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How is makeup setting spray different than hairspray?

SuperGorgeous says…I’d love to see a comparison of makeup “setting” sprays like Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray and and plain ol’ hairspray.

The Beauty Brains respond:

Ask and Ye shall receive. There are (at least) three important differences between hairsprays and makeup setting sprays.

Aerosol versus nonaerosol

The best hairsprays are in aerosol form because they can be water free. (Water causes your curls to droop. Read this post to learn more about why water is bad for your hairstyle.) Fortunately water is good for your skin so non-aerosol make up setting sprays are perfectly fine. That’s good because you certainly wouldn’t want to blast your face with an aerosol spray from close range.

Spot welds versus facial film

Hairsprays are designed to do one thing very well: they deliver a fine spray of hair holding polymers. These tiny drops of polymers run down your hair until they get to the intersection where two hair shafts meet. At that spot they dry to form a tiny little weld point that holds the two hair shafts together. Your hair style is held in place by the effect of thousands of these tiny droplets on thousands of hair shafts.

Make up sprays, on the other hand, need to deliver a more uniform film across your entire face. They can’t be as “fluid” as hairspray droplets or it would drip off your face. Therefore they contain a much higher degree of solids then hairsprays.

Crunch versus non-crunch

The holding polymers used in hairsprays need to form a very rigid spot weld to hold your hairs in place. Makeup setting sprays need to form a less crunchy, light holding film. Therefore these formulas contain much more emollient type materials. That’s why the ingredient list below contains materials like Polyhydroxystearic Acid and Isononyl Isononanoate that are not contained in hairsprays.

All Nighter long-lasting makeup setting spray ingredients

Aqua (Water), SD-Alcohol 39-C, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Isononyl Isononanoate, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Sodium Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate PVP, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Methyl Diisopropyl Propionamide, Dimethicone PEG-7 Phosphate, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate, Glycereth-5 Lactate, Methyl Methacrylate Cross Polymer, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Fragrance.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

In some cases companies will sell a similar formula across different product types. But make up setting sprays really do need to be different than hairsprays. We’re not saying that you necessarily need to spend $30 on Urban Decay’s 4 ounce product but don’t try and save a few dollars by using your typical hairspray to set your makeup.

What do YOU think? Do you know of any good low-cost make up setting sprays? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Katie November 8, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Hi guys! I’ve heard of some women using Monistat Chafing Gel as a primer for foundation, likening it to Benefit’s Porefessional or other similar products. I’d love to see a comparison and hear your thoughts on it.

  • Sophia Ravenna November 10, 2014, 11:46 am

    I’ve been using the e.l.f. makeup setting spray, which is a lot more affordable than the Urban Decay one and seems to work just as well.

  • Christina November 10, 2014, 12:03 pm

    As a makeup artist for film and media, setting spray is possibly the most important product in my kit.

    Urban Decay partnering with Skindinavia is easily the best performing setting spray on the market for longevity. If you really need assistance with longevity, it is worth every cent.

    A fantastic alternative is ELF cosmetics setting spray for $3.00 is you just want longevity and don’t have a concern with excessive melting or humidity.

    I keep both sprays on hand and use ELF in regular climates and Urban Decay in more humid or hot climates.

    • Randy Schueller November 10, 2014, 6:33 pm

      Good to hear from you again, Christina! If I knew you were such a fan of makeup setting sprays we would have written about them sooner.

      • Christina November 11, 2014, 10:29 am

        I have 6 different brands in my kit..I have panic attacks if I don’t have access to all of them.

        Urban Decay, ELF, Makeup Forever, NYX & Ben Nye. They are my Avengers team and all have unique super powers.

    • Amber March 5, 2015, 6:11 pm

      Why do you use both setting sprays?
      I use to wear makeup on an almost daily basis but after two kids Im just not motivated to wear it all the time when Im just at the house or going grocery shopping.
      However when I do wear make up Id love to know it stays in place, instead of just separating and melting.
      I have very oil skin and live in Central Texas that is fairly humid.
      What would be the best spray (combo) to keep my make up in check and lasting as long as possible.

  • Mia February 4, 2016, 10:18 am

    Why plain alcohol sprayed on the face is not to be considered dangerous? I thoughts make up setting sprays were to be avoided. Please let me know if I am wrong.

    • Randy Schueller February 4, 2016, 1:37 pm

      Some people may find it drying to their skin but spraying alcohol on your face is not dangerous.

  • Rudy August 19, 2016, 11:50 am

    I’m using a cheap cologne to set my makeup. I get some makeup protection and a nice scent. Has anyone tried this, too? Rudy

    • Randy Schueller August 19, 2016, 11:51 am

      I don’t see how cologne will set your makeup since it’s just fragrance oil and alcohol. Plus, it could be irritating to facial skin. has anyone else tried this?

      • Tiffany October 16, 2017, 1:21 am

        When money is tight and I’d rather put $6-$30 towards a bill or groceries or I’m just in a hurry, I lightly mist my face (only after all my make up is completely done) with a lightly scented perfume (heavy, drastic scented perfumes frighten me that it’ll break me out or cause a rash/hives bc I have sensitive yet combo-oily skin). HOWEVER!, when I resort to perfume as my setting spray I hold it about an arms bend away from my skin (not just 2in like I do w legit, regular make based setting spray) as well as I only spray about 3x as opposed to swimming in it like I do w legit setting spray. Doing it all this way w a light perfume for the last yr (1x/day) I haven’t had any skin probs AND I have a nice little scent to my face throughout the day which is how long it lasts as my VERY cheap, diy setting spray fix. Hope this helps! #beauty-on-an-occassional-budget-queen