Setting Powder vs. Setting Spray: Which to Choose for a Weightless, Easy Makeup Look?

There’s nothing worse than spending a long time on a gorgeous makeup look, only to find it melting off your face, cakey and crusty, just a few hours later. The key to achieving an easy makeup look that’ll last all day and night includes a great setting product.

Trying to decide between a setting powder vs. setting spray can be a bit tricky—your decision will depend on multiple factors, including your skin type, amount of coverage, as well as your preferred finish. To clear up any confusion, Sébastien Tardif, an internationally-acclaimed makeup artist and founder of Veil Cosmetics, walks us through the biggest differences between these two types of products, and when to opt for each. 

What is a setting spray for makeup?

A setting spray is typically made with water and alcohol as its main ingredients, and is used by makeup artists and beauty consumers to help achieve a natural-looking complexion that will last for hours. “Liquid setting sprays are usually meant to help with the longevity of makeup, but they also help to take away some of that powdery look left behind after using ‘setting’ makeup or sealing makeup into place,” explains Tardif. “Setting sprays are usually good for people that use a lot of makeup that love to use powder over their makeup to set it and for people using full coverage types of makeup.”

Although there are many types of setting sprays on the market, buyers should beware that many of these sprays will contain heavy alcohol, which can be potentially extra-drying for already dry, sensitive skin.

What is a setting powder?

A typical setting powder, on the other hand, is made of very finely milled powders that are meant to take away any excess oil or shine that makeup will leave behind. “Setting powders are especially useful for somebody who likes to use full coverage makeup or who really enjoys a very matte finish, the kind that powders provide,” says Tardif. “It’s also the most known, common, and oldest way to finish or set makeup.”

Unlike a setting powder or setting spray, Veil Cosmetics has created a mattifying balm, called Automatte Mattifying Balm. This product is multipurpose, and can be used prior to your easy makeup application to prevent oil buildup, absorb it before it gets to the skin’s surface, and before it creates a makeup meltdown. “It also smooths out the skin texture before you apply any makeup, so your makeup goes on a lot smoother, gliding and blending more seamlessly,” explains Tardif. “It can be used as an eyeshadow primer, as a lip primer to help keep lipstick in place, or on top of lipstick for the same reason and to help with transfer.”

Similar to a setting spray or setting powder, Automatte can be used on top of makeup so that you don’t have to layer additional makeup on top of your existing makeup all day—it will prevent your easy makeup look from appearing too heavy and keep your natural-looking complexion fresh and dewy all day long.

Setting powder vs. setting spray: when to choose which?

The answer to this question really all depends on which type of makeup you’re using, as well as the look you’re going for. For a no-makeup makeup look, you’re better off using a mattifying balm setting type of makeup, like Automatte, because it's completely transparent. “A mattifying balm will really alter the result of the end makeup, whereas a setting spray or powder is applied on top of the makeup once the makeup is done,” explains Tardif. “A setting spray or powder might help with the longevity of an easy makeup look, and could help it stay in place, but it isn’t a part of the actual process of smoothing the skin, nor does it enable you to wear less makeup or fewer layers.”

There are a few types of makeup that could benefit from using a setting spray or powder, as opposed to a mattifying balm. Very transformative types of makeup are perfect for these types of setting methods, as well as theatre and drag makeup, when you’re on set with very bright lights. Automatte, on the other hand, is ideal for setting or preventing meltdowns, and is better for when you're looking for a more natural-looking complexion, letting your skin breathe. “It’s great for the no-makeup makeup look, quick makeup for everyday, or for the bride who wants to have a fresh, natural look,” says Tardif.

Another thing to consider is that, some people just prefer a full type of coverage for their makeup look. “For the people who do enjoy the appearance of makeup and its transformative results, they might not understand or appreciate the subtlety of a mattifying balm, which goes on very transparently—it really depends on someone’s preferences and needs,” explains Tardif.

If you’re in a situation where you’re facing the elements outdoors, use multiple products to help everything stay in place and achieve a natural-looking complexion. You can use a mattifying balm underneath your makeup, which will help smooth out the skin, and still finish off your easy makeup look with a setting powder and spray. “This will triple up all of your efforts and make sure that, if you're caught in the rain sans umbrella or going for a dip in the pool, your makeup is going to stay on a lot better and a lot longer,” says Tardif.

Setting products based on your skin type: which should you choose?

Another great way to identify which type of setting product you should use for an easy-to-do makeup look involves your skin type. See below to determine which type of product is best for you, based on your skin.

Dry skin types:

People with dry skin should opt for Automatte, as it is non-drying and doesn’t contain the alcohols that some setting sprays might have.

Combination skin types:

This skin type can work with a combo of Automatte over your entire complexion, and then setting powder or setting spray for the T-zone only.

Normal skin types:

Lucky for you, any setting product works for your skin type—it all just depends on your makeup goals and preferences.

Oily skin types:

This skin type can also use any of the three setting products, depending on preference or types of makeup.

Sensitive skin types:

Sensitive skin can be aggravated by alcohol, so it’s best to opt for Automatte or a setting powder if you have this skin type.

Bottom line: the setting product you choose will greatly depend on your makeup goals, preferences, and your skin type. The truth is that you really can’t go wrong with adding Automatte into your quick makeup for everyday routine—it works wonders in prepping skin for makeup and having it stay put all day long.

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