Monday, June 2, 2014

Do I Need This? Makeup Setting Spray

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
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.
That's not very . . . concealed, anymore. (Note that I had the same results with a number of different concealers with various formulas.)

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:

Not pretty.
I was wearing medium-coverage foundation. Most of it is gone, especially on my nose, except where it has settled into lines, pores, and dry flakes. Look at the concealer under my eye! Lovely. This would be a good time to point out how Urban Decay describes this product: "All Nighter keeps your makeup looking gorgeously just-applied for up to 16 hours - without melting, cracking, fading or settling into fine lines." Yeah . . . no.

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.

27 comments:

  1. What a great post! I love this series and find them all really helpful, thank you. I've tried the ELF one and one from MUA but am yet to be convinced they're any good.
    Www.thevegantaff.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh good, I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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  2. The llama comment...priceless.

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    1. I guess llama spit would be warmer, at least.

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  3. I've tried the Urban Decay de-slick and the ....oh, God, what is it......Ben Nye matte seal something-er-other.

    Both worked fine. I didn't notice a huge difference either way on my very oily skin.

    But I am totally paranoid about the GIANT drops of product that blob onto your skin sometimes. The spray nozzle is CRUCIAL. If you EVER feel like giving setting sprays another chance, try the Urban Decay de-slick version or the Ben Nye. I think you can get the Ben Nye online in a huge bucket for pretty cheap.

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    1. I think I probably won't, unless I happen to get a free sample of one of those or something? Which is unlikely. No huge difference either way is not worth the expense for me. I think good primer and finishing/setting powder are probably going to be good enough when I need my makeup to last an especially long time. I've already spent almost $20 on bottles of liquid that I have no use for! Boo. I did it for science?

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  4. I swear by UD's All Nighter spray. I work in a garden center in 30+ C weather all summer, and it's the only thing that keeps my face looking decent by the end of the day. Even if I'm sweating (it gets seriously gross out there), one my face dries up again, my makeup still looks good. I actually use my airbrush machine to apply mine, as it allows for a much finer, even spray. I've also tried their de-slick spray, but find myself returning to All Nighter, as it works better for me. My skin is pretty normal though. Not dry, only a little oily in the Tzone.

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    1. That's interesting! Thanks. I wonder if, despite the fact that these products all say that they are good for oily skin, they're really best for normal-dry skin. Especially for people who don't want to set their makeup with powder. Although I would think that all the alcohol in the UD one would be drying for dry skin.

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  5. I just watched a YouTube makeup tutorial where they sprayed the e.l.f. mist and set on their brush before dipping into eyeshadow and applying it to intensify the color. Maybe you could try using it for that? Link: http://youtu.be/7tWoJQAWip8?t=2m10s

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    1. Oh, that's a good idea! I use e.l.f. Lock and Seal for that now, but I wonder how similar the ingredients are. I'll have to compare them. It would be good to have some use for these bottles.

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  6. I have been using a travel-size of All Nighter and I didn't put it together that I've been photographing super shiny at fancy events (when I'd wear it) lately! I'll bet it's making me super shiny, too.

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    1. Yeah, maybe that's it. It was not pretty on me!

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  7. Hahahaha I love the comparison to the llama xD
    Very interesting article!

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  8. Agreed! The NYX or ELF setting sprays are also made in China which is super un-safe, thanks for posting this review.

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  9. oh my god, thank you for saying it!! lol this made me feel so validated because i have the UD all-nighter spray and i feel like it makes my combination/oily skin look more oily more quickly! but so many makeup artists rave about it that i'm like, maybe my skin is just weird?? and it seems to make my eyeliner have a lot of fallout as well... my makeup looks better for longer when i don't use it!

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    1. I'm glad it's not just me! I tried to make them work.

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  10. I'm oily like you. I probably won't use it all over my face. But I did notice it works great for wet application of powder eye shadow. So don't toss it in the trash!

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  11. Has anyone tried spraying it on before you put on the makeup? That might be silly question but I don't know it might work.

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  12. I have mega dry as the desert sad dehydrated skin ( drama much?) and have tried many different sprays. Almost all of them flat out suuuuck!!! The ones I hated ( elf, nyx dewy, mufe, UD all nighter) I am using to wet my brush when an eyeshadow needs some extra oomph. I could say I'm doing it to not be wasteful or for the environment but really once I'm that far in my routine I'm just to lazy to get up and go to the sink. Plus I have noticed that maybe, the sprays help the shadows to be both more vibrant and long lasting. Because my skin is so dry my makeup can look pretty cracked and creased mid day especially if it's cold, windy or my face is grumpy. For me, fix+ really does work. It has a fine gentle spray and after much trust building time together I've even stopped the auto flinch face. When I say it works though, I mean it hydrates my skin and makes makeup look freshly applied. I don't think it does anything about keeping makeup on longer it just helps it look better. I've had success with Derm e hydrating spray but it srsly reeks. Also Avene's thermal spring ...insert marketing buzz words here... water spray is nice too but since I find paying for water in an aerosol can nutty my friends with subscription boxes keep me hooked up. Apparently they are a hot sub box commodity. So there ya go. My War and Peace length comment from a dry skin perspective. I've been reading your blog forever and this is my first comment lol I made up for lost time!

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  13. I can't relate with the oily skin. I generally have dry skin but I've been working on moisturizing a lot so I guess my skin is normal with large pores, redness, and acne scars. Normally, I spend time doing makeup and by the end of the night it looks like I got into a fight with my boyfriend. Foundation smeared, mascara running, blurred eyeliner, all the works. I finally gave into the urban decay setting spray and at the end of the night, my makeup was perfectly in tact, which I was super weirded out about. I will say that I hated that dewy finish, I like the matte look. So I just put a layer of powder over my makeup, and it looked perfect maybe it stuck to the spray or something but either way that was one of the first nights that I came home and was actually not terrified to look into the mirror. Not every technique works for every person, so maybe try straying from all of the beauty guru steps and figure out a different way to incorporate the setting spray into your routine.

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    1. Glad it works for you! As I said, I tried many different methods without good results. I don't actually follow beauty gurus. Just as not every technique will work for everyone, not every product will work for everyone.

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  14. Lol I love this review , you're freakin hilarious. Also thanks because I was going crazy about whether I should use a setting spray or not and if I was doing it wrong. I was wondering why it wasn't working for me when others rave about. I now know I'm not the only one that this hasn't worked for! I have tried the Nyx matte spray, the UD all nighter also, and the makeup forever mist and fix and pretty much none of them did anything for me . My makeup would still patch off even though the sprays said it would help makeup last longer..bs! I'm better off with just sticking to my laura Mercier transcluscent setting powder . Thanks for the review !

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  15. Lol I love this review! You're freakin hilarious! I love how you're so honest ! I was going crazy thinking if I really need a setting spray or not and why it wasn't working for me when others were raving about it! I have tried the Nyx matte setting spray, the ud all nighter, and the makeup forever mist and fix spray, none of them worked! I didn't notice a difference in the longevity of my makeup, the claims for that are bs! I actually noticed that my makeup was patching off instead . At this point I'm not keeping my hopes up for setting sprays helping my makeup last longer, I think I'll just stick to my Laura Mercier translucent setting powder instead. Thanks for the review, it was a very enjoyable read and made me LOL!

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  16. I am old enough to not have had such items available to use in the past, and to be very skeptical of these claims. Also, having very sensitive skin, I am quite cautious about adding anything unnecessary to my skin/routine... why take a chance (of a bad reaction) on a product I don't need? Just another example of marketing genius run amok...

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  17. Wonderful post! Really enjoyed the HONEST output =) thank you!

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  18. Everyone swears by these and I thought I was the only one who had it remove makeup! Like WHAT IS THE POINT! I've heard good things about Milani's Make It Last Setting Spray

    Any tips to keep you makeup in place because I'm struggling.

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  19. You just fucking saved me some money with this post, hats off to you. I thought I needed this shit but I was like...wtf is it really doing to my face?? Setting sprays even broke apart my makeup. I'd just recommend getting a decent primer and moisturizing your face so your skin doesn't make more sebum from having your skin dried out.

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