Face mists seem to be having a moment these days. Maybe you’ve seen your coworker’s bottle sitting near her keyboard for a midday pick-me-up, maybe it’s the travel-sized spray that the woman next to you on the airplane is spritzing all over her face, or maybe you’ve simply spotted the petite Evian in the Beauty aisle.
Even though these formulas are popping up everywhere, it’s still not clear if facial spray is actually a skincare necessity. And let’s be serious, we’ve all wondered at some point if it’s more or less glorified water in fancy packaging. To get to the bottom of the misting craze, we set out to answer the biggest questions about face sprays—and to figure out if they’re really worth it.
“A facial spray can be thought of as a toner,” says Elena Miglino, Smith & Cult Beauty Ambassador. “Some are just mineral water, while the newer ones can contain essential oils and antioxidants in them.” The main purpose of a mist is to give skin additional nourishment during the day. Many of the sprays come in purse-friendly sizes, making them a great way to refresh skin on-the-go.
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While mineral water has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, many of the newer varieties also have other complexion-loving ingredients. “Sometimes I tend to recommend floral waters to clients who are looking to give the skin an extra boost," says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection. “For example, I can give you a chamomile water if your skin feels sensitive and red. Or I can do rose water to increase hydration in winter since it’s good for circulation.” Other helpful ingredients include lime (it helps tighten pores and acts as an astringent to combat oily skin), plum and strawberry (they’re great options to hydrate super-dry skin), and super greens, like avocado (since it's rich in skin-protecting antioxidants).
Apply this multi-tasker right after you cleanse or try swapping it in place of your toner. Another option is to make it the last step of your skincare routine to lock everything else in place. Spritzing it pre-foundation is also an ideal way to prime your face, and certain formulas like Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer Water ($32, ulta.com) are specifically designed to be used this way. You can also use it after makeup as an ideal product to help dilute your base (especially if you tend to get a little heavy-handed with foundation application) or to create an all-over dewy finish. Then you can use it throughout the day to refresh your makeup’s appearance or to mattify your look.
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But while they're a fun addition to your bag, they're not necessarily a skincare essential. “They are a nice 'add-on' to a good skincare regimen, but not a vital part,” explains Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care. And some can be really expensive, so compare ingredients as well as prices. “There are definitely some that are very high in price because they contain anti-aging ingredients that work more like a skin treatment,” says Miglino. “However, if you do your research correctly you will find some have the exact same ingredients and are double the price, just because of packaging or brand name.” Tanzi says you should make sure any products claiming to have mineral or thermal water share the name of their source displayed on the label, so you can ensure it's legitimately delivering theraputic properties to the skin.
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Interested in taking the plunge? Here are a few facial sprays our beauty director loves: