Do Makeup Finishing Fixing Setting Sprays Actually Work?

Do Makeup Finishing Fixing Setting Sprays Actually Work?  Are these just expensive water or will they keep your makeup looking good for hours?

Rather than just review one brand of product, I thought I would discuss a type of product that I receive a lot of questions about.  In future posts, I’ll go into detail for some different brands of setting sprays and their positive and negative features.

Are makeup finishing, fixing or setting sprays new?  No, absolutely not.  I have been using them my entire career.  Makeup artists used to simply make them from distilled water, witch hazel, and glycerin.  I guess that is one of the major changes in makeup artistry from decades ago to today.  Makeup artists used to make a lot of their own products.  Now, everything is for sale already made, and in a plastic bottle.  Another change is that mainstream consumers are using the same products that were once only for sale to professionals.

What is a makeup finishing, fixing or setting spray?  The intent of the product is to help makeup last longer.  Some sprays also have waterproofing agents.  Some products do double duty, such as MAC Prep + Prime Fix +.  The MAC spray is intended to be sprayed on both before foundation and then again after you are completely finished with all of the powdered makeup products.  The MAC Prep + Prime works very well but I had to stop using it because I’m allergic to the fragrance in it.  Most setting or finishing sprays are only designed to be used once the makeup is completed and not as a primer, too.

Do they really make a difference or are they just a waste of money?  Yes, they do make a difference, especially for those with oily skin.  Makeup just doesn’t stay put very long on oily skin.  A setting spray can help the makeup to not fade, cake, run or settle into fine lines and wrinkles.

What is in a makeup finishing, fixing or setting spray?  That really depends upon the brand.  There are huge differences from one brand to another.  Some of them are essentially watered down hair spray.  (Yes, hair spray will keep your makeup on longer, but it is not healthy for your skin and I would never advise using it on your face.)

Makeup finishing, fixing or setting sprays for oily skin typically contain alcohol along with some acrylates and copolymers.  (These more closely resemble hair sprays.)

Makeup finishing, fixing or setting sprays for dry skin tend to be free of alcohol and they have some skin-friendly hydration ingredients.  (These more closely resemble toners.)

Is there a difference between a finishing, fixing or setting spray?  Once upon a time, yes.  But now, no there is not.  As more and more companies try to come up with names for their products that haven’t already been used or taken, the terms have become interchangeable.  The only way to really determine what a spray is good for is to read the ingredients.  Most sprays come down to basically being either spray toners or hairspray-type setting liquids.

Are they good or bad for your skin?  That depends upon the product you are using and how you are using it.  If you are only using the spray once your makeup is complete, it is not going to be absorbed by your skin due to the layers of makeup that are acting as a buffer.  If you are also using the spray as a primer, it is important that the ingredients are healthy for your skin.

Are they expensive?  The ones I’m discussing today range in price from $3.00 for 2.02 ounces to $31.00 for 4 ounces.

What is the best way to use a makeup finishing, fixing or setting spray?

  • If you have oily skin, spray some onto your beauty blender sponge instead of water.  This will help foundation to last longer.
  • To keep eye shadow from having so much fallout, spray an eye shadow brush prior to application.  (Note, doing this will intensify the color of the eye shadow, so don’t do this if you are going for a very light, soft or natural look.)
  • Once the makeup is complete with everything except lipstick, hold the bottle approximately eight to ten inches from the face.  Spray two sprays in an “X” pattern.  Spray a third spray on the center of the face to get the “T” zone.
  • When your makeup starts to fade and needs to be touched up, first blot any oily areas with a blotting paper.  Next, lightly powder the areas you blotted.  Finally, spray one or two sprays on the areas that were powdered.  Your makeup will last for another couple of hours this way.
  • Don’t hold the bottle too close to the face.
  • Don’t saturate the face; the idea is to apply the spray lightly.

What are some good and bad makeup finishing, fixing or setting sprays?  I wouldn’t say that any of them are all good or all bad.  They have different qualities and you have to select the appropriate product for your particular needs and skin type.  Personally, I can’t use any of the products that contain fragrance on myself or my clients due to my severe fragrance allergy.  Some people like products that are perfume-filled.  Here are some of the ones I have tried and which skin types they will work best for.  (Please note that as opposed to “Normal”, I use the term “Consistent” for skin that is neither dry nor oily.)

Description Size Price Alcohol Free Fragrance Free Recommended Skin Type(s) Claims
e.l.f. Makeup Mist & Set 2.02 fl. oz. $3.00 Yes Yes Combination, Consistent, Dry, Sensitive Keeps makeup in place, moisturizes and soothes
e.l.f. Matte Magic Mist & Set 2.02 fl. oz. $4.00 No Yes Consistent, Oily Controls shine, vitamin infused
L. A. Girl Pro HD Setting Spray 1.0 fl. oz. $7.00 No Yes Consistent, Oily Matte finish, lightweight, non-sticky formula
M-A-C Prep + Prime + Fix + 3.4 fl. oz. $24.00 Yes No Combination, Consistent, Dry Water mist gently soothes and refreshes skin and finishes makeup
NYX Dewy Finish Setting Spray 2.02 fl. oz. $7.99 No Yes Combination, Consistent, Oily Long lasting, dewy finish
NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray 2.02 fl. oz. $7.99 No Yes Consistent, Oily Long lasting, matte finish
Physicians Formula InstaReady Setting Spray 3.4 fl. oz. $12.99 No Yes Combination, Consistent, Oily, Sensitive High-tech formula works to instantly mattify, blur, and visibly retexturize skin
Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray 4.00 fl. oz. $31.00 No No, has LOTS of fragrance Consistent, Oily Keeps makeup looking gorgeously just-applied for up to 16 hours
Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray 4.00 fl. oz. $31.00 No No Oily Prevents makeup meltdown, controls oil, deflects surface shine and keeps skin matte


e.l.f. Studio Makeup Mist & Sete.l.f. Studio Matte Magic Mist & SetL. A. Girl Pro High Definition Setting SprayMAC Prep + Prime Fix +NYX Cosmetics Dewy Finish Setting SprayNYX Cosmetics Matte Finish Setting SprayPhysicians Formula InstaReady Setting SprayUrban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting SprayUrban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray

Where can I get more information on a particular product?  I’m going to review some of my favorites in depth in the coming weeks.  If there is a particular spray you have questions about, I’ll be happy to address those if you write to me.

Which ones work/don’t work for you?  Do you have a lot of experience with a particular brand?  Please let me know what works for you so I can share the results.  Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Do Makeup Finishing Fixing Setting Sprays Actually Work?

  1. Jennifer Caitlin Sticco says:

    Hey, did you ever actually review any of these? I can’t find any setting spray reviews on the blog.

    • L A Rose says:

      Hi Jennifer, we discussed nine sprays in this post. Was there a particular setting spray you’d like to see reviewed in depth? Thanks for your question.

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