Here is the yet another installment of "Do I Need This?", a series about new and trendy beauty products (or just those that might be unfamiliar and baffling to both of us). I'll offer my experience and opinion about whether or not I think the product under consideration is worth shelling out for. Obviously, you don't need ANY beauty products, so the answer is always going to be no, a little bit. But is it going to change your life (or face)? Is it going to make things easier? Are you going to notice any difference at all if you use it? That's what I'm getting at. You may disagree with my verdict, because we all have different bodies/faces/brains/desires, but I'll try to give you a starting point at least.
I just had to go ahead and write this post that I've been sitting on for at least 6 months. No more dithering. The fact that I've been trying and trying to figure out a way for these products to actually be useful should itself give you an idea of what my verdict is going to be here. I have seen people all over the great wide Internets claim that setting sprays are miraculous, but in the end, I can only base my review on my own personal experience with them. I've tried three sprays at three price points from Urban Decay, NYX, and e.l.f., and also I tried just misting water on my face. All the products I tested have very different ingredients - so none of them are dupes.
Do I need this?
Short answer: Fuck no.
What is it?
Several companies make mists for your face that you are supposed to spritz on after you apply your makeup. They have a couple of advertised benefits: they will make your makeup's finish look more natural and/or they well make your makeup last longer. I have seen them described as "hairspray for your face." Sort of like a primer that you apply last instead of first.
For each of these products, I have tested them several times, over a variety of different types of makeup: medium coverage liquid foundation, tinted moisturizer, powder foundation, and concealer. I don't get into a lot of detail about the distinctions below, because I did not notice that they performed better over one type of makeup or another. I also used a variety of techniques: more or less spray, holding the bottle closer or farther apart, etc. Again, I don't have much to report about better or worse techniques. The one thing I would recommend is that if you wear non-waterproof mascara, you should apply that after you use a spray, because the spray might cause it to dissolve a little and transfer. It's not a huge problem, though.
The first spray that I tried was e.l.f. Studio Makeup Mist and Set ($3). This particular product looks at first glance to be a knock off of the popular Mac Fix+, especially since they both contain green tea and cucumber. The Mac version claims to "finish makeup" and "add radiance" - though the name would suggest that it will fix your makeup in place, the description doesn't say much about that. Indeed, if you look at the ingredients, it's more of a moisturizer spray, heavy on the glycerin. The e.l.f product, however, does advertise "hold", like hairspray, and its second ingredient after water is a polymer, which is used in hairspray. So first of all, if you're looking for a dupe for Mac Fix+, this isn't in (Pinterest, as usual, lies).
The bottle that this shit comes is has a terrible spray nozzle. Spraying this on your face feels like a llama is sneezing on you. (I don't know why I chose a llama, but I suspect strongly that they have powerful and wet sneezes.) It does not create a gentle, even mist at all. You end up with huge droplets in certain areas and nothing in others. I have a really hard time not squeezing my eyes tightly shut and flinching when I squirt this on my face. Squirt is definitely a more accurate verb than "mist" or even "spray". I highly recommend switching it into a different bottle if you decide to try it.
(ETA: seraphknights on Tumblr just let me know that the e.l.f. bottle has recently been replaced, and is not so awful anymore. Good to know!)
Even when using a more appropriate bottle, I didn't really feel like this shit did anything. It doesn't make my makeup look better, but it doesn't make it look worse, either, so that's good, at least. But I didn't notice any improvement in the wear of my makeup with this product. I think it's basically pointless.
But having tried one and failed, I decided to try more. Naturally. Maybe the e.l.f. shit is just too cheap? So I moved up to the next level: NYX Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray ($8). This one also comes in a dewy finish version, but that did not sound like what I was looking for.
This shit is the wooooooorst. I hate it. It contains one of the same fixatives as the e.l.f. spray, along with a bunch of others, but none of the skincare ingredients (like aloe). The spray nozzle is better on the NYX bottle than the e.l.f. one, but it's still not great. The mist isn't especially fine, and still causes me to flinch a little (but maybe I'm just flinchy). This spray takes the longest of the three to dry. The worst part is that it makes my makeup look absolutely awful - especially concealer. It actually seems to remove some of the concealer when you spray it on, leaving it looking really nasty. Again, it made no difference how much or little I used, or how far away I held the bottle, etc. This is what happened to the painstakingly-blended concealer I've applied over the red spots on my face:
|Sorry, but I needed you to know the truth.|
About 2 hours after finishing my makeup and "setting" it with the NYX spray, both my concealer and foundation starts to fade/wear off dramatically. In fact, it's worse than it would be without the spray. It actually caused my eyeshadow to crease, even though I was wearing eyeshadow primer! I tried adding translucent powder on top of the spray, and that didn't help either. It's a fucking mess. It was maybe slightly mattifying? Possibly? But honestly, it's so awful in every other way, that I really don't give a shit.
Okay, okay, but Urban Decay's spray is the one that people really rave about. Some bullshit pin that keeps showing up on Pinterest says that someone went swimming after using it and their makeup didn't budge. I certainly don't believe that, but maybe this is just one of those products that you have to spend more money on. So I got a mini bottle of Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray at Nordstrom Rack for $7. (A full size bottle is $30.) This one has denatured alcohol as the second ingredient after water, which is not something I'd want to spray on my face on a regular basis. It has more ingredients than the other sprays, including some silicone and a tiny trace of aloe at the very end of the list.
Of the three products, this is the best, in that I did manage to use it without having my makeup look significantly worse, once, under the right conditions, unlike the NYX. It does have the same effect on concealer as the NYX spray, however, to a slightly lesser extent. Not cool. It has the best nozzle of all the options I tested, really sending out a fine, even mist. (It had fucking better for $30.) But this one definitely has a dewier finish, if I'm being polite, and was just plain fucking shiny, if I'm not. For the reason, I prefer to add powder on top of the spray. I also think it makes the texture of my foundation and other makeup look worse, not better - much like it does with concealer. All the careful blending and smoothing I worked at is ruined, and I'm left with a slick layer of paint that does not look at all natural.
Instead of making my makeup look better a few hours later, this makes me look much, much shiner than I would normally be. For instance, I wore it over liquid foundation one day and looked in the mirror about 4 hours later, and my face looked like a fucking oil slick. Shiniest t-zone ever. So I patted on some powder and went about my day - because what else could I do? This was the one time that the spray seemed to serve some purpose, though. Hear me out here. When I got home another 4 or 5 hours later, my skin was still matte from the powder. The powder had stayed in place, which it normally wouldn't do for that long. So I think powdering over the spray is the way to go.
Without that step (and sometimes with that step - it's not consistent), this is what my makeup looks like after just 4-5 hours:
Just for the sake of completeness, I also tried misting plain old tap water over my makeup. It did nothing. That gives it an edge over most of these other products, since it didn't actually ruin my makeup. I'd say water is tied with e.l.f., but you can save the $3.
I absolutely would not recommend any of these products, especially if you have skin that is anything like mine (combination-oily). I know there are people out there that swear by setting sprays, but I can't imagine why. Do they have drier skin? But Urban Decay says: "Whether they had combination, oily or dry skin, 88% or more said All Nighter was the best product to help their makeup last." WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Are you one of them? If so, I'd like to hear about it.
I really tried, you guys. I would put these aside for a few weeks, and then think, "But they must fucking do something!" Then I'd try them again with different makeup, tweaking my technique a little, and . . . same shitty results. And then repeat the whole cycle again.
If you really are determined to try one of these out, I guess I'd have to suggest the UD one, despite the outrageous price. It was the only one I ever got any semi-positive results, though for me the cons far outweighed the pros. I would certainly suggest trying to get your hands on a mini bottle - or at least making sure you can return the full size if you don't like it.