Setting Powder vs. Setting Spray, Which One Keeps Makeup Fresh?

Here's some expert advice.

Setting Powder vs Setting Spray: Which One Keeps Makeup Fresh?

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Do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror halfway through the day only to realize your makeup has began to fade or looks really shiny? I’ve been there and I can honestly admit that it’s really frustrating, especially when I’ve spent ample time trying to perfect a look.

“When it comes to makeup, one of the most important steps to getting it to stay put all day is setting it with the right product,” says Sofia Schwarzkopf-Tilbury, celebrity makeup artist and Charlotte Tilbury brand ambassador. Whether you’re going for a natural, everyday look or a dramatic, night-out glam, setting powder and setting spray are two key products you’ll want to have handy in order to keep midday touch-ups to a minimum.

So, now that we’ve established what you need to help your makeup stay put, you’re probably wondering, which should you use? Setting powder or makeup setting spray?  It can be confusing, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Below, we asked Tilbury to break down the differences between setting powder and setting spray to help you decide which one is best for you.

What is setting powder?

Setting powder is a complexion-perfecting product that absorbs excess oil and sets makeup to help keep it in place. Ever wondered how your friend's makeup is still looking flawless way past midnight, even though you've been out all day? Chances are she's wearing setting powder.

“Products like Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder and the new Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Brightening Flawless Finish Powder, have the additional benefit of brightening your complexion and blurring imperfections, like fine lines and pores,” says Tilbury. “They help prevent excess shine while making your skin look flawless all day.” 

“I like using Airbrush Brightening Flawless Finish Powder to set and brighten the under-eye area,” Tilbury continues. “It’s particularly great if you suffer with dark circles and puffiness as it locks in your concealer, then bounces the light away from any shadows or pigmentation, instantly making you look wide awake and refreshed.”

What is setting spray?

Setting sprays are liquid midsts that typically contain water and alcohol. Like setting powder, setting spray helps prevent makeup from sliding, smudging, creasing, or fading quickly. According to Tilbury, setting sprays are particularly great for situations where your makeup is really put to the test – think wedding days, warm weather conditions, or nights out dancing.

What is the difference between setting powder and setting spray?

“Setting powder is a matte, powder formula, so it helps to absorb oil and smooth over pores and imperfections, leaving the skin looking matte, poreless, and flawless,” explains the makeup artist. “Setting spray is a liquid formula, so it gives more of a glowing, dewy finish. I tend to use setting spray to fix makeup in place for red carpet events and humid weather conditions, whereas setting powder is an everyday makeup essential that I carry with me everywhere for on-the-go touch-ups.”

When should you apply setting powder or setting spray?

Setting powder should be applied after your foundation, concealer, and cream bronzer formulas. “I always like to glide Airbrush Flawless Finish powder down the T-zone to eliminate shine and soft-focus the complexion, while Airbrush Brightening Flawless Finish is great when pressed into the under-eye area and smile lines to bounce the light and create a brightening lift-effect,” says the artist.

Setting spray is slightly different from setting powder as it can be used to both prime and set makeup. “After your skincare routine, mist the spray over your face to create a smooth, hydrated canvas, then use again as a finishing touch right at the end of your makeup application to weightlessly lock everything in,” says Tilbury.

What should you consider when purchasing a setting powder or setting spray?

If it’s your first time trying out setting makeup, it’s best to try both setting powder and setting spray and see which finish you prefer. 

Tilbury advises purchasing a setting powder that is super finely milled and enriched with skincare ingredients. One of her all-time favorite products is Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder. “It’s a pressed powder formula, which makes it very easy to use, and the finely milled texture means it never looks heavy or cakey, it glides on like silk and it’s infused with rose wax and almond oil for a blurring, hydrated finish,” she says.

When it comes to setting sprays the artist says a lot of formulas on the market can be heavy, sticky, and drying – almost like hairspray. “Look for oil-free, hydrating formulas like Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray, which contains aloe vera and Japanese green tea for a delicate, lightweight, smoothing effect,” she says. “It feels so refreshing and invigorating, and it smells incredible too.”

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