What Can Be Used as a Substitute For Setting Spray?

What Can Be Used as a Substitute For Setting Spray

I think we all know the feeling. You just got out of the shower, are pumped up because of a party you’re going to when all of a sudden something goes wrong!

Now, of course, I say this for a reason. And that reason is that I have found myself in this exact situation a couple of years ago.

I remember I wanted to go out with a couple of friends and we decided last minute that we would go. I hopped under the shower and started doing my makeup only to find out that I was out of setting spray.

The question “what can be used as a substitute for setting spray?” arose in my mind but no clear answers, unfortunately. I started Googling but also with no luck. So, now that I have this blog, I thought I would help some people who are in this exact situation. This is for all the people who find out they are out of luck and want to know what can be used as a substitute for setting spray.

Without further ado…

What can you use as a substitute for setting spray?

Using something other than setting spray to set your makeup can be a challenge because well, other products aren’t made to set your makeup right.

But, some products can help you! Below you’ll find a list of the products that you can use as a substitute. You’ll also find how to use them correctly so that you can set your makeup with it instead of using a setting spray.

Make use of Gulab Jal water/rose water instead of a setting spray

Now, it might not be easy to find a great substitute for your setting spray, but Gulab Jal water (or rose water) can be one of them. I have to be honest here and tell you that if you want a setting spray that sets your makeup for hours, this is not the way to go.

But, if you’re looking to “melt down” your makeup and make your makeup less cakey/powdery, you can use Gulab Jal water to do this. This will make the skin look smooth even after you’ve plastered your face with powder and foundation ;).

Plain and simple water as setting spray

Water is the miracle of life. It can lessen your thirst, make dirty hands clean, and can set your makeup when you just don’t have any setting spray on you.

Before the setting spray became popular, people would use water to set their makeup. 

What to do?

Grab a bottle (with a nozzle so you can spray) you can fill with water and fill it. After that, you would do the same as you would do with a normal setting spray. You keep it 6 to 8 inches from your face and give your face a couple of spritzes

Does it work?

Yes! I can honestly say that this simple trick works. I tested this, and at the end of the day there were coming through some fine lines, but nothing more than that. I was surprised to see that I could use water as a setting spray. Now I have to say that a normal setting spray has a bit better “hold” on my makeup, but for plain ol’ water, I have to say that this worked well!

PRO TIP: You can try to use very cold water (lay it in the fridge or a freezer) and spray it on when it’s really cold. Some people report that really cold water lasts even better than MAC setting spray. Now I haven’t tested this, but it might be something fun for you to try out!

Can I use toner as a makeup setting spray?

Normally setting spray is used to balance the pH of your skin and not as a setting spray. But, there are some types of toners that you actually can use when you want to use a setting spray but don’t have one.

I have to state clearly though, that it’s not the case that you can use every toner. Your toner needs to have some of the following ingredients: Glycerin, Rosewater +witch hazel, Butyl glycol, panthenol.

Another disclaimer I have to put on this is the fact that using toner works more like a spray that binds your makeup together and makes it look less cakey. It doesn’t set the makeup for long wear so there’s a chance that it won’t be good for long hours.

When you don’t have any setting spray with you, toner can be a great substitute, but you have to keep in mind that it’ll not serve your makeup for long wear.

DIY setting spray

If you’re all out of setting spray and looking for a great substitute, you can just make yourself one with stuff you have lying around! Now, I know not all people will have all these products, but the majority of beauty addicts will have some (if not all) lying around to use and make their setting spray. 

Common ingredients are:

  • plain old water
  • rose water
  • witch hazel
  • Aloe vera
  • lavender oil

Now I don’t mean that you have to have all these ingredients, I simply mean that most of the DIY setting spray recipes you find will consist of one or more of the following ingredients. Below you’ll find a couple of links to some DIY setting spray substitutes recipes I wrote!

DIY Makeup Setting Spray For Dry Skin (Recipe Inside)
How To Make DIY organic makeup setting spray (Recipe Inside)
DIY Setting Spray With 2 Ingredients Without Aloe Vera

What CANNOT be used as a substitute for setting spray?

I heard a lot of people talking about beauty hacks the past couple of years, but some are outright wrong and I think it’s necessary to tell you that you can’t use everything. Don’t believe everything they tell you ;). What can’t you use?

You cannot use hairspray as a setting spray substitute!

There are more and more people who talk about using hairspray as a substitute for setting spray. According to celebrity makeup artist Billie Gene, this started in the drag queen and pageant community as a way to set their makeup when setting sprays were scarce.

But, you have to know that hairspray contains a lot of chemicals and toxins that aren’t safe for your skin. Applying hairspray to your skin can likely result in rashes, irritation, or clogged pores. Not things you want on your face.

It is far safer to use a regular setting spray or one of the substitutes above. Things that are specifically made to go on your skin. These products designed for this purpose will do what they advertise and are way less likely to cause anything bad on your face.

Can I use perfume as a setting spray?

Unfortunately, I have to tell you the same thing as with the hairspray I wrote about above. You are better of using something other than perfume as a setting spray. Perfume will not set your makeup the way you want it and besides that, it isn’t healthy to spray directly on your face. Perfume is often so aggressive that it undermines the skin’s ability to protect itself from UV damage for example and that way you make yourself more vulnerable to sun damage and aging pigmentation.

You’re better off using a regular setting spray (or one of the alternatives I wrote about earlier). So, please, do not spray perfume on your face and hope to set your makeup for hours and hours!


I hope that now you know that you can’t use everything as a substitute for setting spray. There are however a couple of options that you can use as a substitute like making your DIY setting spray, plain old water, toner (or at least toner water). 

To be clear, there are also a couple of things that you better not spray on your face in the hope to find a setting spray alternative. You should stay clear of hairspray and perfume for example. Perfume and hairspray are way too aggressive for your face and will likely result in clogged pores, irritation, and rashes.

Stick to normal setting spray or one of the alternatives I wrote about above.

Reading material

If you liked reading this article, you’re in for a treat! Below I have hand-picked some articles for you that you might find interesting! Just click on one of the links and start reading further about your favorite topic.

How to Set Makeup Without Powder?
How long does setting spray take to dry?
Setting spray works when you sweat! Did you know that?

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts