When I was a child, if my mum and aunt were getting ready for a ‘do’ (that would be a dinner and dance for my mum and an event at the golf club for my aunt), they would leave their make-up right to the last minute. This, they explained, was because it didn’t take long for them to ‘wilt’. And by wilting, they meant that by the time the Black Forest gâteau had been served and they’d danced their first foxtrot, their make-up would have started to melt or fade and their initial glamour would be gone.
I get that. I wilt quickly too. Unless I apply my make-up in the most meticulous manner and then press or dust powder over it, there’s no way it holds up for hours. Especially if I’m rushing about or dancing. Which is why I was interested to learn about setting sprays. They’re not new, but have always felt like something on-trend make-up influencers use on TikTok, not old-timers like me.
What are they? Well, they’re not for your hair, like the only mists I’ve ever used. But they are similar in function. They’re designed to be spritzed over your finished make-up. Liquid in formula, delivered via an atomiser, they form a protective veil or barrier that renders make-up less slidy, smudgy and sweaty. Think of them as liquid Cellophane (but in a good way). While you can use them over powder, they actually stand alone to offer a real alternative to powder itself, particularly if you have dry skin or favour a fresh, dewy finish over anything super-matt.
They set more than your foundation too, as they help preserve the perfection of lipstick and eye make-up (keep your eyes closed when you mist). There are many varieties on the market, so seek out the kind of finish you’re after – eg if you have oily skin and want to try ditching (or using less) powder on occasion, check out NYX Professional Makeup Matte Finish Setting Spray (£8, Boots).
For my skin, I found two standouts. The first is Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray – try the smaller travel size first (£19, Cult Beauty).
I had to laugh – one reviewer said that with this, you can put your make-up on at 4am and it’s still going strong at midnight. Forget the setting spray, I want to know where she gets her energy from.
This product contains film formers that invisibly wrap the skin to freeze-frame your make-up. It doesn’t settle into lines like powder can and contains plant extracts to hydrate and smooth. It’s also designed to be used before make-up as a primer. It has a fresh, floral scent, which might be your thing or not. I thought it felt a little sticky at first but then it dried and made my skin look sheeny (neither oily, nor matt). And my make-up held up pretty well all day.
The other is By Terry Hyaluronic Glow Setting Mist (£35, By Terry), which is as much a skincare product as a fixer, with eight types of hyaluronic acid in three different molecular weights to moisturise, as well as ceramides and probiotics to boost barrier function. Fragrance-free, while it helps make-up to ‘take’, as well as last, it also seems to make your complexion look awake.
So is there a right way to apply setting sprays? Yes. First of all, keep them a fair distance from your face (check each one as instructions vary), usually from eight to 12 inches. I heard one make-up pro suggest applying in a zigzag motion because this promotes a more even coverage. Then you’re good to go and glow. And if you find any formulations that work from 4am to midnight and beyond, you’ll have to let me know… because I’ll have been in bed since 9pm.