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Do Primers and Setting Sprays Work?

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Or are we just spraying water onto our faces?

That’s the first question I asked myself when I bought my first ever bottle of Urban Decay’s ‘All Nighter’ setting spray. I had just started to go out clubbing and I was petrified that, by the end of the night, all my makeup would be halfway down my face.

Now, almost three years down the line, I must be on my fourth or fifth bottle of that very same setting spray.

After the Urban Decay’s spray’s initial success, my determination to maintain my makeup didn’t stop there. I quickly moved onto eyeshadow primers, face primers and even a mascara primer at one stage to ensure that nothing budged. Whilst these products may seem like a placebo at first to some or just a bit of water in a bottle to others, these products really do seem to work. So, I set out to test that theory.

As a university student, I go on a night-out regularly. Whilst realistically I would have liked to do this little experiment on a night out (but the coronavirus had other ideas) I am carrying this test out at home.

There were some rules I wanted to follow to make sure that the test remained fair. Firstly, I would do the exact same makeup look with the exact same products. Secondly, I would take the ‘after’ photograph the same amount of time apart from when I took the ‘before’ photograph, which I decided would be eight hours. Thirdly, I was not allowed to touch up my makeup at any point during the day.

1) The Primed and Set Makeup-Look

Products Used:

  • Milk Hydro Grip Primer
  • NYX Eyeshadow Base
  • NYX Glitter Primer
  • Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
  • Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue in ‘Opal 01’
  • Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer in ‘Crème’
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Quad in ‘Ghost’
  • Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow in ‘Fair-Medium’
  • Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter in ‘1’
  • NYX Precision Brow Pencil in ‘Blonde’
  • GLOSSIER Boy Brow in ‘Blonde’
  • MAC Extreme Dimension Mascara
  • Huda Beauty ‘Desert Dusk’ Eyeshadow Palette
  • Dr PawPaw Original Balm
  • MAC Lipstick in ‘Angel’
  • Charlotte Tilbury Lip-Liner in ‘Pillow Talk’

During the day, to ensure I wasn’t just sitting around and not carrying out a fair test, I went on a dog walk and made sure I was sitting outside in the sun, either just resting or playing some badminton with our little net, for at least an hour during the day.

Before: 12pm

After: 8pm

As you can see from the photos (I promise that I tried to do as similar lighting as possible, but it was difficult due to the time difference) my makeup didn’t budge. At all. My eyeshadow stayed on all day, despite the intensity of the sun that afternoon, and neither did my base. I tried to do a bolder eyeshadow look to really see if I could spot any creasing or smudging but there was none. Obviously my lipstick had rubbed off throughout the day after *many* quarantine snacks but that was expected. The products have done what they promised.

Now, for the un-primed and un-set look.

2) The Un-Primed and Un-Set Makeup- Look

The products that were used here were exactly the same, minus any setting sprays or priming products.

During the day, I tried to do as similar activities as I could to the day that I had primed and set makeup.

Before: 12pm

After: 8pm

This was a bit of a shock to me. Besides my under-eye concealer not really lasting throughout the day, my foundation rubbing from off from my nose slightly and my eyeshadow creasing a little, there wasn’t that much of a difference.

And I’m impressed. Whilst I do think that some products are still essential (like the eyeshadow primer, those creases on my eyes are frustrating me so bad) perhaps I need to give the quality of some of these makeup products more recognition.

I recognise that if I had been on a night out or even if I had had a busy day out and about then the results might have been different. I don’t think I would ditch any of my products then but, for a day like my past two days, if I had forgotten to set my face after I had finished or forgotten to put my face primer on before I had started then it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Written by Madeleine Gill

Madeleine and Hesther are your health & beauty editors

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