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From what they are to how to use one, here’s our ultimate guide

For many of us, our make-up routine is the ultimate form of self-expression. As creative as it can be calming, plenty of time and effort goes into finding one that sets you up for the day – which is why we’re always on the lookout for ways to seal our hard work and keep midday fade at bay.

In addition to a primer and powder, a setting spray has become a reliable staple when it comes to giving our handiwork extra staying power. An invisible shield that arms it against whatever the day brings, it can be your secret weapon when faced with humidity, rising temperatures or a sweaty dancefloor.

From what setting sprays are to the different types and top application tips, here’s how to spritz your way to slide-proof make-up.

What is a setting spray?

A setting spray is to your face as hairspray is to your hair. 'It’s a liquid mist that helps increase the longevity of your make-up and prevent smudging or creasing,' says make-up artist, Lauren Montgomery. From smokey eyes to a carefully etched contour, they’re designed to help lock in your look for longer.

It’s also a handy multitasker – a quick post-make-up mist can add a dose of extra hydration or minimise oiliness where you need it, too.

What’s the difference between a setting spray & a finishing spray?

It can get a little confusing as the two are often used interchangeably. Practically speaking, Lauren sees little difference between them now. 'Setting spray can also be referred to as finishing spray, fixing spray or mist,' she tells us. Whether you’re looking to glow or mattify, there’s something out there for you.

A setting spray also plays well with other members of the ‘make-up glue’ family, such as primers. Think of your primer as the base coat and your setting spray as the top coat. The perfect pairing for a smooth, longer-lasting base.

What are the different types of setting sprays?

Hydrating setting sprays

If you’re after a more hydrating setting spray, look for formulas that promise a ‘dewy’ finish. These might often contain hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, or properties like rose water, coconut or aloe, which are thought to be refreshing and cooling. These are also great for keeping in your handbag for a quick daytime spritz between meetings, or to freshen your skin up during a busy day!

Mattifying setting sprays

Forever battling an oily T-zone come lunchtime? Look for a mattifying setting spray. These contain powder-like pigments that help mop up excess oil, leaving you with less shine and a longer-lasting make-up base.

How do you use a setting spray?

'With your eyes closed, hold the spray at face height and generously spritz over the surface to lock make-up in place,' recommends Lauren. Hold it around eight to 10 inches away from your face for an even application.

Setting spray is usually the final step of a make-up routine. However, Lauren has a handy make-up artist tip for getting more from your spritz. 'If you sometimes find that your make-up becomes patchy, try using a hydrating setting spray at the beginning of your beauty routine for an added boost of moisture,' she says.

 'It’s a common misconception that oily skin is always to blame for patchy make-up. Skin may be dehydrated or dry instead, absorbing moisture from your make-up in those areas.'

'Similarly, using a mattifying spray as a base can be helpful for absorbing moisture and reducing shine if you have oily skin.'

Setting spray can also be used to amp up the pigment of your make-up. 'Spraying a little onto a powder eyeshadow provides a stronger colour – it’s great for a more intense brow or defined eyeliner when used with an angled brush,' says Lauren.

Our pick of the best setting sprays for every skin type

No matter your skin type (dry, combination or oily) or the finish you’re after (dewy or matte), there’s something for every need and budget. Here are some of our favourites.

Explore more must-trys in our full range.

Best all-rounder

Try: Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray, £27

• Size: 118ml

• Vegan

• Cruelty-free

'Of all the setting sprays I’ve used, I find Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray is the best for most skin types,' says Lauren. It’s also a go-to of ours – simply mist your face two to four times in an ‘X’ or ‘T’ formation to boost your make-up’s staying power.

Best for brightening

Try: Urban Decay All Nighter Vitamin C Makeup Setting Spray, £27

• Size: 118ml

• Vegan

• Cruelty-free

This yellow bottled version of the Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray balances longwear with luminosity thanks to a dose of vitamin C and cactus flower water. You’ll be good to glow come desk or dancefloor.

Best for shine

Try: No7 Stay Perfect Matte Fixing Mist, £13.95

• Size: 100ml

Shiny T-zone? Give your base control a leg up with this de-slicking pick from No7. Gently smoothing over shine, it creates a natural feeling, non-powdery finish.

Best for dry skin

Try: MAC Prep + Prime Fix+, £24

• Size: 100ml

• Dermatologist tested

Dry and dehydrated feeling skin will love this green tea, camomile and cucumber-infused formula that soothes and sets. Lightweight and refreshing, its soft sheen finish is a great pick-me-up for tired skin.

Best for mattifying

Try: NYX Professional Makeup Matte Finish Setting Spray, £8

• Size: 60g

• Vegan

Keep shine at bay with this mattifying setting spray that helps soak up pesky excess oil. Lightweight and wearable, it’s a worthy addition to your humidity-proofing efforts. 

Best for value

Try: 17. Matte Prep Setting Spray, £5

• Size: 50ml

• Vegan

You don’t need to break the bank to give your make-up better staying power. Mattifying thanks to zinc PCA, yet nourishing thanks to skin hydrators aloe vera leaf juice, panthenol and glycerin, this spray provides great bang for your buck.

Best for a dewy glow

Try: Anastasia Beverly Hills Dewy Set Setting Spray, £27

• Size: 100ml

• Vegan

• Cruelty-free

Dull skin? Treat it to a spritz of this radiance-enhancing setting mist. Perfect for days when you’re feeling a little ‘meh’, its addictive coconut-vanilla scent will instantly transport you to tropical climes.

Best for combination skin

Try: IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Setting Spray+, £23

• Size: 100ml

Enriched with hyaluronic acid, coconut water and aloe vera extract, this is a two-in-one facial mist and setting spray. It’s great for shine control and comfort – you’ll actually look forward to applying it.

Best for control

Try: Morphe Continuous Setting Mist, £17

• Size: 82.8ml

What sets this setting spray apart is its air-powered continuous spray, delivering a micro-fine mist. The result? Controlled application and an even, smooth finish. It’s also enriched with skin goodies vitamins E and B5 and fruit extracts for a shot of radiance.

Best for a super glow

Try: Iconic London Prep-Set-Glow, £24

• Size: 120ml

• Vegan

Think of this as a highlighter in a bottle. Not only does it prep and set, but its formula contains light-reflecting properties, giving skin a subtle honey-like gloss that will have you hooked.

Best for blurring

Try: Benefit The Porefessional Super Setter Makeup Setting Spray, £26

• Size: 120ml

Thanks to clever pore-blurring powders, this setting spray does more than simply mattify. It aids a soft-focus finish that leaves skin looking and feeling smoother and more even.

Best for extra hold

Try: Huda Beauty Resting Boss Face Waterproof Setting Spray, £27

• Size: 100ml

For times when you need to keep a full face fade-free, this setting spray has your back. Providing a comfortable, matte finish, it’ll see you from pre-drinks to the early morning cab home.

All prices correct on date of publication