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  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

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Non-comedogenic setting spray for acne-prone skin

Keep your makeup in place without making your skin more likely to break out.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 29, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Woman holding mirror
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 29, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

How does setting spray work?
More

A good setting spray is the best makeup insurance, but it can be a double-edged sword. Most makeup setting sprays have a high concentration of denatured alcohol, which can be irritating, particularly if you have dry, acne-prone, or sensitive skin.¹

The good news: There’s no shortage of non-comedogenic setting sprays that can help keep your makeup in place all day, without causing extra irritation or leading to breakouts. Here, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers share what to look for in a setting spray and recommend a few of their favorites.

How does setting spray work?

The purpose of setting spray is to create a protective barrier over your makeup in order to make it last longer. Unfortunately setting sprays with a high content of denatured alcohol, have a drying effect² that can irritate the skin, particularly if you’re sensitive or prone to dryness.

To make things even more complicated, lingering trends from Instagram and YouTube may have convinced you to apply copious amounts of setting spray in order to make your makeup last longer or look more dewy. Not only can too much setting spray dissolve your makeup, but it can also be irritating if you’re dousing yourself in denatured alcohol.

The benefits of polymers in makeup

Another common ingredient in setting spray is polymers, which form a film on top of makeup, holding it in place.³ Polymers (like chitin and chitosan) are great for makeup and skincare, offering gentle exfoliation for smoother skin and a fuller product texture. They’re particularly useful in makeup setting sprays, helping your makeup last longer on your skin. These polymers also boost the effectiveness of other skincare ingredients. Their ability to aid in minor skin repair, improve hydration, and protect the skin makes them widely used in various products.⁴

So although alcohol-based sprays can set makeup effectively, alcohol-free alternatives (like those containing polymers) and mineral setting sprays are also effective without being harsh on the skin.

Remember that polymers in skincare and makeup products can potentially clog your pores, but this largely depends on the type of polymer and the product’s specific formulation. Not all polymers are created equal; some are designed to be non-comedogenic (meaning they don’t clog pores), while others might contribute to clogging, especially if you have acne-prone skin. If you have any questions about specific polymers or ingredients in your cosmetics, connect with a dermatology professional for an expert opinion.

If your skin is prone to breakouts, it’s best to opt for non-comedogenic setting sprays.

What makes a setting spray non-comedogenic?

A setting spray is non-comedogenic if it’s made with ingredients that don’t clog or block your pores. Specifically, non-comedogenic setting sprays are formulated to be gentle on the skin and less likely to cause acne or breakouts. These products typically avoid heavy oils and comedogenic substances that can lead to pore blockage. When shopping for a non-comedogenic setting spray, look for labels such as “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free,” or “won’t clog pores” to ensure it’s designed to minimize the risk of pore congestion and skin issues.⁵

It’s also important for you to apply your spray properly for the best results.

How to apply setting spray

Learning how to apply setting spray properly can make a significant difference in the longevity and appearance of your makeup. It’s the final step in achieving that glowing, long-lasting look.

To apply setting spray effectively, hold your setting spray 1-2 feet away from your face and spritz 1-3 times (or just enough to cover your entire makeup look), then allow it to dry completely (which takes about 30 seconds). Easy!

Setting spray isn’t the only way to get your makeup to stay, even in humid climates. Here are our tips for extra long-lasting makeup:

  1. Use a primer: If a setting spray forms an outer barrier to keep your makeup in place, a primer forms an inner base. It’s like a makeup sandwich—yum.

  2. Use a setting powder: When used in combination, setting spray has a way of dissolving powder that helps makeup look more natural and smooth.

  3. Blot: It’s not just for oily skin types—blotting sheets are perfect for dabbing away any moisture from the skin (like sweat) which can make your makeup slip and slide. Paper towels also work in a pinch; lightly dabbing your face with one of these will help soak up wetness from the surface of your skin. Thin tissue paper, by contrast, is more likely to flake off and stick to your face.

Mastering the art of applying setting spray and following these extra tips can help you achieve makeup that defies the elements.

Different non-comedogenic setting sprays for different skin types

Now that you know what non-comedogenic setting sprays are and how to use them, you may be wondering which setting spray to use for your specific skin type: matte, dewy, or natural.

Let’s break the options down:

  • Matte: For oily skin, matte setting sprays reduce shine and oiliness.

  • Dewy: These sprays add a radiant, moisturized look for dry or dull skin.

  • Natural: Offering a balance between matte and dewy, they’re suitable for most skin types and provide a more subtle finish.

Selecting the right setting spray for your skin type can help enhance your makeup routine while caring for your skin. If you have oily skin, a matte setting spray will help control shine and maintain a fresh look. A dewy setting spray can add much-needed hydration and radiance for those with dry or dull skin. And if your skin type falls somewhere in between, or you prefer a more natural look, a setting spray with a natural finish is a great choice. Understanding these options allows you to tailor your makeup routine to look great and support your skin’s health.

Our favorite non-comedogenic makeup setting sprays

Now, let’s look at our top picks for the best non-comedogenic setting sprays on the market today:

The best non-comedogenic dewy setting spray

NYX Professional Makeup Dewy Finish Setting Spray

  • Infused with potent ingredients, including niacinamide, to provide hydration and a radiant, dewy finish.

  • Lightweight and comfortable, this setting spray helps lock in your makeup for long-lasting wear without clogging pores.

Priced at $10.00 via NYX Cosmetics

The best non-comedogenic setting spray for dry skin

Make Up Forever Mist & Fix

  • Long-lasting formula with polymer and no harsh alcohols

  • Contains lightly moisturizing ingredients to help keep skin hydrated while makeup lasts all day

  • Contains some added fragrance so it could potentially be irritating if you have very sensitive skin

The best non-comedogenic setting spray for oily skin

PPI Blue Marble SELR Sealer Spray

  • Super long-lasting formula designed for theatrical looks stands up to even the most oily skin types

  • Gets its staying power from polymers and SD alcohol—avoid this one if you’re concerned about dryness or irritation

  • Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic

The best non-comedogenic drugstore setting spray

e.l.f. cosmetics Makeup Mist and Set

  • Alcohol-free setting spray that contains a polymer as a key ingredient

  • Keeps makeup in place without drying out skin or causing breakouts

  • Clocks in at $1.95 per ounce for the large size, making this one of the best affordable setting sprays

The best non-comedogenic matte setting spray

Wet n’ Wild Photo Focus Setting Spray

  • Long-lasting setting spray with a matte finish makes this a good setting spray for oily skin or skin with a lot of texture

  • Contains SD alcohol and a small amount of fragrance, so avoid this one if you’re concerned about irritation or dryness

  • Non-comedogenic setting spray of choice for this (currently) breakout-free blogger!

The key takeaways

  • Setting sprays are designed to create a protective barrier over your makeup, helping it last longer. These sprays often contain ingredients like denatured alcohol for durability and polymers to hold makeup in place.

  • While alcohol in setting sprays helps makeup last longer, alcohol-free options with polymers can be effective and less irritating.

  • Non-comedogenic setting sprays are formulated to be gentle on the skin and less likely to cause acne or breakouts. Look for labels such as “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free,” or “won’t clog pores” when shopping for setting sprays to minimize the risk of pore congestion and skin issues.

  • For best results, hold the setting spray 1-2 feet from your face, spritz 1-3 times, and let it dry for about 30 seconds.

  • Choose a matte setting spray for oily skin, a dewy one for dry skin, and a natural finish for balanced or combination skin.

  • Some of the best non-comedogenic setting sprays include PPI Blue Marble SELR Sealer Spray for oily skin and e.l.f. Cosmetics Makeup Mist and Set for an affordable option.

  • Dealing with acne? Curology offers customized skincare solutions, matching you with a dermatology provider to address specific concerns like acne and aging. Try our Custom Formulaᴿˣ for acne today!

Treat your skin with Curology’s personalized formulas

We know you’re already meticulous about selecting the right ingredients for your skincare, so take it a step further with Curology’s custom approach. Address your unique skin concerns, including acne, with a formula tailored for your goals. When you join Curology, you’ll be paired with a dermatology provider who understands your skin's journey and will guide you every step of the way.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Don’t just settle for generic solutions; opt for personalized skincare that evolves with you. Ready to transform your skin? Sign up for Curology's Custom Formulaᴿˣ for acne** today and embark on a journey to clearer, healthier skin!

FAQs

Can setting spray cause breakouts?

If your setting spray contains ingredients that clog your pores or irritate your skin, it can cause breakouts. If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, it’s important to choose a setting spray that is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t block your pores and is free from potential irritants like alcohol or heavy fragrances.⁶ Always check the ingredient list before using a new product. Opt for sprays designed for sensitive or acne-prone skin, and consider testing on a small area first. Everyone’s skin reacts differently, so what works for others might not suit you.

What are non-comedogenic makeup products?

Non-comedogenic makeup products are designed for you if you’re concerned about clogging your pores and causing acne breakouts. These products are formulated to minimize the likelihood of blocking your pores.

What setting sprays are non-comedogenic?

If you’re looking for non-comedogenic setting sprays, especially if you have acne-prone or oily skin, several options can help set your makeup without causing breakouts. Products like e.l.f. Cosmetics Makeup Mist and Set are alcohol-free and use polymers as key ingredients, making them suitable for sensitive skin. For oily skin, PPI Blue Marble SELR Sealer Spray and Wet n’ Wild Photo Focus Setting Spray offer a matte finish to control shine, although they contain SD alcohol, so be cautious if you're worried about dryness or irritation. 

These sprays avoid heavy oils and common pore-clogging ingredients, catering to those seeking to maintain clear skin while using makeup. Always check the ingredient list for any potential irritants or comedogenic substances.

How do I choose a non-comedogenic setting spray for oily skin?

When selecting a non-comedogenic setting spray for your oily skin, consider products with ingredients that target excessive sebum production without clogging pores. Look for options containing ingredients like niacinamide or green tea, which have been shown to reduce sebum and are suitable for oily skin.⁷ Avoid sprays with heavy oils or pore-clogging components. 

Additionally, if you have oily skin, a setting spray with a matte finish might be beneficial, as it can help control shine and maintain a fresh look throughout the day. Always review the ingredient list and consider any personal skin sensitivities you may have.

What ingredients should I avoid in a setting spray if I have acne-prone skin?

When looking for setting sprays for acne, search for products that don’t contain ingredients known for their potential to clog pores. It’s important to remember that some ingredients might block pores for some people but not others.

To find a non-comedogenic setting spray, check the product's ingredient list. Avoid sprays that contain common pore-clogging ingredients such as isopropyl myristate, coconut oil,⁸ cocoa butter, and certain types of alcohols and lanolins⁹ that are known to be comedogenic. Check out our detailed list of ingredients to avoid in skincare products.

If a setting spray contains any of the listed ingredients, it might be worth considering other options. Many setting sprays are formulated with non-comedogenic ingredients, catering to those with acne-prone or sensitive skin. Look for sprays stating they are non-comedogenic and check for positive reviews or recommendations from users with similar skin concerns.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin. (n.d.).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin. Ibid.

  3. Aranaz, I., et al. Cosmetics and Cosmeceutical Applications of Chitin, Chitosan and Their Derivatives. Polymers (Basel). (2018, February 22).

  4. Aranaz, I., et al. Cosmetics and Cosmeceutical Applications of Chitin, Chitosan and Their Derivatives. Polymers (Basel). Ibid.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Makeup tips for acne-prone skin. (2019, December 10).

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Makeup tips for acne-prone skin. Ibid.

  7. Endly, D.C., and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (August 2017).

  8. Francis, A. and Shojan, A. Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (August 2019).

  9. Fulton, J.E., Jr., et al. Comedogenicity of current therapeutic products, cosmetics, and ingredients in the rabbit ear. J Am Acad Dermatol. (January 1984).

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

**Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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