Setting sprays for makeup are like hairspray for your face, but not in an overly lacquered, old-school way. Rather, a setting spray should simply be the final step in any makeup routine. It can also be used throughout the day to refresh color cosmetics and should feel light and breathable—but still leave your makeup looking flawless, no matter how much you perspire.
As a self-described sweaty monster, I keep a setting spray in every bag I own, as well as on my desk and vanity. But because of how much I rely on them, I'm always looking for the most foolproof, stay-put formulas. And despite not wanting any makeup to budge after I muster up the effort to paint my face, I won’t use the super-strong, alcohol-based sprays that many Broadway performers and pageant queens use—not only is the texture tacky, but the smell is also foul, and frankly, you don’t want any of that stuff going near your mouth or your eyes. Plus, the best setting sprays are totally versatile—they’re hydrating face mists and can also prime skin with vitamins and antioxidants to help fend off free radical damage, even out your complexion, and give skin the necessary hydration it needs to avoid potential dryness or flaky spots. They kind of do it all, so it's important to get a good one.
But which one is right for you? Always up for a challenge, I tested well over 50 setting sprays in the past few weeks, and these are the 13 very best. See them be revealed below and make this the summer of finding the best setting spray.
Although GlamGlow is known best for their killer face masks with, well, glamorous packaging, it turns out their setting spray is just as good as their fan-favorite, zit-clearing Supermud mask. Not only does it have GlamGlow’s signature “Teaoxi” blend of antioxidant-full green, white, and red teas, but the ultra-fine, sweet-smelling mist happens to look extra-chic in its bright pink packaging. Bonus: It’s got caffeine to help wake up tired skin, perfect for your 3pm slump.
GlamGlow, GlowSetter Makeup Setting Spray, $32, available at Sephora.
Although Inglot may not be a household name in the States yet, consider it Europe's equivalent of M.A.C Cosmetics—it’s that widespread and well-known. What’s particularly impressive is that this was one of the strongest (if slightly tacky) formulas that I tried, and yet comes in at one of the most affordable prices. Plus, it’s TSA-friendly for your summer trips, unscented for your allergic-to-fragrance friends, and paraben-free. The Makeup Fixer also has black pearl extract, which helps boost radiance.
Inglot, Makeup Fixer, $18, available at Macy's.
This one was probably my favorite considering the seasonally induced oil slick I’ve got going on, but it's a fan-favorite, too: It’s currently sold-out on Sephora. And understandably so: It’s packed with kaolin, a clay known for soaking up sebum, excess oil, and grime, and features Enatia Chlorantha Bark Extract, which works as both an anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial agent, keeping current or future breakouts to a minimum.
Cover FX, Mattifying Setting Spray, $31, available at Sephora.
Setting sprays have always been a bit pricey, and with good reason—the ones that are legit really work, making them worth the cost. But I’ve found the first cheap AF formula that works just as well as its pricier counterparts (and is TSA friendly, too). It’s also got that anti-redness, keeping-things-clean Enatia Chlorantha Bark Extract, but does not have the polymers that most setters have, which act like glue and form a protective film over makeup. This formula uses alcohol under the moniker butylene glycol, so you’ll want to avoid it if your skin errs on the sensitive side (and definitely avoid using anywhere near your mouth or eyes). But you know what? It kept my makeup budge-proof after hours of laying out by the pool and sweating.
Essence, Instant Matt Make-Up Setting Spray, $5, available in July on EssenceMakeup.com.
What makes this setting spray stand apart from the rest is its gel formulation; most other setting sprays are made up of liquids. Once misted, the gel's polymers form a veil, soaking away excess sebum, oil, and grime while depositing moisture underneath, too. Make sure to hold this one an extra few inches away—the gel mist is thicker than the rest.
Shiseido, Ibuki Quick Fix Mist, $25, available at Sephora.
Forget Photoshop, this drugstore favorite gives you all the filtering you need. Like most other setting sprays, this one too has polymers, but it also has the light-diffusing particles of a blur cream, helping to cover imperfections, blemishes, and fine lines with a super-fine mist. Get ready for your selfie, because this spray will really up your game.
Physicians’ Formula, #InstaReady Setting Spray, $13, available at Ulta.
When Urban Decay became one of the first makeup brands to have a setting spray, they turned to the right place: The folks at Skindinavia, who created a line of pro-level setting mists and fixers that, again, unlike most, do not leave behind a sticky feel or residue and come with a time-release technology that allows the formula to work over a longer period of time. Plus, with this formula, the film is more like a web, which keeps you cooler and lets your skin breathe. It’s amazing during summer wedding season, just saying.
Urban Decay, Chill Makeup Setting Spray, $31, available at Sephora.
Like everything else Too Faced (Peaches and Cream, for instance), their brand-new setting spray has a sweet smell that fans of the line will love. The Hangover Setting Spray, as it's cheekily called, is made with coconut water and full of rehydrating electrolytes (which is also why you guzzle Gatorade or Pedialyte to cure a nasty hangover after boozing too hard) and potassium, which helps brighten skin. It’s also got those good-for-you bacteria, probiotics, which not only help eat away at potential acne but also fix any problems created by a lotta makeup and a long night. Think Too Faced had a specific customer in mind?
Too Faced, Hangover Rx 3-in-1 Replenishing and Spray, $32, available at Sephora.
Free of silicone, alcohols, or oils, this product is the one that Smashbox global pro lead artist Lori Taylor Davis always has in her kit. “It’s a triple threat,” she says, as it can create a sheer canvas when used as a primer, a refreshing mist when you need a bit of awakeness, and, of course, as a superior setting mist. It's particularly suited for dry skin types as it’s infused with electrolytes, you really can’t use too much of this spray.
Smashbox, Photo Finish Primer Water, $32, available at Sephora.
It’s hard to find a product that garners stellar reviews across the web: Between beauty sites, message boards, and sub-Reddits like Makeup Addiction, it’s rare to find a product that’s universally lauded. That’s not the case for this L’Oreal setting spray, which was created as part of the brand’s Infallible Pro Collection, inspired by and created for—you guessed it—makeup pros. The non-aerosol mist was probably the most finely milled of all of the sprays I tried, yet has several different polymers to create a veil that infuses skin with hydrating ingredients like dimethicone and aloe leaf juice.
L’Oreal Paris, Infallible Makeup Setting Spray, $17, available at Ulta.
Kat Von D’s beauty line has earned cult-favorite status among beauty junkies and makeup artists alike for its superior pigmentation, staying power, and pro-style application. Actually a reformulation of her old Lock ‘N Load Setting Mist, this formula promises 24 hours of budge-proof makeup, an incredible eight hours longer than any other setting spray claims. And they’re right: This shit made my eyeliner last through 75 MINUTES of hot vinyasa yoga. Like the rest of the KVD line, it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and devoid of any animal-derived ingredients.
Kat Von D, Lock-It Makeup Setting Mist, $26, available at Sephora.
If you’ve got sensitive skin, reach for this setting mist, which is chock-full of beneficial ingredients and free of any traditional allergens. The spa-like fragrance—attributed to the orange peel oil—is what also helps reduce any puffiness and promote collagen production even while your makeup is at work. It’s also got relaxing lavender oil, a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient as well.
Tarte, Rainforest of the Sea 4-in-1 Marine Boosting Mist, $25, available at Tarte Cosmetics.
This mineral-rich formula has a slew of positive reviews across the Internet for good reason: The blend of antioxidants garnered from the green tea, chamomile, and cucumber extract help soothe and protect skin from any environmental stressors, while the butene glycol keeps everything in place. It’s also great to dip your shadow brush in if you’re looking to make any powder formulas have a more liquid-like finish, not to mention stay in place.
MAC Cosmetics, Prep + Prime Fix +, $24, available at Ulta.