Put Cornstarch in Everything

Corn Starch & Mascara
Corn Starch & Lip Stain
Corn Starch & Nail Polish

Ah cornstarch, the Clark Kent of thickening agents. In the box, it’s quiet and unprepossessing. But sneak it into some mascara or nail polish (or a phone booth), and like THAT it starts exhibiting superpowers and wearing Speedos.

Now, from a distance it may seem silly to voluntarily mix any kind of "starch" with beauty products you actually like/want to use. But hear us out. To begin with, have you ever read the ingredient list on a tube of lipstick? Long story short, you're eating all kinds of carnauba wax. And 2) Cornstarch is a food-grade additive. Which means that unless you have a maize allergy—in which case you have our sympathies, because we live in a corn-filled world—this should actually make the products you're using marginally better for you. Kinda.

Anyway, cornstarch is especially handy in these matte-obsessed times, since dumping it onto nail polish, lipstick, mascara, your head, etc. tamps down on any shine. And did we mention that it's cheap? Like, insanely cheap? Well, it is. So pop over to the market, grab a box, and let's start improving our collective lives with the bulking power of cereal crops. Here's how:

In your mascara:
Mascara formulations vary primarily in terms of viscosity. The Penelope-Cruz-in-Broken-Embraces, Sophia-Loren-crying-in-the-rain look comes from thick, intentionally cake-y textures. Anything people describe as "subtle," on the other hand, is probably a thinner composition. Cornstarch is a natural thickener, so it lets you build up to any kind of mascara you want—bespoke lashes, if you will. Add a tiny bit for New Wave ingenue oomph, or throw in an entire pinch and make scenery-chewing monster mascara that would do a Kardashian proud. The possibilities are only limited by your hand-eye coordination. Just use a toothpick (or something similar) to scrape a glob of mascara out onto a plate, add a dot of cornstarch, blend using the toothpick, then twirl your mascara brush in it to apply. Keep in mind that the optimal ratio is lots of mascara to barely any cornstarch.

In your nail polishes and lip colors:
Too lazy to buy matte versions of nail polish and lip color? You are in luck: an austere sprinkling—about one eighth of a teaspoon—blended into polish cuts shine completely. It also gives glitter lacquer a dirty, cloudy look ideal for taking glitzy manicures out of Legally Blonde territory and more into the realm of The Craft. With lip color and cornstarch, gloss becomes a hard-edged, buildable pigment paste and lipstick goes retro-matte (á la Riri Woo). Add even more cornstarch to soften pigmentation in a shade that's overly bright—this trick works for too-intense blush, eye shadow, and bronzer, as well.

In your hair:
Dry shampoo will make your life better (just ask Arizona Muse). This is an unequivocal fact, like pop groups producing just one bonafide star. All out of dry shampoo, though? That is A-ok, because you just bought a whole box of cornstarch! You're just going to want to put some on your head, the same way you would with a normal hair-refreshing powder. Seriously. Do it. It'll soak up all the sebum, and then you can brush it out. Will your hair smell like polenta? That's a risk you're gonna have to take (actually, the answer is no, it will not).

Photographed by Mathea Millman. 

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  • C.

    I'm totally gonna try the dry shampoo thing. I've never tried dry shampoo, but have always wanted to. I have dark brown hair, though. I hope it doesn't look like I have intense dandruff. The mascara trick is also intriguing.

    • pamb

      I have dark brown hair, and never have luck with white dry shampoos. They always leave a white residue. Maybe it's because I don't rush my hair (I have curls) and finger combing just doesn't get the white out. In any case, I use Bumble and Bumble's dry shampoo, as it is tinted. I use the blonde (it's dark enough for my hair).

      • ITGLacey

        If you wanted to get really, really DIY, you could add unsweetened cocoa powder to the cornstarch for a better color match—some people swear by it.

        • atchurch

          lol. Sorry, I should read before I post. But I just backed up your comment. haha! Also, the other blog says it's the perfect blend for matte powder on your face (with or without foundation) for darker complexions and lasts all day on most.

      • atchurch

        I just read another MUA blog that says to add cocoa powder to the cornstarch and you can't see it in dark hair AND her husband said her hair smelled like chocolate. So that's a bonus.

    • jess

      there are heaps of "brunette" dry shampoos around, bastiste have one :)

    • Jess Yack

      I use dry shampoo sprays -- I've tried them all from Oribe to Sachajuan to Philip B to Tresemme but my favorite is $3.99 Dove. I spray my roots before I shower, then when I get out I blast my head with the blow dryer on high while I kind of shake the powder from my hair. Never had a problem with powdery look (my hair is dark brown) and my hair looks/feels/smells clean. This trick works up to three days after washing!

    • Mariam Ali

      I'm a brunette as well, and I like to add in a pinch of cacao powder with the corn starch to use as dry shampoo so that you can't see any of the light corn starch particles in my hair.

  • softy

    is cornstarch better than baby powder as a dry shampoo?

    • ITGLacey

      I personally prefer it because it's unscented & the texture is finer. It just coats the hair more lightly & brushes out better for me.

  • Kathleen

    Cornstarch is the best for healing blisters. It draws the moisture out and is so relieving. At night, put a little cornstarch on the blister and then a sock if it's on your feet or a bandaid if elsewhere. By the morning, the blister will feel so much better.

    • thegreatcatsbee

      I think you just changed my life.

    • C

      Do you think this would help with preventing scars?

  • http://www.downtownhautefashion.blogspot.com/ Leslie

    I'm going to try this in my polish! !

    Thanks for the tip!



  • Girlie Blogger

    Great ideas. Very true though, because cornstarch has tenderizing and rising properties, it can be used as a "fluff" in beauty and cooking - and who knows what else. Would love to discover more uses for it.

    Beauty Fashion Skin Care Blog -Girlie Blog Seattle | Casual Chic Style

  • Grace

    ooooo... how intriguing... as a batiste fan, it would be interesting to see how the dry shampoo idea works. Thanks for sharing.. I feel an experiment coming on! xxx


  • Caroline

    DRY SHAMPOO FOREVER. I also use it in DIY deodorant.

  • Chantel

    Interesting article, thanks for sharing.

  • ITGLacey

    Hi! In general, organic compounds can serve as a viable medium for bacterial growth. Mascara, lipstick, & other products can play host to bacteria & fungi, which is why you should replace your cosmetics regularly, keep your brushes clean, etc. Putting anything that isn't sterile into an open wound is always a bad idea, too.

    I'd be wary about recommending talcum powder, though. Talc itself is a mineral, yes, but talcum usually has additives that are vulnerable to contamination, & a significant number of people also have a talc sensitivity.

  • Maggie

    It is the best fix for a baby's bottom rash too, seriously, I'm a mom of 5, trust me! But am totally going to try it as a dry shampoo, never thought of that!

  • http://thoughtsofglam.com/ ThoughtsofGlam

    Another great use for corn starch is setting your makeup!


  • Jessica

    I use the dry shampoo formula, since my hair started to get greasy everyday. Before I would use one of those canned dry shampoos and it would work for barely a couple hours. Then I switched to cornstarch and it was amazing. My hair would be oil-free for more then just a couple hours, my hair looked great even on the next day. I seriously recommend opting for CORNSTARCH instead of the BRANDED DRY SHAMPOOS. :)

  • Han

    Is Cornstarch a great use for hair odor?

    If yes then will it be enough when used alone odor or would it have to be mixed with something else?