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9 best setting sprays for every skin type

Whether you prefer a matte or glowy finish, perfect and polish your make-up look with these formulas

Ellie Fry
Thursday 20 May 2021 16:05
<p>Setting sprays can be used to prime the skin, in between make-up layers and to set the face</p>

Setting sprays can be used to prime the skin, in between make-up layers and to set the face

Whether you have dry, dehydrated skin or an oily complexion, any carefully crafted make-up look will benefit from a setting spray, to lock all your hard work into place. Long gone are the days of fixing mists being the reserve of full coverage, matte looks (although there’s plenty of options for that); now the market is full of products catered to every finish; from radiant, dewy skin to soft-focused, powdered finishes.

While a setting spray is predominantly designed to fix your make-up in place, it’s a far more versatile addition to your beauty arsenal than you might think.

As well as its primary function, you can use it in replacement of a primer to prep the skin, after liquids and creams to set if you don’t like the heavier finish of a powder, or even on your make-up brushes before applying a highlighter or shimmer eyeshadow to intensify the finish on the skin.

But how do I know which setting spray to choose, we hear you ask. That’s the trickiest part, as not all setting sprays are created equal, and few actually deliver on their promises. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you by testing a range of formulas that claim to deliver different finishes and skincare benefits, to find a setting spray for every skin type and make-up look.

As we mentioned above, it’s important to note that not all setting sprays are designed to make your make-up last all day, some are more geared to delivering hydration and glow, for example. With this in mind, We’ve specified what each product reviewed below is best suited to.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best setting sprays of 2021 are:

  • Best overall: Charlotte Tilbury airbrush flawless setting spray: £26, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for oily skin: Urban Decay all nighter ultra matte setting spray: £19.50, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for dry skin: Mac prep + prime: £21, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for a natural glow: Anastasia Beverly Hills dewy set: £27, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best weightless, barely-there feel: Morphe continuous setting mist: £16, Feelunique.com
  • Best for serious glow: Iconic London prep set glow: £22, Boots.com
  • Best matte finish on a budget: L’Oreal infallible magic setting spray mist: £9.99, Superdrug.com
  • Best soft-focused finish: e.l.f stay all night micro-fine setting mist: £7.20, Boots.com
  • Best for smooth skin: Benefit the porefessional super setter long-lasting setting spray: £26, Lookfantastic.com

Charlotte Tilbury airbrush flawless setting spray

Best: Overall

When it comes to increasing the longevity of your make-up, this is the only product that has ever come close to Urban Decay’s all-nighter setting spray in our books. We’ve been cult fans of that one for years, but Charlotte Tilbury’s mist, which launched last year, has taken the top spot for its ability to deliver long wear as well as radiance; a previously impossible feat in the setting spray world. Usually, you have to sacrifice one for the other; but this formula lives up to its name, providing a soft-focus, airbrush finish to the skin that doesn’t appear dull or matte, but truly locks your make-up in place all day.

The subtle scent is fresh and not overpowering, and the fine mist dries down nearly instantly, blending and setting your make-up seamlessly without making the skin look flat. Like many other Charlotte Tilbury products, the formula oozes skin-loving ingredients including green tea and aloe vera, meaning it can be used as a primer as well as a fixing spray.

Promising 16-hour make-up insurance, we were amazed at how polished our face looked after a full day’s wear, especially when considering the lack of compromise in the glow stakes. During testing, our make-up survived hours of face mask-wearing, being caught in the rain and long workouts. It’s by no means as glowy as other make-up setting sprays in this list, but unlike other matte, long-wearing mists, it lifts the skin and adds subtle radiance. At £26, it’s pricey, but we can’t be without it.

Read the full Charlotte Tilbury airbrush flawless setting spray review

Urban Decay all nighter ultra matte setting spray

Best: For oily skin

Its genius temperature control technology (present in the brand’s whole setting spray range) prevents sweat and oils from breaking down make-up – even when braving the tube in the depths of summer, our maquillage stays put after applying this mist. Unlike many other setting sprays, this formula is oil-free, making it a great option for acne-prone skin. The finish is undoubtedly matte, so if that’s not your bag, opt for the original all nighter spray, but this is truly a godsend if you’re a matte lover looking for some extra longevity.

The OG of the longwear make-up game, Urban Decay’s all-nighter needs little introduction. Its original formula has been a holy grail product for full-coverage lovers for years, but the brand has recently expanded its line to create sprays with different finishes, from matte to radiant. The matte formula is our top pick for those with oily skin, as even the shiniest of foreheads will be subdued with this heavy-duty formula.

Read the full Urban Decay all nighter setting spray review

Mac prep + prime fix+

Best for: For dry skin

A make-up artist favourite, Mac’s fix+ is one of the most versatile setting sprays we tested. With a serious skincare focus, the formula is packed with vitamins and skin-soothing ingredients including aloe vera and algae extract. As the mist is so fine and hydrating, we loved using this at different stages of our make-up application, including as a primer, to melt liquid and powder layers together and as a finishing spray. It delivers a dewy, radiant finish that doesn’t look too shiny, and the formula is also oil-free, so its fine to use on acne-prone skin too.

Claiming to keep make-up looking “fresh for 12 hours”, our oily skin didn’t quite make it that far as there was a bit of disruption around the T-zone and our foundation faded slightly around the mouth, but on the whole, it did still look fresh and healthy by the time we got to removing our make-up. We love spritzing this throughout the day for extra hydration and would say it’s a must-have for drier skin types who find other setting sprays too matte or drying. There’s a range of scents to choose from, but sensitive skins should opt for the original.

Anastasia Beverly Hills dewy set setting spray

Best: For a natural glow

The perfect setter for anyone who hates matte skin, this gives a gorgeous glow in all the right places, without being sweaty or shiny-looking. We have to mention the packaging here, as the glittery bottle looks brilliant on our dresser, and the applicator gives you good control over how much product you want to apply. We’d usually write this formula off for oily skin types, as it does contain castor oil, but our make-up stayed put surprisingly well for a product that’s all about dew rather than longevity, and the healthy-looking glow stayed strong all day long. Our oily-skinned tester is a glowy convert after trying this spray out.

Morphe continuous setting mist

Best: For a weightless, barely-there feel

If you hate how setting sprays feel on the skin, this offering from Morphe is worth considering. The ultra-fine mist is the most lightweight we tried; you can barely feel the spray on the skin, and once dried down it delivers a matte finish without looking heavy or cakey.

We weren’t huge fans of the aerosol can as the nozzle was a bit temperamental, delivering large blotches of spray in some areas, but that’s a small bugbear as we liked the finish. It feels cooling and refreshing on the skin, with a subtle scent that didn’t offend us. There are lots of fruit extracts in this formula, including papaya and grape seed, as well as cucumber water for hydration. It does contain oil, but it’s not high up on the ingredients list, so we think this would suit all skin types.

Iconic London prep set glow

Best: For a serious glow

This shimmery spray is summer in a bottle. As you shake the component, the glittery particles mix to create a golden, pearlised finish that might look daunting to those that are sceptical of coming out looking like a disco ball. We fell into that camp before trying it but were thankfully surprised at how natural the glowy finish was, with no chunky glitter particles in sight.

With that said, it’s the dewiest setting spray in this list and is heavily oil-based, so won’t offer much longwear and isn’t the best choice for acne-prone skin. However, we loved applying this over a natural make-up look for a radiant, summer-ready finish. For even more glow, apply to the decolletage and shoulders and watch the shimmer catch the light beautifully.

L’Oreal infallible magic setting spray

Best: For a matte finish on a budget

A decent dupe for Urban Decay’s all nighter, L’Oreal’s new setting spray worked well to absorb oil throughout the day. The mist is subtle enough to not disrupt your make-up, without being so fine that you can’t feel where you’re applying it. It’s a very matte finish, so is great for oily skin types or for anyone who finds setting with powder too cakey, and really does prolong the wear of your make-up, as we only needed to touch up once throughout the day. It melted products together well for a more natural finish and didn’t leave any large droplets on the face, as other affordable setting sprays often do. It isn’t as complex as Urban Decay’s sweat-wicking formula, but this is a good budget buy for anyone who is looking to keep oil at bay.

e.l.f stay all night micro-fine setting mist

Best: For a soft-focused finish

This ultra-fine mist was one of the most refreshing formulas we applied, with an invigorating, spa-like scent that woke us up in the morning. The affordable formula rivals pricier contenders on this list for its skin-loving ingredients, which include green tea, cucumber and aloe vera to hydrate and soothe. The spray is easy to apply, with no dreaded blotches in sight, and delivered a soft-focus finish that looked natural, neither too matte or overly glowy. Our make-up lasted well throughout the day, too. Suited to all skin types, this is a great starting point for anyone who wants to try a setting spray for the first time, as it combines longevity with good skincare ingredients.

Benefit the porefessional super setter long-lasting setting spray

Best for: For smooth skin

We can’t believe it took Benefit this long to enter the setting spray market, yet it only made its debut late last year. Part of the brand’s “porefessional” line, famed for its pore-blurring, mattifying primer, the setting spray claims to lock your make-up in place for 16 hours, reduce the appearance of pores and smooth skin. Much like Urban Decay’s offering, it claims to be sweat-proof, too.

The mist is surprisingly fine and lightweight and the applicator disperses the product well, with no obvious wetness to the skin post-application. It dries down matte and lives up to its skin-perfecting claims, with a soft-focus finish that blurs imperfections. As for long-wear, we still think Urban Decay and Charlotte Tilbury’s offerings beat this formula. But it does smooth the skin more successfully than its competitors, so if blemishes and enlarged pores are a concern, this is a great product to try.

Read the full Benefit porefessional super setter review

Setting spray FAQs

What is a make-up setting spray?

Thankfully, it’s no more complicated than the name suggests. A setting spray is a finishing product that sets your make-up in place. They are most commonly used during the last stage of your routine, although you can also use them throughout applying make-up to help blend and emulsify the layers of product on your skin. Certain setting sprays give a particular finish on the skin, whether that’s a matte or glowy, but they will all predominantly be formulated with setting your make-up in mind.

Are there setting sprays for different skin types?

Setting sprays tend to be categorised by the finish they provide and/or how longwearing they are, rather than by what skin type they suit. However, you can decide what setting spray will best suit your skin type by being conscious of the product’s ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, for example, watch out for highly perfumed sprays, while oily and acne-prone skin types should generally avoid sprays with high oil contents (although this isn’t a hard and fast rule) and those with dry skin should look out for hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid.

What’s the difference between primer and setting spray?

Think of your primer as your base nail coat and your setting spray as a top coat. A primer is a gel or cream-based product that you apply before your make-up (but after your moisturiser and SPF) to create the best base possible, while a setting spray locks all of your hard work in place after you’ve finished your maquillage.

What’s the difference between fixing spray and setting spray?

Traditionally, a fixing spray focused on fixing your make-up in place and keeping it intact all day long (helped by a high alcohol content) whereas a setting spray worked to melt layers of product on the skin for a more natural finish – think powders on top of liquids. But more recently, the terms have become interchangeable, with setting spray being the most common name for products that achieve both of these things.

Does setting spray prevent transfer?

Yes, but it depends on which one you use. If you’re looking for heavy-duty protection against sweat, heat and humidity, go for a longwear setting spray that delivers a matte finish and locks your make-up in place, preventing transfer. Setting sprays that focus on delivering a dewy, luminous finish will not prevent transfer in the same way.

The verdict: Setting sprays

Combining everything we’d ever want in a setting spray, from natural radiance to longevity, Charlotte Tilbury’s airbrush flawless setting spray truly lives up to its name. Urban Decay’s ultra matte spray still comes up trumps for oily skin, while glow-lovers should plump for Anastasia Beverly Hills’s dewy set spray.

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