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If you've ever thoughtfully, carefully applied your makeup only to watch it smear at the slightest hint of humidity or sweat, you're not alone. Thankfully, this is where a setting product comes in. And while you've likely learned about the setting benefits of powder, we're here to talk about spray iterations. These products are just as capable (if not more so) of locking makeup in place for long-lasting wear. Ahead, everything there is to know about setting spray—including its purpose, how to apply it, and why it might just be a better option than your go-to powder.

woman smiling spraying setting spray on her face
Credit: Getty / RUNSTUDIO

What's the purpose of setting spray?

While the main benefit of setting spray is that it seals your makeup in place, celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek points out that, depending on the formula you choose, this product can actually offer so much more. "They also have other benefits as well," he says, noting that he prefers Catrice Prime and Fine Illuminating Dewy Glow Jumbo Setting Spray ($8, and Make Up For Ever Mist and Fix Setting Spray, ($28, "They can hydrate, mattify, or illuminate the skin. Some have sun protection and priming benefits, while others have botanicals and vitamins which prep, revitalize, and refresh your complexion prior to or after makeup application." Because of this, it's important to understand your skin type before selecting a product.

What's the best way to apply it?

Applying setting powder can be something of an art if your makeup routine is involved, but applying a spray is much less challenging. According to MAC Cosmetics senior national artist Keri Blair—who keeps MAC's Prep + Prime Fix+ ($28, in her kit—so long as you hold your bottle eight to 12 inches away from your face and move from one side to the other, you're set (pun intended!). Looking for a bit more guidance? Sesneck likes to apply setting spray in an X-shape followed by a T-shape. "I find this really gets the entire face misted properly and ensures everything is covered," he explains. "Also, I prefer a nozzle that distributes the mist in a very fine layer. Always check the mist to ensure your application is light and sheer. You don't want to end up with large droplets of product."

How does spray compare to powder?

According to Blair, the biggest difference between spray and powder is that the latter can add coverage or texture to the skin depending on how it's applied. "Powder also requires a brush, puff, or sponge for the best and most even application," she says. Speaking of texture, Blair adds that powder is often the product of choice for those looking to mattify their skin, whereas, on the whole, spray is a better option for those trying to hydrate it.

Powder also gives you more control, she notes. "Oftentimes, using a setting powder can be more effective at mattifying specific areas of the face. Using a smaller sponge or brush allows for a more controlled application," she says. "A setting spray, on the other hand, is usually meant to be used all over the face and can deliver a more delicate or veiled application."


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