Discover What Can Be Used as a Substitute for Setting Spray?

Setting spray is a makeup product that is misted over the face after application to help set the makeup and prevent smudging, fading, and creasing throughout the day. Using setting spray can also prevent makeup from looking cakey or oily. Some of the key benefits of setting sprays include:

  • Extending makeup wear time
  • Locking in moisture
  • Minimizing pores
  • Giving skin a radiant, airbrushed finish

However, setting sprays can be drying for some skin types. They also run the risk of causing breakouts or irritation. Additionally, high-quality setting sprays can be quite expensive.

Luckily, there are a few easy, affordable substitutes for setting spray that work just as well!

Substitute How It Works Pros Cons Best For
Setting Powder Fine powder applied on top of makeup with a brush or sponge to set it in place Absorbs oil, affordable, easy to use Can look cakey, may clog pores Extending makeup wear, oily skin types
Primer Base layer applied before makeup to fill pores, smooth skin, grip makeup Smoothes skin, blurs pores, makeup adheres better May feel heavy or cause breakouts Perfecting skin before makeup, dry or textured skin
Translucent Powder Sheer powder dusted lightly over makeup with brush or puff Lightweight, versatile for all skin tones, controls shine Doesn’t allow for touch-ups, not as long-lasting Touch-ups, quick refreshes, events
DIY Setting Spray Customizable spray made with water, alcohol, oils, extracts Customized for your skin type, budget-friendly, eco-friendly Takes time to perfect, doesn’t last as long Sensitive or acne-prone skin, natural ingredients
Water Misted over makeup to meld layers together with a spray bottle Simple, easy to access, hydrating Requires reapplication, no holding power Quick pick-me-ups throughout the day

My Personal Experience

As someone who loves makeup but also struggles with sensitive, acne-prone skin, I’ve tried many setting sprays over the years with mixed results. I love how they make my makeup look flawless, but often find that they irritate my skin, especially towards the end of the day.

Recently I decided to find more budget-friendly, sensitive skin-friendly alternatives to traditional setting sprays. Through trial and error using products I already owned, I discovered a few go-to solutions that work incredibly well for me while also being gentle on my skin.

Alternatives to Traditional Setting Spray

There are a several products already hiding in your makeup bag that can be used in place of setting spray:

Setting Powder

One of the most popular alternatives is setting powder. Setting powders come in loose or pressed formulas. They can be dusted or buffed gently over makeup using a powder brush or puff. The ultra-fine formula sets liquid and cream makeup while absorbing excess oil and shine.

Pros Cons
Easy to use, versatile for all skin types Can look cakey if applied too heavily
Affordable Potential to clog pores
Absorbs oil well

I like to use a large, fluffy brush to apply a light layer of loose setting powder. This prevents it from looking overly powdery or thick. I find that using setting powder gives me a very similar finish to setting spray, while being more affordable and less irritating on my skin.


Face primer creates a smooth, even base layer on the skin prior to makeup application. Using an oil-free primer formulated to prolong wear can act as a substitute setting spray. The formula fills in pores and fine lines while creating a tacky base that grips makeup.

Pros Cons
Smoothes skin Can feel heavy or greasy
Minimizes pores Potential to cause breakouts
Extends makeup wear

I like to allow my primer to really set before applying foundation – usually 5+ minutes. This prevents it from interfering with blending. Using an oil-free, long-wear primer gives nearly the same staying power and blurred look as a setting spray for me.

Translucent Powder

Sheer, pressed powders contain ingredients like silicone and starch to soak up excess oil and set makeup without adding any coverage or color. The lightweight formula dusts effortlessly over the face with a brush or puff. Translucent powders give skin a soft blurring effect.

  • Lightweight, versatile for all skin tones
  • Controls shine
  • Doesn’t allow for touch-ups throughout the day
  • Not as long-lasting as traditional setting sprays

I keep translucent powder on hand for quick touch ups. I find pressing it gently over makeup with a velour puff gives the perfect amount of product without disturbing my makeup underneath. While it doesn’t lock makeup in place all day like a setting spray, it’s great for controlling shine in a pinch.

DIY Setting Spray

Homemade setting sprays allow you to customize the formula to your skin type. Most DIY recipes contain:

  • Water
  • Alcohol to help makeup bind to the face

Some versions also include skin-soothing ingredients like:

Pros Cons
Customizable formula Takes trial and error to perfect
Budget-friendly Doesn’t last as long as commercial products

I like making my own setting spray with aloe vera juice, rose water, and rubbing alcohol. The aloe helps hydrate and calm my skin while the rose water gives it a luxurious scent. I find this works well to melt my makeup into my skin slightly while still providing a decent hold. It’s also inexpensive and I can tweak the formula to my liking.


While water can be used as a quick, budget-friendly substitute for setting spray, it lacks the benefits and lasting power of a true setting mist. A simple spritz of water may help mesh makeup initially, but it will not provide the same oil control, crease prevention, and long-lasting effects as a setting spray containing ingredients like glycerin or polymers. For minimal effort and maximum longevity, making your own setting spray with just a few inexpensive ingredients is well worth it compared to using plain water alone.

How to Choose the Best Alternative

With so many options, it can be difficult to choose the best setting spray alternative for your needs. Here are my top tips:

If you want serious staying power: Use oil-absorbing setting powder or long-wear primer. These will lock your makeup in place for the longest amount of time, similarly to a traditional setting spray. Those with oily skin will likely have the best luck with these options.

If you want a natural, skin-like finish: Opt for translucent powder or DIY setting spray. These melt makeup slightly into the skin for a imperceptible finish, instead of locking it down completely. Great for dry or mature skin types.

If you want a quick refresh throughout the day: Keep hydrating facial mist or water on hand for a pick-me-up. Spritz as needed on top of makeup to revive it and meld layers together. Best for those with normal skin and those not looking for extreme longevity.

No matter your skin type or preferences, there is an easy, budget-friendly alternative to traditional setting spray hiding in your makeup bag! Take the time to experiment with products you already own for a solution that works for you.


What is the best drugstore substitute for setting spray?

The best drugstore substitute for setting spray is translucent powder or setting powder. Brands like Maybelline, L’oreal, and Coty Airspun sell affordable loose and pressed setting powders that work well to set makeup in place.

Can I use hairspray as a substitute for setting spray?

You can, but hairspray tends to feel sticky on the skin and can also irritate eyes. It also doesn’t necessarily meld makeup together the same way a proper setting product would. Proceed with caution and make sure to keep hairspray away from your eyes if trying this.

What household items make good DIY setting sprays?

Some household items that work well in DIY setting sprays include: purified water, rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, vegetable glycerin, essential oils like rose oil or lavender, floral waters like rose water. Mix and match a few of these to create your own custom finishing spray.

Can I use facial mists as a substitute for setting spray?

Yes! Many facial mists contain ingredients that help hydrate skin and meld makeup layers together similarly to a setting spray. Mists with rose water or glycerin work especially well for this purpose. Just avoid heavily fragranced mists as these can be irritating.

Is setting powder or setting spray better?

This depends on your preferences and needs. Setting powder absorbs oil incredibly well, while setting spray imparts a more skin-like, luminous finish. Those with oily skin may prefer powder while people wanting a radiant glow may prefer spray. Either works well to set makeup though!

How do you apply powder as a setting spray substitute?

To apply setting powder over makeup, use a large, fluffy powder brush or velour puff. Lightly dust or press a thin layer evenly across the face, focusing on areas that get shinier like the t-zone. Avoid rubbing or buffing too much. Reapply lightly throughout the day as needed.

What can I use if I don’t have any setting products?

If you don’t have any setting powder or spray, try using oil-blotting sheets, translucent loose face powder, or a finely milled pressed powder instead. Apply lightly on top of makeup with a brush or puff when first applied, then as needed throughout wear.


Ultimately there are many easy, affordable substitutes for traditional setting spray depending on your needs and preferences. Setting powder or primer work best to lock makeup in place all day with a matte finish. Meanwhile, translucent powder, DIY spray, or water offer lighter, simple solutions to refresh makeup and perfect the finished look with a more skin-like glow. Don’t be afraid to try out multiple alternatives – you may end up loving the results even more than traditional setting spray!

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