I have been sent on a beauty mission by Faith, Byrdie's editorial director. I’m a beauty enthusiast so, for me, it’s as exciting as Mission Impossible (minus the death-defying stunts). You see, Faith went for a facial recently and the esthetician told her that if her face mist of choice doesn’t contain hyaluronic acid or a hydrating ingredient like that, then it could actually be drying out your skin. You might think "Well, duh." But not all mists do contain hyaluronic acid and some of the cult face mists contain alcohol, which can be even more drying!
Now my turn to hand out a mission—go and check the ingredient list of your favorite face mist and see what’s inside, then keep reading to find out why not all face mists are born equal and the one’s team Byrdie chooses for hydrated skin.
Why do face mists need hyaluronic acid?
To get the answer I called on Dr. Barbara Sturm, who tells me, “Simply misting water on the face would cause osmosis that would dehydrate skin. My face mist contains hyaluronic acid, a potent humectant that is an essential weapon against transdermal water loss, since it helps bind existing water into the skin cells so it can't evaporate.”
Esthetician Renée Rouleau agrees but notes, “No doubt, hyaluronic acid is a beneficial humectant so it will deliver good results; however, there are other humectants that will do the job, too.” She advises you check the ingredient list and whether hyaluronic acid is on the label or not. If not, check for the following: niacinamide (vitamin B3), glycogen, sucrose, trehalose and sodium PCA. These are all beneficial for delivering hydration to the skin, according to Rouleau.
Which face mist ingredients should we swerve?
As with all skincare products, not all mists are born equal. There are some ingredients that really have no place being in your face mist. “Generally, irritating fragrances, oils, most alcohols and water by itself can be counterproductive as face mist ingredients,” says Dr. Sturm.
Rouleau explains the specific alcohols that you should avoid are "solvent alcohols," which can be extremely drying on the skin. These include SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. But not all alcohols are bad for the skin! “Common fatty alcohols that are beneficial to use on the skin include cetyl alcohol, tocopherol (vitamin E) and oleyl alcohol,” she adds.
Rebecca O'Donnell, co-founder and creative director of face mist brand Bronty Beauty, is on the same page when it comes to alcohols but says that while “propylene glycol is also a fatty alcohol, it can be irritating." She notes that at Bronty they choose to avoid alcohols completely to be on the safe side.
“We also stay clear of all nasties including synthetic fragrances and chemicals, which are quite common in mists," she notes. "These can lead to skin reactions like contact dermatitis, and not just on sensitive skin."
What about active ingredients—are they wasted in a face mist?
Water-based products are fast to penetrate, notes Rouleau, so any active ingredients in your favorite face mist will drive down into the skin.
O'Donnell says that facial mists are massively underrated. "If you look at countries such as Korea, they are obsessed with them," she notes. "On a daily basis, mists with hyaluronic acid and the right antioxidants help protect your skin from pollutants that can cause skin to break down and begin to age. They are also beneficial to all skin types, from sensitive to oily."
Mists can also help supercharge your skincare routine, according to Rouleau. “Water-based mists play an excellent supporting role when it comes to delivering active ingredients into the skin," she says. "When the skin is damp from using a mist or toner, the water can act as a carrier to help a serum applied afterwards absorb further within the skin."
"The thought is that skin is more permeable when it’s damp, so ideally everyone should use a mist or toner after cleansing and then follow it with a serum," she says. "However, if active ingredients are in a mist and you skip the serum, yes, they can be delivered into the skin quickly so you’ll still get benefit."
Is there a right way and a wrong way to mist?
While face mists can deliver actives into the skin, you need to lock that mist in. “Be sure to follow [your mist] immediately with moisturizer since you don’t want the mist and the ingredients used in it to evaporate,” explains Rouleau. “The reason for this is that many mists don’t have occlusive ingredients to hold the ingredients from the mist into the skin, so if it’s misted on the skin and not sealed in with anything, it can evaporate quickly. Since water attracts water, when you spray the skin, it draws water from skin’s deepest layers and evaporates into the dry air. The result can be even drier skin.”
So, aside from the occasional makeup refresh or pick-me-up, you might want to avoid going overboard on misting moments throughout the day.
Are there any other uses for face mists?
While the best way to use a face mist is under your serum and moisturiser, there are a couple of ingenious uses for face mists that you might not have thought of.
“We use our mists particularly over the summer or after a workout on our hair especially around the hairline for a soft sheen and reset,” says O'Donnell.
You can also use your face mist to fix makeup fails. "Went a little overboard on the makeup? Well, rather than wiping it all off and starting again spray your mist over the top and do a little inventory control on those problem areas. Tap with your finger to blend and work in the excess layers for a more natural finish,” she adds.
Shop the Byrdie face mist edit below:
Packed with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, this is ideal for city-dwellers.
Hyaluronic acid, antioxidant purslane and aloe vera give skin a refreshing hit of moisture and actives.
Packed with hyaluronic acid and omegas 3, 6 and 9, this is ideal for skin prone to redness. Use it as a toner or decant into a spray bottle and use as a face mist.
This combines plant humectants rose, lavender, and neroli hydrosol with hyaluronic acid for a beautifully, naturally-scented face mist.
Super affordable and seriously hydrating, this contains glycerin, aloe and watermelon, as well as hyaluronic acid.
Not only is this mist seriously hydrating, it also smells like a spa and contains hyaluronic acid.
Packed with nourishing ingredients, including the humectants glycerin, squalane and sodium hyaluronate, this does actually leave skin looking dewy.
With mineral-rich Japanese Onsen Water, glycerin and low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid (that penetrates deeper), this is seriously refreshing.
Made with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, this lightweight refreshing mist is beautifully formulated to hydrate skin effectively and leave it looking healthy and dewy.