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What Is Face Mist: How It Can Help Your Skin and Makeup, Plus the 13 Different Ways You Can Use One

The ultimate multitasker.
What is face mist

If you ever happen to walk by my desk, I guarantee you'll see a bottle of face mist. Probably multiple bottles.

Ever since I started using them years ago, mists have been as much a part of my daily routine as cleansers and serums. I rotate between different brands every morning, and I always give my skin an extra spritz mid-afternoon.

But I wasn't always convinced of their merits. In fact, I used to think they were just fancy water—refreshing, maybe, but that's about it.

I was SO wrong. It turns out that face mists are actually one of the most versatile, multitasking beauty products. Not only is there one to suit every skin type, but they can moisturize, mattify and much more!

Keep reading to find out the benefits of face mists, along with all the different ways you can use them.

What Is Face Mist

What is face mist

Photo: @i_am_ok

So, what is a face mist, anyway?

If you're not familiar with them, face mists are liquids that you mist onto your skin via a spray bottle or atomizer.

Most are packed with hydrating and soothing ingredients, although you can now find mists with more astringent properties, and even oil-absorbing powders.

How and when you apply them is totally up to you. 

Besides acting as an instant pick-me-up, mists can be used in between your skincare steps, over and under makeup, and even to dilute other products. 

The Difference Between Face Mist, Thermal Water, Toner, Essence and Setting Spray

What is face mist

Photo: @melissa.christine

With face mists becoming super popular in recent years, there are more and more products to choose from. Problem is, they often go under different names, like toner or essence, even if you spray them on. Are they all the same thing? 

Not necessarily! Here's how to tell the difference:

  • Face mist vs thermal water: Thermal water is a type of face mist that is purely water (and with a higher mineral content than regular water, which helps with dryness and irritation). Face mists contain not just water but additional humectant and emollient ingredients. 
  • Face mist vs toner: Toner is meant to be used after washing your face, to remove all traces of cleanser and prepare your skin for moisturizer. Mist, on the other hand, can go on at any time of day and is usually more nourishing. That said, hydrating toners are now becoming more popular, and would be similar to hydrating mists.
  • Face mist vs essence: In the K-beauty sphere, essence is a type of liquid serum, usually with a watery consistency that you pat on with your fingertips. It's packed with more concentrated ingredients than a mist, and is meant to go underneath moisturizers to add an extra layer of hydration. Mist is even lighter, usually with a higher water content, and can be used at any point in your skincare or makeup routine.
  • Face mist vs setting spray: Setting spray is makeup rather than skincare, and contains film-formers (like synthetic polymers) that lock makeup in place. Mist is made with more skin-friendly ingredients that can help makeup look more natural, rather than giving it more staying power. However, there are some new hybrid products that give you the best of both worlds.

How to Use a Face Mist

What is face mist

Photo: @youthtothepeople

1. To Refresh Your Skin

This one goes without saying—face mist is the fastest-ever skin reviver. Spritzing your face feels cooling and refreshing on a hot day, post-yoga class or whenever you hit that midday slump at the office. Two of the juiciest mists are Herbivore Rose Hibiscus Coconut Water Hydrating Face Mist and Pai Lotus & Orange Blossom BioAffinity Skin Tonic.

2. To Instantly Hydrate

If you choose a face mist formulated with extra hydrating ingredients, it can help moisturize your skin when you spritz it on throughout the day. Bonus: Unlike repeat applications of moisturizer, a mist won't mess up your makeup! 

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Just be sure to look for a mist with emollients or occlusives—like squalane, shea butter, coconut oil or propanediol—if you plan to use it this way. These ingredients help trap the moisture in your skin to keep you hydrated. One of the most nourishing mists I've found is Youth to the People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist. (If a mist only contains water or humectants, it can actually make you drier as it evaporates, so be sure to wear it under a cream or oil.) 

3. To Seal In Extra Moisture

Another way to increase your skin's hydration is to layer one or more applications of face mist in between your skincare and makeup steps. For example, you could mist in between cleanser and serum, before and after moisturizer, or in between primer and foundation (allowing a few moments for it to absorb after every spritz). With each step, you're sealing in the moisture with the product you put on top. The end result will be a plumper, dewier skin look. Try Dr. Barbara Sturm Hydrating Face Mist, which is high in hyaluronic acid.

4. To Soothe Sensitive Skin

If your skin is prone to sensitivity, a face mist can help take down redness, calm irritation and replenish lost moisture. It just needs to be the right face mist. Avoid potential irritants like alcohol and fragrance, and instead choose a more basic formula with gentle ingredients like aloe vera, grape water or thermal water (which is rich in anti-inflammatory minerals). Caudalie Grape Water is one of my favourites.

5. To Absorb Excess Oil

If you thought translucent powders and blotting sheets were your only options to control shine throughout the day, think again. Face mists with ingredients like silk powder (found in Tatcha The Satin Skin Mist) or silica (a natural mineral, found in BIOeffect OSA Water Mist) will absorb oil while providing lightweight moisture. The niacinamide in Dr Roebuck's Bondi Hydrating Mist is a good humectant to look for, as it helps regulate oil production while it hydrates. 

6. To Help Control Breakouts

A mist can even help to keep acne-prone skin in check. Rather than a hydrating mist, choose a clarifying mist, which will typically include mild acid exfoliants. Beta-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid, betaine salicylate or willow bark water are most effective for deep-cleaning pores and preventing breakouts. Depending on your skin, this type of mist could be used instead of in addition to a daily leave-on acne treatment. Two of the best options are COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner and Odacité Mint Green Tea Hydra-Purifying Treatment Mist.

7. To Boost Absorption of Other Products

Damp skin acts like a sponge, quickly absorbing any products you put on it. So if you want to maximize the performance of your lotions, creams and face oils, try using them on top of a layer of face mist, like Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence. They'll penetrate deeper, giving your skin more of their beneficial ingredients. The same thing goes for masks—they'll glide on more smoothly and sink in easily if your skin is moist, not dry. 

8. To Prime Your Skin for Makeup

If you apply it before foundation, a layer of face mist can create a smoother, more hydrated canvas over which to apply your makeup. A regular face mist will work, or you can try one from the new category of priming face mists designed specifically for this purpose. Some, like Giovanni Hydrating Facial Prime & Setting Mist, are silicone-free, making them a great alternative to conventional, silicone-laden primers. 

9. To Blend Foundation

What's the key to natural-looking foundation that looks like real skin? Blend, blend, blend! A face mist such as Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist can help by encouraging foundation to spread more easily, giving you a sheer, even finish instead of looking cakey. Another great trick is to use your face mist to dampen a makeup sponge (like the Beautyblender). Then, gently press it into your skin to remove any excess product. 

10. To Set Makeup

There's a new generation of products that are a cross between face mists and setting sprays. So you're getting all the hydrating skincare benefits, plus the ability to extend the wear-time of your makeup—and often with cleaner ingredients that won't clog or irritate your skin. Examples include Lily Lolo Makeup Mist and Boscia White Charcoal Mattifying MakeUp Setting Spray, which can be used on top of or instead of setting powders.

11. To Help Makeup Look More Natural

If you're anything like me, you always finish your makeup routine with a dusting of translucent powder. But you probably don't love the dry, powdery skin texture that it can often impart. That's why you need a superfine face mist like Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist. Used sparingly, it will dissolve surface powder residue for that natural, lived-in makeup look we all covet.

12. To Revive Makeup

When you're heading from the office to a night out on the town, face mist is an easy way to revive your makeup without having to wash your face and start all over again. All you need to do is spray your face with a moisturizing mist like Biossance Squalane + Micronutrient Fine Mist, and then use your fingertips or a brush to re-blend, if necessary. Spot-conceal where needed, and you're ready to go.

13. To Dilute Other Products

Sometimes, a product just isn't working. Maybe the consistency is too thick, the texture is too heavy, or the coverage level is too opaque. Face mist can come in handy because you can make your own DIY concoctions—say, diluting a cream into a lotion, or thinning out a foundation into a sheer tint. Skin Inc Supplement Bar Pure Serum Mist has a short and sweet ingredients list that would pair well with other products.

Are Face Mists Necessary?

What is face mist


Do you NEED a face mist?

Okay, it may not be an essential step like cleansing and applying sunscreen. But mist is definitely a convenient way to give your skin an extra boost—and improve your makeup game.

The key is to choose and use your mist wisely, making sure the product is packed with good ingredients and applied at the right time in your beauty routine. (The main rule of thumb is to lock in humectant-based mists with a more occlusive moisturizer, so the moisture doesn't escape.)

Besides its versatility, my favourite thing about face mist is the instant gratification factor. One spritz, and right away your skin looks dewier, plumper and brighter. It might not be permanent, but that's the great thing about face mists... you can spray them on again and again and again!

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