Zea Mays (Corn) Starch for Skin – Is It Bad?

Zea Mays (Corn) Starch for Skin

While you might not have heard the name Zea mays starch, you’ve likely heard of corn starch. That’s what we’re talking about here. It’s one and the same.

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Corn is one of the most commonly grown foods in the world. So it’s no surprise we found a use for it in skincare right? Learn about the benefits of using this mass-produced ingredient along with its safety considerations.

Corn starch a good option for skincare and cosmetics products since it’s widely available, natural, low-cost, biodegradable, and non-irritating. If offers texturing enhancing and emulsifying properties in skincare and cosmetics.

What Is Zea Mays Starch?

Zea mays starch is also called “corn starch,” since it’s derived from corn. In other words, Zea mays starch is the scientific name for corn starch. The corn is peeled and then ground into a fine, flour-like powder.

Zea Mays Starch for skin - what is it?

In its most fine state, it has similar attributes to talc, making it a good alternative to that mineral-based ingredient. Brands are opting for Zea mays starch since it absorbs oil and moisture better than talc. This is ideal for makeup application.

It’s highly compatible with a wide variety of other mineral and natural ingredients. Zea mays starch is used in skincare products such as cleansers, moisturizers, makeup, and much more.

Zea Mays Starch Benefits for Skin

Zea mays starch helps reduce shine and oiliness and helps prevent products from feeling tacky or sticky. As you’d image, this is useful for foundation, primer, moisturizers, creams, and more.

This corn-based ingredient offers mattifying, anti-caking, emulsification, and exfoliating benefits. It’s a popular alternative to using talc in formulations.

Zea mays starch skin benefits

Mattifying properties

Zea mays starch helps “mattify” the skin. In other words, Zea mays starch in skin care helps absorb grease, oil, and creates a matte, less shiny appearance.

For this reason, it’s often found in products that are advertised as helping to reduce shine and lessen oil and grease on the skin.

Non-caking base for makeup

Zea mays starch is used as a base for cosmetics including eyeshadow, powder foundations, and other mineral makeup. Because it does not cake easily, it’s a great ingredient addition for makeup products.

Assists in emulsification

Zea mays starch helps bind together water and oil-based ingredients, creating a thick and stable emulsion that will not split. It enhances the stability of skincare products and helps improve their shelf life.


The ability of Zea mays starch to exfoliate the skin depends on the type of starch used. If the starch is coarse-grained rather than ground into a fine powder, it can be used as an exfoliant. The grains of the starch will help remove dead skin cells and reveal healthy, bright skin.

For this use, corn starch can be included in a face scrub or cleanser that physically exfoliates the skin.

Calm and Soothe

It contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe and calm the skin. You may have heard about using corn starch for a diaper rash. This is one of the reasons why it’s effective. It can soothe dry, itchy skin and absorb excess moisture.

Is Zea Mays Starch Vegan?

Zea mays starch is completely vegan since it’s made from corn. There are no animal ingredients involved at any point in the production process.

However, Zea mays starch may be used in skincare products that have other animal-derived products or were tested on animals. Always do your research and consult with the manufacturer if you want to ensure the products you use are 100% vegan.

Is Zea Mays Starch Safe for Skin?

Zea mays starch is the same thing as corn starch, which is completely non-toxic and used in a variety of foods. It’s non-toxic, non-reactive, and considered safe to use in skincare products and cosmetics of all kinds.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel considers Zea Mays Starch safe to use in cosmetics based on current use and concentrations.

Don’t fret over skincare and cosmetic products that have corn starch in them. This is a widely used ingredient that has research and plenty of use-cases to back it up. It’s not a super fun, new, or sexy ingredient but it gets the job done.

Corn Starch vs. Talc

Zea mays or corn starch is more effective at absorbing oils and has a better spreading effect. This combo makes it more useful in cosmetics and skincare products than talc. Corn starch is a better mattifying, thickening, and emulsifying option.

Corn Starch vs. Talc

Corn Starch

Corn starch comes from grinding up dry seed cobs. The corn is peeled and ground up into a white-yellowish power. It’s natural, low-cost, and doesn’t irritate the skin.


Talc is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the Earth. It’s made of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It offers similar formulation benefits as corn starch. Talc helps absorb moisture, prevent caking, and it can enhance product texture.

It raised concerns in the 1960s when researchers found a possible link between talc and ovarian cancer. While there is no conclusive evidence many are still wary of this ingredient.

In the 70s there was also a concern about talc being contaminated with asbestos. Yikes.

Zea Mays Starch for Acne

We couldn’t find a trusted source with the comedogenic rating of zea mays starch. However, similar corn-based ingredients have a comedogenic rating of 2-4. This means they can clog pores and potentially make acne worse.

Take note if you are using products with zea mays starch when you have acne. If acne persists, consider switching to another product without corn starch.

This is especially important for ingredients that stay on the face, such as treatments, lotions, and foundation.

Also Known As

Zea mays starch is the scientific name for corn starch. Those are the two common names when referring to this ingredient. You’ll almost always find it labeled as either Zea mays starch or corn starch so be on the lookout for this ingredient when shopping for skincare products

You’ll also find variations of corn-derived ingredients such as Zea mays oil, Zea mays cob meal, and Zea mays germ extract.

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