Thanaka or  thanakha is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinctive feature of the culture of Myanmar, seen commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls, and is used to a lesser extent also by men and boys. The use of thanaka has also spread to neighboring countries including Thailand.

Within this article, we will learn everything about Thanaka and the benefits of its powder in making a secret beauty ingredient of Burmese women.

What is Thanaka made of?

The wood of several trees may be used to produce thanaka cream; these trees grow abundantly in central Myanmar. They include principally Murraya spp. (thanaka) but also Limonia acidissima (theethee or wood apple). The two most popular are Shwebo thanaka from Sagaing Region and Shinmadaung thanaka from Magway Region.

A more recent contender sold as a paste is Taunggyi Maukme thanaka from southern Shan State. Thanaka trees are perennials, and a tree must be at least 35 years old before it is considered mature enough to yield good-quality cuttings. Thanaka in its natural state is sold as small logs individually or in bundles, but nowadays also available as a paste or in powder form.

Thanaka cream is made by grinding the bark, wood, or roots of a thanaka tree with a small amount of water on a circular slate slab called kyauk pyin, which has a channel around the rim for the water to drain into.

5 benefits of Thanaka powder

People say it cools the skin, offers sun protection, controls acne, heals wounds, treats rashes and provides nutritional supplement for babies.

You can find below the top 5 benefits of thanaka powder.

1. Natural Alternative to Sunblock

Thanaka is nature’s sunscreen in its purest form. The Burmese have used thanaka to protect and beautify the skin for over 2,000 years. Ground from tree bark in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and commonly pulverized on a stone slab, it is then mixed with water to form a paste. It’s then applied topically where it acts as a physical shield against the sun while also nourishing the skin with its rich antioxidant properties.

2. Rich in Vitamin E

Thanaka is a nutrient-dense paste packed with vitamin E, which protects the skin against polluted air and free radicals, the unstable compounds that damage cell structure.

Vitamin E is comprised of antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, all things your skin loves! Additionally, thanaka is an effective moisturizer, and its hydrating and cooling effects makes it ideal for post-sun exposure. Combine thanaka with MANDA’s other hydrating ingredients like coconut oil and Shea butter, and say goodbye to dry skin.

Thanaka also contains properties that inhibit tyrosinase, an agent responsible for melanin synthesis and skin discoloration. Therefore, the regular use of thanaka can brighten and improve your skin’s complexion.

3. Influenced by Local Traditions

We believe there are power and richness in local traditions. When we examine a particular practice a culture thrives on, we begin to understand its power in application and effectiveness in that culture. The use of a single ingredient, vital to everyday life, gives insight into an alternative practice. The use of thanaka by the Burmese demonstrates how simple working with nature can be.

Utilizing thanaka as a main component in MANDA teaches us to be innovative with the resources from our environment and to work with nature, as nature intended.

4. Less Environmentally Impacting

More thanaka = less zinc.

You might be wondering why less zinc is beneficial, as most natural sunscreens contain zinc as the active ingredient. Because zinc is a mineral, the process of mining it puts a huge toll on our planet. At MANDA, we aim to protect our planet and oceans. By using thanaka, nature’s best solution for sunscreen, we’re able to use a more sustainable and regenerative ingredient, thereby reducing our environmental footprint.

5. Works with Nature, Not Against

By using thanaka, we apply simple indigenous remedies, which enrich lifelong necessities. By learning from other cultures and going back to basics, we enhance our connection to the simplicity of working with nature. By utilizing thanaka as an active ingredient in MANDA, we take part in traditional practices, regressing toward a healthier community and planet. Working with nature can really be that simple.

Extra: Permanent hair removal – the 6th benefit of Thanaka

It basically makes the roots of hair weaker day by day by stopping down the nutrient supply to hair root. when nutrient supply to hair root is stop down then hairs roots automatically falls out.

Why Burmese Use Thanaka?

Locating in the tropical climate zone, the temperature of Myanmar remains pretty hot throughout the year; thus, many Burmese own the dark brown skin because of the effect of weather for working outdoors. However, most of them always have a firm, smooth and rarely acne skin thanks to using Thanaka powder.

Thanaka becomes a multi-purpose cream/ powder which has all of the positive effects. Thanaka sunscreen to protect your skin from sunlight, makeup, skincare day and night. Furthermore, its active ingredients of coumarin and marmesin account for anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti acne; that help remove dead skin (cleansing) and control excessive facial oil that balance the moisture all day.

For these reasons, from young to old, both male and female prefer use this natural cosmetic rather than any other beauty methods for daily life. As the Thanaka is not aging limitation, they use Thanaka for the kids since very little to protect their skins when they grow up.  

You can find below the YouTube video from BBC about Thanaka and its significance in daily life in Myanmar

How is Thanaka applied?

Thanaka cream has been used by Burmese women for over 2000 years. It has a fragrant scent somewhat similar to sandalwood. The creamy paste is applied to the face in attractive designs, the most common form being a circular patch on each cheek, nose, sometimes made stripey with the fingers known as thanaka bè gya, or patterned in the shape of a leaf, often also highlighting the bridge of the nose with it at the same time. 

It may be applied from head to toe (thanaka chi zoun gaung zoun). Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn. It is believed to help remove acne and promote smooth skin. It is also an anti-fungal. The active ingredients of thanaka are coumarin and marmesin

Who wears thanaka?

Every day you’ll see most females and many boys and young men spotting thanaka pastes on their faces. Although the cheeks are typically the most visibly coated, there is usually a thin layer across the entirety of the face. 

All children usually sport a pretty thick mask, which I believe accounts for such smooth skin later in life. It is the sun damage we acquire as children (oops) that ages us so dramatically as we get older. 

An ever-present thanaka mask from birth until ten years old goes a long way toward anti-aging later in life. Although used for sun protection during the day, thanaka is also applied at night after bathing in order to receive the other anti-inflammatory therapeutic benefits.

Where to buy Thanaka?

With all of the interesting information provided, it is time for our most important question. Where to buy Thanaka in Myanmar? As the popular beauty remedy, Thanaka can be found in almost all markets in the country and big cities such as Yangon, Mandalay or Bagan; so finding one should not be challenging. There are two types of Thanaka you can purchase: either powder/cream form or the original wood blocks.

Thanaka wood blocks are widely available so you can easily get them in every wet market or even at your hotel lobby. The prices of these original woods may vary depending on wood’s age and harvest location. The longer the life span of the log is, the higher quality and cost will be. 

Yet, the harvest location is hard to say which place has the best quality of soil and wood, maybe in Mandalay or Irrawaddy river. But many people recommend buying Thanaka in Bagan; as the quality of Thanaka in Central Myanmar is the best because of many sunny days even in wet season there.

Thanaka branches or Thanaka powder?

Normally, if you plan to buy the Thanaka branches, do not forget to buy the stone together; as you can easily rub the Thanaka log against the stone to make the powder on your own. For the first time using the Thanaka branch, firstly you need to let the branch dry under sunlight for a week; after that the log can be kept at dry place and last up to 2 – 3 years. This tip is to avoid the bacteria growing on the branch; so, you can keep the log as long as you want.

However, this traditional way might be pretty heavy for your luggage on air transfer; so buying the ready-made powder is a better idea. These Thanaka powder is made with milk or rose water that can be used as a face mask for beauty enhancement.

Thanaka for hair removal is mixed with kusumba oil that can be applied to your unwanted hair to remove it. Here are the top Thanaka powder suppliers that you can choose while in Myanmar: Jintai Yadi, Thai Pei, Isme Rasyan (Made in Thailand); Bio Way Taung Gyi Mauk Mai, Shwe Pyi Nann (Made in Myanmar).

If you cannot make it to Myanmar, now you can buy it online via Amazon.com

image
24-hour response
guaranteed!
REQUEST A FREE QUOTE

My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

Comments
SIMILAR BLOG ARTICLES

Burmese Longyi, along with the country’s longtime history, art, and heritage sites has contributed to the richness of the local culture that will grasp your attention whenever you find yourself in strolling around the streets of Myanmar. With just a piece of fabric grasping on the lower part of the body through time, the longyi has made it become an incredible pattern of Myanmar traditional costume for both men and women. In this article, we are going to find out the secret of Myanmar quintessence through Longyi, about why it has been worn for centuries by the Burmese people.

...more

Kachin Manaw Festival is an annual traditional dance festival celebrated by Kachin people. Mostly held at Myitkyina, Kachin State also known as Manaw Land in Myanmar and also celebrated by Kachin people around the world. Manaw is the largest festival in Myitkyina, held at the beginning of January. Manaw Festival is the most significant event for Kachin People. Tribes of Kachin gather together in Manaw ground and dance around the erected Manaw poles. The Manau dance is performed at Manau festivals, which originated as part of the ‘Nat’ or spirit worship of the past.

...more

If your idea of fun involves a blurry riot of colour and explosions, look no further than the Taunngyi Fire Balloon Festival, which takes place in the culturally diverse capital of Shan State over several days every November. This celebration is held around the Full Moon of Tazaungmon, a Myanmar national holiday that marks the end of rainy season and is also known as the Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights.

Traditionally, it is a festival to pay homage to the Sulamani Pagoda by sending up decorated hot air balloons, and lately it also became as a Hot Air Balloon Competition Festival and the festival is divided into two parts; daytime competition and nighttime competition. In the daytime, hot air balloons are sent up with the shapes of various animals and mythical creatures, and hot air balloons with firework & fire-cracker (known as Nya Mee Gyi) and lot of lanterns are hanging in the hot air balloons (known as Seinnaban) are sent up in the nighttime.

...more

All year round, visitors to Myanmar can experience the country’s warm and rich culture. However, one particularly special and unique time to visit is during the Naga New Year Festival, which will be held in Lahe around mid-January every year.

This special time allows visitors the chance to experience the traditions and customs of Myanmar’s Naga people. For the Naga, Lahe (New Year) is a significant time when people share their wishes and hopes for the future, and families are reunited.

It is a time of great celebration; where lively dances are performed in traditional dress, to the beat and sounds of traditional instruments.

Few tourists are lucky enough to share in the joy and festivities of the Naga New Year, but those who do are richly rewarded with an incredible cultural experience.

Overall, for those who seek genuine cultural exchange and the opportunity to take some truly stunning photographs, the Naga New Year is an amazing and unique festival to attend.

...more

The full moon of the Thadingyut month is when Buddhists believe the Buddha descended back to earth after three months of preaching in the spiritual realm above. While the rest of Myanmar celebrates it by lighting the Buddha's way home, the town of Kyaukse near Mandalay commemorates it a little differently: with a Elephant Dance Festival, populated not by real elephants, but by pairs of dancers in gigantic elephant costumes.

Hmm... What is it? What makes it so special? and how to join the festival? You will have all the answers below.

...more

The Thadingyut Festival, also known as the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, is held on the full moon day of the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut. As a custom, it is held at the end of the Buddhist sabbath (Vassa) and is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival (New Year Water Festival). Thadingyut festival is the celebration to welcome the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

Thadingyut is also one of the most magnificent lantern festival in Asia

...more
NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below the detailed information for our different destinations, our plans by travel theme or time frame to learn more before moving forward...

places to visit in Myanmar
Yangon
bee-white Yangon

Bagan
bee-white Bagan

Mandalay
bee-white Mandalay

Inle Lake
bee-white Inle Lake

Mergui Archipelago
bee-white Mergui Archipelago

Ngapali Beach
bee-white Ngapali Beach

Myanmar PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
Must-see
bee-white Must-see

Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury
bee-white Luxury

Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Wellness & Leisure
bee-white Wellness & Leisure

Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

Family
bee-white Family

The combination of fun and educational activities

Unseen
bee-white Unseen

Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Trek & Hike
bee-white Trek & Hike

Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Cycling
bee-white Cycling

Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Honeymoon
bee-white Honeymoon

Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Cruise
bee-white Cruise

The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Myanmar PLANS BY TIME FRAME
white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
image
Already got a plan? REQUEST A FREE QUOTE
Myanmar TRAVEL TIPS & GUIDE

Either are you wondering about best time to visit, visa policy, or how to get the cheapest flight, we have your back!
WHAT MORE? Choose the country you plan to visit, then search for your nationality below to see our special travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Best Time to Visit
bee-white Best Time to Visit
Tourist Visa Policy
bee-white Tourist Visa Policy
Budget & Currency
bee-white Budget & Currency
Getting Flight There
bee-white Getting Flight There
Getting Around
bee-white Getting Around
Internet & Phone
bee-white Internet & Phone
Packing List
bee-white Packing List
Buying & Bargaining
bee-white Buying & Bargaining
Tipping Customs
bee-white Tipping Customs
Safety & Precautions
bee-white Safety & Precautions
Local Etiquette
bee-white Local Etiquette
Travel Insurance
bee-white Travel Insurance
Vaccinations
bee-white Vaccinations
Useful addresses
bee-white Useful addresses
CHECK OUT OTHER DESTINATIONS
Vietnam
bee-white Vietnam
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
Thailand
bee-white Thailand
Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches.
Cambodia
bee-white Cambodia
There's a magic about this charming yet confounding kingdom that casts a spell on visitors. In Cambodia, ancient and modern worlds collide to create an authentic adventure.
Laos
bee-white Laos
Vivid nature, voluptuous landscapes and a vibrant culture collide with a painful past and optimistic future to make Laos an enigmatic experience for the adventurous.
loading
back top