When I think back on things I wish I hadn’t done when I was younger, there are a few decisions that stand out in particular. One was moving in with my high-school boyfriend after he went to college, a choice that I would recommend to absolutely no one. The second was the time I tried to speed up my at-home highlighting process with a blowdryer and my hair started to smoke and my dad had to run in and spray me with the handheld shower head to minimize the damage. The third regret is lower-stakes than the others, but it upsets me in retrospect nonetheless: For many of my formative years, I used hairspray to set my makeup.
I don’t know where I heard that a blast of strong-hold was the only thing that could keep my overzealous eyeliner application in place for an entire school day, but whoever told me that must have wanted to kill me with fumes. The formula I used came in an orange bottle that had an orange on it and smelled strongly of 1 part orange juice, 3 parts ethanol. After I’d finished drawing on my brows with a too-dark pencil, using a heavy layer of powder foundation over a heavier layer of liquid foundation, and putting on age-inappropriate dark red lipstick (Estée Lauder Black Cherry — my 7th grade signature), I would close my eyes and spray. Generously.
I’m an adult now. I use setting spray, as all adults should. I no longer put anything on my face that is not supposed to be on my face. Hair products, I’ve learned, are particularly dicey; they often contain ingredients that will clog pores or irritate skin. So, reading a recent post on Reddit about someone’s experience using dry shampoo as an oil-absorbing primer when all other primers had failed — and loving it — brought back some memories.
Perhaps this is the kind of thing you could call a “hack” — an off-label use for a product that, while unauthorized, is kind of amazing. But then there’s the ingredients list: “Isobutane, denatured alcohol, propane, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, magnesium stearate, linalool, hexyl cinnamal,” the Reddit user wrote. Like coating yourself in hairspray to set your makeup, using dry shampoo to prime for the stuff might work, in a way, but we can do better now. There are face powders you could use; actual face primers out there to be bought. Don't spray poison on your face out of desperation for makeup that lasts. As our moms always told us: If there's a will, there's a way.
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