the final step in their makeup routine. They leave a thin, protective barrier over your makeup to minimize and decrease smudging, keep it from fading, and help reduce any transfer. However, since their invention, the world of setting sprays and the types available to consumers has dramatically increased and widely varies. 

setting spray
Image by: Ashley Gray

Types of Setting Sprays & How to Choose the Right One For You

Just like any other beauty product out there, there are a bunch of different types of setting sprays. Over the years, their popularity has increased, and nowadays, it’s hard to find a brand that doesn’t make one. From low-end drug stores to luxury household names, there’s something for everyone. 

All setting sprays are not created equal. Some provide a sheen or glow to the skin, while others seal the makeup in place and create a matte finish, eliminating shine. Some have pearl pigment in the formula and can be used all over the body to illuminate the skin. But I want to make this simple and easy for you to understand. 

The best way to understand a setting spray is to categorize it based on the most popular reasons people use it. Most setting sprays fall within one or more of the categories below. 

Finish Based

• Dewy Setting Spray: Dewy setting sprays provide a fresh, luminous, and hydrated look to the skin. They are best suited for people with dry skin and are a great choice if you want your complexion or makeup to look radiant and glowy.

• Matte Setting Spray: This spray is best for those with oily or combination skin types. Matte setting sprays create a shine-free finish to makeup and help control oiliness. They also help makeup last longer.

• Illuminating Setting Spray: Illuminating setting sprays typically include light-reflecting or pearl-like pigment that adds a subtle shimmer to the skin. These can be used on the face but are best used on the body where skin may be exposed.

Skincare Based

• Hydrating Setting Spray: Hydrating Setting Sprays are great for people whose skin needs a boost of moisture before makeup application. These can be used as a part of your skin prep process when you’re getting ready to complete an entire look.

• Refreshing Setting Spray: This type can be used throughout the course of a day to refresh the skin whether you are wearing makeup or not. They typically do not focus on increasing the wearability of makeup but are great if you are looking for a slight boost or dopamine hit throughout your day. Usually, these come as a fine mist and are water-based.


• Long-Lasting Setting Spray: Long-Lasting Setting Sprays are formulated to increase the wear time of your makeup. They are great for people who can’t touch up their faces throughout a long day and help to hold makeup in place for an extended amount of time.

• Bridal Setting Spray: This spray is best for weddings or formal events. Most bridal setting sprays extend the wear time of makeup, provide a waterproof barrier, and are great for controlling oil.

• 2-in-1 Setting and Priming Spray: 2-in-1 Setting Sprays can be used as a part of the skin prep process when applying your makeup as a primer and can also be used to seal and lock in the makeup at its completion. As a primer, these sprays typically add hydration to the skin and create a smoother surface for makeup to adhere to.

• SPF Setting Spray: As the name suggests, these are setting sprays that provide sun protection, essential for everyday wear. SPF setting sprays typically give a luminous glow to the skin and usually contain an SPF level of 30 or less. These are best suited to apply mid-day after sunscreen applied during your skincare routine has worn off.

• Facial Setting Spray: These mists are specifically formulated for people with sensitive skin. These sprays contain gentle skincare ingredients that reduce the risk of irritation or breakouts. Many of them help soothe and hydrate problematic skin.

As you can now see, there are so many different types of setting spray, and they all have different functions or uses. Some are better used before makeup, and some are great for repetitive use throughout the day. Depending on which one you choose, they all have a very similar way to be applied.

What’s the Best Type of Setting Spray for Dry Skin?

The best setting sprays for people with normal to dry skin are:
• Dewy Setting Sprays
• Hydrating Setting Sprays
• 2-in-1 Setting Sprays
• Refreshing Setting Sprays

These types of setting sprays add extra moisture to the skin and provide a natural luminosity to the finish of your makeup. Choosing one is favorable for people with normal to dry skin or who prefer a more glowy look.

What’s the Best Type of Setting Spray for Oily/Combination Skin?

For those with oily or combination skin, the best options to consider are:
• Matte Setting Sprays
• Long Lasting Setting Sprays
• Refreshing Setting Sprays

People with oily or combination skin need makeup products that smooth texture, control oiliness, and are long wearing. Luckily, many setting sprays help to do these things.

What’s the Best Type of Setting Spray for Sensitive Skin?

• SPF Setting Sprays
• Refreshing Setting Sprays
• Hydrating Setting Sprays
• Facial Setting Sprays

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, it’s best to use a setting spray that will act as a soothing agent for your skin. Most setting sprays are non-comedogenic and don’t cause breakouts. However, I recommend using one made for sensitive skin that can be a part of your skincare routine.

How to Apply Makeup Setting Spray Correctly

Image by: Ashley Gray

Now that we’ve broken down the different types of setting sprays let’s get into how to apply them accurately.

Step 1: Extend your arm 8-10 inches away from your face or body. Doing this gives you the best chance of an even application, and you will avoid spraying too much of the product in one area.

Step 2: Spritz 3-4 sprays. If the product is more of a mist inside an aerosol can spray for 3-4 seconds while holding my finger on the pump.

Step 3: While spraying, simultaneously rotate your face or the chosen body part from left to right to ensure that you have applied it evenly.

Step 4: As the setting spray is drying, check for droplets or places where the product is heavily concentrated.

Step 5: If droplets exist, take a damp beauty blender and blend those areas. If you allow a droplet of the spray to dry without blending it, the spot will still show once it is dry, leaving a visible residue behind.

Step 6: If everything is sprayed evenly, use your hand or a small fan to dry the product in place quickly.

Brand Spotlight: Top Makeup Setting Sprays According to a Pro

As a professional makeup artist, I have used almost every setting spray worth trying. I currently own 6 in my kit and switch between purchasing ten different ones. I have tested about 15 of them in total. So here’s my quick and short list of the setting sprays I recommend if you’re discovering them for the first time.


Skindinavia The Makeup Finishing Spray ($29)

skandinavia the makeup finishing spray

Aside from being the FIRST makeup setting spray ever created, Skindinavia offers a complete range of makeup finishing sprays for all types of makeup wearers.

Their lineup includes their infamous Bridal Spray, which has a time-released technology that effectively holds makeup in place for 16+ hours. They offer a formula specific for oil control, one that provides a natural finish, and they also have a line of primer sprays to be used before makeup application.

MAC Cosmetics Fix+ Spray ($33)

mac cosmetics fix+spray
Image by: Ashley Gray

An OG that takes me back to my MAC counter days. This was the very first setting spray I was ever introduced to as a professional artist. Aside from how great and multi-functional it is, it remains in my kit for sentimental and nostalgic reasons. This spray is excellent for all skin types and can be used in a multitude of ways to enhance eyeshadow, prep the skin, and, of course, lock makeup in place. This particular setting spray provides a natural finish.

Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray ($36)

urban decay all nighter setting spray

This setting spray may or may not need an introduction. It’s an OG in the beauty community as one of the first “influencer hyped” setting sprays to effectively extend makeup wear. It’s suitable for all skin types and provides a natural finish. Since its launch, Urban Decay has expanded its collection of setting sprays to include different finishes that range from dewy to oil-controlling.

Ben Nye Final Seal ($10)

ben nye final spray

Aside from having a minty smell, this setting spray is my holy grail and a go-to for people who sweat profusely or are in extreme conditions. This product is designed with theater actors and performers in mind who would be performing for hours at once under very hot lighting. While it’s not the most modern take on a setting spray, it has been around for ages and is a tried and true staple amongst artist pros who service brides or performers.

Finish Based

Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist ($49)

Image by: Ashley Gray

t’s pricey but worth it for people who love a dewy skin finish. I primarily only use it on clients with normal to dry skin, as that’s who it’s most suitable for. This one is great as a skin care mist, providing an instant moisture boost to the skin. I also love applying it after makeup and all over the body where the skin is exposed when I am going for a more editorial look and want to achieve a radiant glow.

My Pro Tip: This spray WILL leave droplets or residue on your skin if it is not sprayed evenly or correctly. Remember to blend them out quickly and avoid spraying over the eye area. The formula keeps mascara from thoroughly drying and will cause it to run if sprayed on top of it.

NYX Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray ($10)

nyx matte finish fini mat

This setting spray is such a great and affordable product. I love using this one for clients with oily skin or who prefer a matte finish to their makeup look. Because of its oil-controlling and shine-minimizing abilities, it helps to extend makeup wear for 8 hours.

One Size On Til Dawn Mattifying Waterproof Setting Spray ($32)

one size on til dawn mattifying spray
Image by: Ashley Gray

Everything this product does is directly in the name. It is currently my favorite finishing setting spray and has truly made my job as a pro-MUA so much easier.

It is super effective at waterproofing; therefore, it’s my go-to for brides or formal events where emotions may run high. When I use this product, I don’t have to worry about touch-ups as frequently. It will hold makeup in place for hours in extreme conditions such as high temperatures/humidity or a torrential downpour.

Skincare Based

Mario Badescu Rose Water Facial Spray ($12)

mario badescu facial spray

This one is quite multi-functional for people who like a radiant finish or have sensitive skin. It contains aloe, rosewater, and other herbs that soothe inflammation, increase moisture, and calm redness. I keep this one in my kit for those exact reasons, just in case someone has a sensitivity issue and their skin needs more love. It can also be used as a little pick-me-up for no-makeup days as a refreshing spray.

If you want to try one of the setting sprays listed above, the best place to purchase one is either online, in Ulta, or in Sephora. I recommend choosing the setting spray based on your desired outcome and skin type. Be sure to ask yourself the right questions to ensure you’re picking the correct one.

Makeup Setting Spray Hacks & Tips

Aside from all that I mentioned above that setting sprays are capable of, did you know they can be used in other ways to enhance your makeup and routine? Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite hacks and tips for setting spray to unlock its full potential.


• When applying shimmer or foil eyeshadows, dip your brush into the pan to pick up the desired amount of product. Then, lightly spritz the brush with the product and apply it in a patting motion onto the eyes. The result is a more intensified and pigmented eyeshadow look that will make the color stand out 10x greater. Doing this will also minimize fallout.
• Have a shadow that you wish were an eyeliner? Take an angled eyeliner brush or a pencil eyeshadow brush, adhere the product to the brush, spritz with setting spray, and then line your eye whichever way you see fit. With this method, you can make any texture eyeshadow a beautiful eyeliner that looks effortless.
• Most people apply mascara towards the end of their routine, and it may have needed more time to fully dry before you set your face with a setting spray. So, always apply mascara after you have used setting spray, or cover the eyes altogether. Doing so will ensure your eyeliner or mascara does not run or smudge throughout the night.


• No worries if you’ve applied too much powder and your makeup looks cakey. Take your setting spray and apply it liberally to help the powder melt into your skin—the result is less dryness/cakiness and a more natural look.
• You can prevent your concealer from creasing by applying setting spray on a sponge and lightly pressing over the concealed area to lock it in place. Follow this step by setting with a setting powder using a brush or a powder puff.
• Use a setting spray before applying any makeup as a primer. It helps create a hydrated base for the foundation to adhere to, giving a smoother finish.

My Pro Tip: It’s important to remember that not all setting sprays are the same, so always consider the finish and formula of your setting spray when trying these hacks and tips. Always start with a light application and build up as needed to ensure you do everything correctly and keep the gorgeous look you’ve created.


Question: How long does makeup stay in place with a setting spray?

Answer: The longevity of makeup with a setting spray will vary depending on the product and your skin type. However, many setting sprays are designed to keep makeup intact for several hours, often throughout the day or night.

Question: What are the differences between matte, dewy, and illuminating setting sprays?

Answer: Matte setting sprays provide a shine-free finish, ideal for controlling oil. Dewy sprays add a hydrated, luminous glow to the skin. Illuminating sprays contain light-reflecting particles for a radiant complexion.

Question: Can setting sprays prevent makeup from transferring onto clothing or masks?

Answer: Setting sprays can help minimize makeup transfer but may not entirely prevent it. I recommend using a setting powder to lock in your makeup for extra protection.

Question:  Can I use a setting spray as a primer?

Answer: While setting sprays are not typically used as primers, some products can serve a dual purpose. Traditional primers are specifically formulated to create a smooth canvas for makeup application, so I’d recommend using a dedicated primer for your skin type and desired makeup look.

Setting Spray Guide: Conclusion

There are many different types of setting sprays available for you to choose from. The best way to find one that suits your needs is to assess your skin type first and then select an option from there that will give you the results you’re looking for.

Each skin type has its categories or types of setting sprays that will provide the appropriate finish. However, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting. Remember that the spray’s finish will determine the additional benefits or ways you can use them. A rule of thumb is to go for multi-functional sprays if you want to use them to amp up eyeshadow or mix with another makeup product.

The price of setting sprays is independent of the quality and effectiveness. Therefore, I encourage you to try some that are high-end and some that are cost-effective. Be sure to let us know which of these you try and how you decide to incorporate them into your makeup routine.

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