How to Set Makeup Without Powder?

I think we all have experimented with setting powders once in our life. For some people, it works wonders and for some, this is a problem they can’t seem to fix.

A while ago I overheard a conversation between a beautician and a girl when I was in my local beauty shop. I overheard the girl say that she could never get her setting powder right and that it often was cakey-looking and caused irritation on her skin.

The beautician who worked there told the girl that there are some issues with setting powder in that they can indeed look cakey, cause skin problems but also have often limited skin tones available. The conversation went on and I (as the good citizen I am) stopped eavesdropping.

When I got home I thought about her questions and thought that it would be a great idea to write about. That’s when the subject: how to set makeup without powder came to mind!

Below you’ll find all the answers you need in whether or not you need a setting powder or not. And if not (hint), what you can use as an alternative to still set your makeup.

So, without further ado…

Do you have to set makeup with powder?

Setting makeup is the secret that professionals and consumers swear by to lock their makeup down and stay flawless all day. While setting powder is a popular and praised option, it can present issues like cakey-looking makeup, limited skin tone options, and irritation for dry skin types.

When it comes down to it, is it necessary to set concealer or foundation for the day? The easy answer: No! Like many things with beauty and skin routines, personal preference is key. If your makeup melts away or smears due to climate or skin type, using a setting product can be a life-changer.

However, if you live in a sticky climate or deal with oily skin, it may be best to set your makeup so that it isn’t running off your skin, smudging away through the day, or creasing in unflattering places. 

Luckily, for those who cannot find a setting powder that works, options like setting sprays, primers, and other powder substitutes, give makeup wearers the freedom to choose a comfortable replacement.

How to set makeup without powder

If powders are not cutting it, the next best option is a setting spray! A spray is a fast and easy option that only requires a light misting on the face after all the makeup is in place. Setting sprays also have a variety of finishes, like matte or dewy. So, whether you are dealing with oily, dry, or combination skin, there is a spray for your unique type.

Use a setting spray

Another benefit to setting spray is that it can blend with any tone of skin, so there’s no struggling to find your shade. Lack of pigment options is a major complaint with foundation and concealer, and setting powder is no different.

With setting sprays being one of the top choices for setting makeup, there are many brand and budget options! Consider this fan favorite, NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray from Ulta. This spray is a highly rated option that gives a matte finish and long-lasting makeup for under $10.

If the higher-priced options are what you prefer, Urban Decay’s All Nighter spray has the type of quality that landed it an Allure’s Best of Beauty award in 2019.

DIY ideas

If the options of products available are still not perfect, there are a few ways to DIY yourself a bottle of spray that only requires a handful of ingredients. The first is a concoction that involves equal parts of rose water and witch hazel mixed with about a cup and a half of water. This simple mixture can nourish skin while holding makeup in place!

If apothecary items are not readily available, a last-ditch effort is to use good ol H2O! While plain water isn’t an awesome option for holding makeup in place on oily or sweaty skin, it can give skin a refreshed and dewy look!

Prime your skin

While setting spray is the go-to alternative for people who do not like to use more powders on their face, there is one more powderless option: Primer.

Priming the skin for makeup is a simple step that gives your face the chance to take on the makeup as it’s applied. Like setting sprays, primers come in a variety of finishes to go with any skin type. Just a thin layer of primer before concealer or foundation can keep a face looking fresh all day!

Shopping for primers is like shopping for sprays or powders, so it’s wise to consider the perfect finish for your skin and other factors that a primer might bring to your skin. The popular photo finish primer by Smashbox exemplifies how a primer should work. This product is great for filling in lines and pores on all skin types, while NYX’s Honey Dew Me Up primer is a gel serum that plumps up skin that gives makeup a smooth surface to take to.

What can you use instead of setting powder?

Maybe traditional setting powders have never made you happy, but you’re not opposed to all powders out there. The great news is some excellent replacements give the same effect as setting powders; you might already have these in your home!

The first item is a simple store-bought loose translucent powder. While this may not be the best option for dry skin types, it will absorb oils and moisture that normally ruins makeup, keeping it set and stunning all day. A translucent powder also avoids any issues with the typically mismatched colors that opaque, pressed setting powders can cause.

Places like Ulta and Sephora both have a wide variety of translucent powders that accommodate a bunch of budgets and skin types. Anastasia Beverly Hills Loose Setting Powder is a great bet to achieve a flawless matte finish for all skin types but can be more of a blow to the wallet than others. For the budget-conscious shopper, Infallible Pro-Sweep & Lock by L’ORÉAL Paris is the way to go!

Go natural: What can you use instead of powder to set your makeup?

If the variety at beauty shops still doesn’t hit right, it is incredibly simple to make a natural setting powder at home but may require some creative touches to match your unique shade. By using a bit of arrowroot powder mixed with levels of cacao powder and nutmeg for color, you can create your very own setting powder that is healthy for both your body and your makeup look.

If all else fails, a popular go-to for oil absorption is baby powder! This one can sneak in as an unexpected saving grace, typically used on hair as a quick dry shampoo replacement that absorbs extra oils off the scalp. With baby powder’s popularity and many uses, it may already be in your home!

With this impressive absorbing power and gentleness on the skin, baby powder is a fantastic replacement for a traditional setting powder. By simply spreading a light dusting of this powder with a large brush over a made-up face, you can lock down your makeup look and keep oil under control.


I hope that by now you know that you don’t have to use a setting powder if you don’t want to. You can set your makeup with a setting spray, a translucent powder, or make your own setting powder at home! It’s really easy to make your own natural setting powder at home (just read what I’ve described above).

So, if a setting powder makes your makeup look cakey, irritates your dry skin, or something other that doesn’t work for you, please choose some other methods! There are plenty of ways in which you can set your makeup without powder.

As always, keep experimenting!

Further reading material

I feel it, I feel that you just loved this article! If that’s the case and my feeling is right, I have a pleasant surprise for you. Below I have listed some more articles that you might find interesting to read. Simply click on one of the links below that speak to you most and start reading!

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Joy-Lee Founder and writer of


Hi, my name is Joy-Lee and I'm the owner of As you might've noticed, I'm a true beauty lover, and made it my passion, my work and my hobby. I love sharing my thoughts and feelings on a variety of beauty aspects and want to thank you for reading!