Dear Daniela: Is It OK To Set My Makeup With Hairspray?

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,
I saw one of my colleagues set her makeup with Elnett hairspray the other day and the image is now forever seared in my mind. I’d heard rumours that it was used a lot in stage makeup but I never thought I’d see someone do it IRL. Is it safe? Does it work? Should I try it?
Jackie, 26
You know, I am all for a multi-use product. I use the same bronzer on my cheeks and on my eyes, I’ve been known to dab on lipstick as a blusher, and I can confirm that coconut oil really does work wonders on your hair and your cuticles (although its only use in my kitchen is to remove onion and garlic scent from my fingers – try it and thank me later).
But even for me, this one is a little too far. I’ve never seen anyone do it IRL but I do remember someone doing it on Snog Marry Avoid (a true bastion of British culture and the pinnacle of late '00s TV, I’m sure we can all agree), and a warning flashing up on screen that viewers should not try it at home. Considering that people were using paint rollers to apply their St Tropez tan on that show, I knew it was serious if it needed a caution slapped across it.
And guess what? The BBC is right, this really isn't such a hot idea. The reason hairspray works so well to fix your hair is because of the lacquers in the formula, which bind your hair in place and keep it firm (but flexible, natch). These lacquers, however, aren’t so skin-friendly and will most likely make your skin feel tight, itchy and irritated with regular use, if not straightaway. There’s also a very high alcohol content in hairspray, which is exceptionally drying and can cause your complexion to become dehydrated, and any fine lines more prominent.
Plus, it doesn’t really 'set' in the way you might like it to, meaning your face could well feel vaguely sticky all night. Cons aside (and there are many), with so many brilliant setting sprays on the market, there really is no need to use hairspray for your face. The gold standard is Urban Decay All Nighter, £24, which in my opinion is pretty much unbeaten, but MAC Prep + Prime Fix+, £19, is also brilliant and a little more refreshing to apply. Instead of lacquers, these formulas use polymers to hold your makeup in place, which are formulated to be more skin-friendly. In fact, plenty of makeup-setting sprays have ingredients which are actively good for skin, like hyaluronic acid and antioxidants – MAC Fix+ contains green tea, chamomile and mint.
If you’re not convinced that any of these can secure your makeup as well as hairspray, try spritzing after every step. So, foundation, spritz, concealer, spritz, bronzer, spritz, and so forth – it’ll give you all-day and all-night hold.
Good luck!
Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to ‘Dear Daniela’ become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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