If you’re the type of person who enjoys wearing makeup, you might be looking to prolong its wear and maintain a matte or dewy finish throughout the day, depending on your skin type. Makeup setting sprays — also called finishing sprays — are typically formulated with mattifying ingredients like polymers and alcohol or hydrating ingredients such as vitamins B and E. Some setting sprays even offer “an extra boost of sun protection,” but they will not replace your face sunscreen, explained board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD.
According to makeup artist Lucas Bowman, setting sprays are especially helpful during special events like weddings and proms (and you’ll find them in both full-size and travel-friendly options). Bowman, who regularly preps brides for weddings, noted setting sprays help “blend and smooth makeup lightly,” which allows the skin to “look more natural and less powdery.” Finishing sprays also “form a physical barrier or film over makeup,” which helps to prevent cosmetics from rubbing off, according to board-certified dermatologist Nava Greenfield, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group.
While face mask mandates vary across the country, if you opt to sport makeup with a face mask, then misting your skin with a finishing spray can also help prevent your cosmetics from transferring, celebrity makeup artists Scott Barnes and Lisa Aharons previously told us.
How to shop for makeup setting sprays
The experts we consulted, including makeup artist Mia Jones, recommend using makeup finishing sprays made with ingredients that “best suit your skin type.” For example, if you have oily skin, you’ll benefit from mattifying ingredients like oil-absorbing charcoal while sensitive skin will likely appreciate finishing sprays formulated with calming aloe vera extract. Jones prefers a dewy look and will stock her kit with glow-enhancing sprays made with hydrating ingredients such as squalene and glycerin. If you have acne-prone skin, you’ll see the most benefits from an oil-free and non-comedogenic spray, noted Garshick.
Where to find makeup setting sprays
Makeup artists and dermatologists share their go-to finishing spray suggestions for various skin types, including oily and dry skin. We also gathered a couple of top-rated picks based on their guidance that are worth considering this summer season — all of them available at major stores like Amazon and Target, plus Nordstrom and Sephora.
Best makeup setting spray overall: Charlotte Tilbury
Makeup artist Nydia Figueroa recommended this “amazing” finishing spray created by noted celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury because it boasts “incredible staying power” and “prevents makeup from settling into fine lines” on her mature clients. Tilbury’s oil- and alcohol-free formula contains polymers to help prolong wear and Japanese green tea for moisture. The Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray earned a 4.4-star average rating from more than 700 reviews at Sephora.
Best makeup setting spray for dry skin: Tatcha
Jones called this face spray one of her “favorites” because it is “hydrating, nourishing and helps the makeup look like skin.” The Luminous Dewy Skin Mist contains hadasei-3, Tatcha’s signature ingredient that combines green tea, red algae and rice. This setting spray boasts a 4-star average rating from more than 1,840 reviews at Sephora.
Best light-weight makeup setting spray: Be a 10
Be a 10 Begin 2 End Primer Spray
Figueroa “absolutely loves” this “incredible” makeup setting spray because it produces a “light” mist that “doesn’t oversaturate the skin,” plus it is formulated with hydrating ingredients like coconut water. It also contains antioxidant-rich rhubarb root, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. She also likes to apply this setting spray throughout the day to help refresh her makeup, leaving behind a natural glow.
Best makeup setting spray for oily skin: LimeLife by Alcone
LimeLife by Alcone Time Setter Spray
When Figueroa wants a client’s makeup to last for 16 hours, she’ll spritz on this finishing spray either before or after applying makeup. Time Setter has an oil-free formula, which is helpful for those with oily skin as it won’t clog pores that lead to acne. It also contains aloe vera extract, which is well-known for soothing the skin.
Best makeup setting spray for weddings: Make Up For Ever
“I couldn’t do makeup without it,” said Bowman. “I work with lots of brides and want to make sure their makeup is not going anywhere and this setting spray always delivers.” Bowman noted he has relied on Make Up For Ever’s setting spray for years and called it a “staple” in his professional kit. This alcohol-free spray contains moisturizing ingredients such as hydrogenated castor oil and sea water. The Mist & Fix Hydrating Setting Spray earned a 4.3-star average rating from more than 170 reviews on Amazon.
Best SPF makeup setting spray: Coola
Garshick suggested Coola’s “lightweight” makeup setting spray because it provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 coverage. She also finds that it helps reduce shine and keeps makeup in place “all day long.” In addition, this spray contains two well-regarded skin care ingredients: hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing aloe vera extract. Coola Makeup Setting Sunscreen Spray received a 4-star average rating from nearly 1,170 reviews at Ulta.
Best clean makeup setting spray: Tarte
Greenfield “loves” Tarte’s setting spray because it contains marula oil which is both anti-inflammatory and hydrating. Her recommendation is also made with soothing rose and cucumber waters. Tarte Maracuja Miracle Mist earned the Clean at Sephora distinction, meaning Tarte is “transparent” with product formulations and sourcing of ingredients. The approval also means Tarte does not use synthetic ingredients — parabens, phthalates, and more — in any of its products sold at the beauty retailer.
Top-rated affordable makeup setting spray: Milani
Milani Make It Last Setting Spray
This relatively affordable finishing spray earned 4.4-star average rating from nearly 620 reviews at Ulta. The second ingredient on the product label is alcohol denat, meaning Make It Last will help mattify greasy skin. Hydrating niacinamide and glycerin, however, will help restore some moisture to the skin. There is also antioxidant-rich watermelon extract.
Top-rated makeup setting spray for travel: Fenty Beauty
Shopping readers are keen on Rihanna’s Fenty Skin and Fenty Beauty lines, and her Baby What It Dew makeup setting spray is a viable option to keep in your makeup bag. The cruelty-free product is formulated with a blend of hydrating borage and cornflower extracts. Fenty Beauty says its finishing spray also leaves behind a light rose scent. The travel-size version earned a 4.7-star average rating from more than 90 reviews at Fenty Beauty while the full-size spray earned a 4.4-star average rating from more than 240 reviews at the site.
Makeup setting spray application tips
The makeup experts we consulted also shared a few setting spray tips they’ve learned over the years.
- One of Bowman’s “all-time favorite tips” is to spray a foundation brush and “lightly pass it over the skin to really lock in the makeup” and ensure it covers the entire face.
- Hold the finishing spray at least six inches away from your face and spray using X and cross-motions to be sure your entire face is covered, said Figueroa.
- After misting her clients, Jones likes to use a makeup sponge to “lightly press” the spray into the makeup.
- Transform your powder eyeshadows into eyeliner by spritzing the bristles of your thin eyeliner brush with the finishing spray, suggested Figueroa. You can also “make your eyeshadows pop” by misting the bristles of your shadow brush with setting spray.
- Leave your makeup setting spray in your full-size refrigerator or mini skincare fridge for a “cooling and calming effect” to your face in the mornings, recommended Bowman.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.