I Tested 9 Setting Sprays To See If They Actually Do Anything

Until a few months ago, I had never even owned a setting spray. I'd seen them around and they looked nice and all, but I never gave them much thought. Now, setting sprays are as ubiquitous as fidget spinners. You can't get through a YouTube tutorial without a vlogger mentioning them, Kim Kardashian won't shut up about them, and they seem to be the first thing performers recommend across the board.

But do these fancy-looking face mists actually do anything? Reviews on Sephora and Reddit seem to suggest so, but I wasn't totally convinced. So, I decided to put some of the most hyped-up sprays through the wringer (a.k.a. a humid August day in New York City) and document my experience for the world.

Throughout my testing period, I made sure to take my progress photos at the same times (before work, at noon, and at the end of the day), and use the same base makeup as a control. Check out my results, ahead.

Too Faced HangoverRX

The Claims: This stuff is touted as a primer and setting spray, and it's formulated with coconut water for extra hydration.

Too Faced HangoverRX, $32, available at Sephora.

I wasn't hungover when I tested this spray, but if I was, I'm not sure I could stomach the piña colada smell. It applied pretty well; my only complaint was that the pump nozzle sprays a bit unevenly. But I overlooked all that, because it perked up my skin instantly. Those brightening claims are no joke.

Another bonus? It's alcohol-free. A lot of setting sprays have some alcohol in them, which can be drying to my skin — and, again, not what I'm looking for the morning after a rough night.

I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but my makeup looked nearly the same in the late afternoon (maybe even better) than it did at 9 a.m. My concealer, highlight, and bronzer were locked into place, and my face was hydrated without feeling greasy or oily. I'm attributing that to the coconut water and aloe, which are naturally soothing and moisturizing.

At $32 for 4 ounces, this price is pretty consistent with most of the other mid-range sprays I tried. Since it felt so great and left my skin looking better after a full day in the office, I plan on keeping this spray on my top shelf for good.
Milani Make It Last

The Claims: This sucker promises an aggressive 16-hours of wear (I don't even know if I can stay awake that entire time) — and claims to keep shine at bay all day.

Milani Make It Last Setting Spray, $10, available at Milani.c0m

I've been a longtime fan of Milani — the drugstore prices are reasonable, and the quality is usually high. This setting spray is a new addition to its line and rings in at only $10.

Initially, upon spritzing, I was turned off by the smell. Alcohol is the second ingredient, and I could definitely smell and feel it tingling on my face. But, shortly after application, the odor faded and the product melted comfortably into my skin.

Conclusion: This stuff is really, freaking good. My makeup did.not.move. the entire day and it obliterated my typical 3 p.m. grease onslaught.

I wouldn't wear this daily, because the alcohol was a bit irritating to my sensitive skin. But it was one of my favorites in terms of longevity and price point. It definitely held up to its claims of banishing shine and holding makeup in place — making it perfect for special occasions.
Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist

The Claims: Spray it under makeup for even application, or over makeup to prevent caking and add radiance. (Even Kim Kardashian swears by it.)

Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist, $48, available at Sephora.

Right after I spritzed my face with the Tatcha mist, my skin felt super hydrated and illuminated, as evidenced by this photo. The pump dispersed the product over a broad area (pull your hair back when spraying), and was definitely the finest but most efficient spray.

Pro tip: Do NOT go in with a heavy hand. If you do, your face will look oily instead of radiant.

My highlight was still very much popping by 5 p.m., and I got compliments on how radiant and healthy my skin looked after eight full hours of wear.

But, while the mist kept my skin looking alive and vibrant, I have to admit that my face did feel a bit greasy and my concealer had rubbed off around my nose by dinnertime. The price point is a little high for me in the summer when I'm already at peak dewiness, but I can see this product working overtime for me in the harsher winter months.
Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF

The Claims: This spray protects skin with SPF 50 while setting (and not disturbing) any products underneath.

Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF, $38, available at Sephora.

Sad truth: I always tell myself I'm going to apply a sun-protectant under my makeup, and rarely ever remember. (Shame on me, I know.) The good news? This setting spray protects my skin while setting my makeup in place.

When I applied it, I noticed the mist has a slight lavender-sunscreen scent to it, and does contain alcohol, which felt a bit uncomfortable on my face. That feeling of tightening quickly faded, but the sunscreen smell lingered all day.

This setting spray definitely kept my skin looking radiant, protected it from the summer rays, and didn't disturb my makeup underneath. But, as the day wore on, it started pilling around my forehead and left me a bit greasy. But hey, that's typically what sunscreen does to my face so I'm not totally mad about it.

That said, I think this spray is perfect for a day outside or at the beach where you need SPF, but don't want to slather it on before applying other face products.

At $38 for 3.4 fluid ounces, the price is reasonable for a sunscreen + setting spray combo, and I'd definitely recommended this to a friend who's big on summer music festivals.
CoverFX Mattifying Setting Spray

The Claims: This mattifying, alcohol-free spray says it decreases shine, sets makeup, and reduces the appearance of pores. (Let's see about that...)

CoverFX Mattifying Setting Spray, $31, available at Sephora.

The applicator on this product is an absolute dream— the mist is fine but coats the entire face with a few spritzes. It dried down quickly on my skin, which I loved, because I am impatient person in the morning. This day was off to a good start.

Throughout the day, I completely forgot that I had even applied a setting spray in the morning. My face was matte all day in the sticky August heat, a small miracle, and my concealer stayed locked and loaded.

This alcohol-free spray is definitely one of my top choices for anyone who has combination to oily skin. When a coworker asked for a setting spray recommendation for an upcoming wedding, this was the one I sent her out of the whole lineup.
Morphe Prep & Set

The Claims: It locks in makeup and delivers a radiant finish.

Morphe Prep & Set, $14.99, available at Morphe.com

The second I was done spritzing my face with this mist, my skin instantly looked brighter, happier, and healthier. It was the most noticeable, immediate difference I saw throughout this experiment.

This mist was the perfect middle ground between setting my makeup and balancing my skin. It controlled the oil around my T-zone, softened the dry areas on my cheeks, and kept my concealer and highlight glowing all day.

While this spray does contain alcohol, it didn't smell like it or dry out my skin. And not only did my base makeup stay put, but I swear my eye makeup lasted longer too.

This was one of the top dogs of the test, and, if I'm being honest, I'm almost totally out of my first can. The mist is currently out of stock on Morphe's site, but I'll be repurchasing one (or five) when they're back in stock.
Urban Decay All Nighter

The Claims: It claims to keep products intact for 16 hours (again, I am very impressed by all these people who wear their makeup for 16 hours straight) and feels weightless on the skin.

Urban Decay All Nighter, $32, available at Sephora.

I had high expectations for this spray, seeing as it was one of the formulas that really put setting mists on the map. (Not to mention the fact that strippers swear by it.) After initially spraying it, I felt a bit of tightness around my forehead, which makes sense, since the second ingredient in the mist is alcohol.

While I didn't enjoy the initial discomfort, my skin was instantly matte and I didn't get dewy at all throughout a particularly hellish morning subway commute.

Overall, I really liked the way this spray held up (note how prominent my bronzer and highlighter still are at 5 p.m.) and it didn't feel drying.

The initial discomfort from the spray is definitely a con, but overall this product performed well and definitely lived up to its claims. I found it pretty comparable to the Milani, if you're looking for a more affordable option.
Volition Oil-Control Mattifying Mist

The Claims: It says it will instantly absorb excess oil and leave a "powdery soft" finish.

Volition Oil-Control Mattifying Mist, $29, available at Sephora.

Let me just begin by saying that rosewater is my single favorite beauty ingredient, and it's the second one listed on this spray. I knew as soon as I spritzed and smelled the rose, that this spray would jive well with my unpredictable skin.

The pump releases a good amount of product; I was able to coat the face evenly with a few clicks.

While I loved the scent and feel of this spray, it definitely didn't leave me matte, as promised. I felt a bit of oil build-up around my nose throughout the day.

Another con was the price: $29, making it the most expensive option in this lineup. I'd recommend this product for its lovely floral scent and skin-softening qualities, but it wouldn't be first on my list for oil control.
Fresh Rose Floral Toner

The Claims: This promises to balance and soothe skin while setting makeup.

Fresh Floral Toner, $40, available at Sephora.

This product could be one of the single best-smelling things I've ever spritzed. As I said before, I am a rose freak, but this product has taken my love to a whole new level.

It woke up my skin so much, I was even confident enough to go for lime green shadow today. Winner in my book.

This didn't extend the lifespan of my makeup as long as the Milani or CoverFX, but it definitely kept my face dewy and hydrated throughout the entire day, as evidenced in this photo.

You also get over 8 fluid ounces for $40, which is more than twice the amount of product I got with the other sprays. Another bonus? It's alcohol-free and doesn't have a laundry-list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients.

I've started spraying this toning mist on my face daily, over both makeup and freshly cleansed skin, and its become my most-used product in my bathroom.
Illustrated by Abbie Winter.
Concluding thoughts? I'm fully aboard the setting spray train. They significantly lengthened the amount of time my highlighter and concealer lasted on my skin — and even enhanced my eye shadow and lipstick.

On a day-to-day basis, I see myself sticking to the Morphe or Too Faced setting sprays, and grabbing the Milani or CoverFX for an event, festival, or particularly intense makeup look.

And I'll be bathing myself in the Fresh Rose Floral Toner every day, obviously.
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