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Thanaka – the Natural Skincare Secret of Ancient Myanmar

For many years, visitors to Myanmar (formerly Burma) had been wondering how the women of this country kept their skin glowing and soft. The secret was a 2,000-year-old natural skincare tradition derived from the Thanaka tree. As a perennial, this tree is indigenous to Southeast Asia and enjoys widespread growth throughout Myanmar. When its stem is ground into a powdery form and mixed with water, it forms a yellowish paste that offers the user many benefits such as a skin beautifier and sun blocker.

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The Historical Roots of Thanaka

Legend has it that the use of Thanaka paste for its skin-nourishing properties was made popular by the queen of Beikthano. Her skin was the envy of many women and its soft, glowing appearance was attributed to using the paste made from mixing equal parts of ground Thanaka and water. However, the history of this amazing skincare product dates back to the founding of Myanmar (formerly Burma) during the 2nd century BC as the Pyu city-states.
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Is Thanaka Bark the Key to Burmese Beauty?

For many individuals that have visited Myanmar, one of the more distinct memories they have is the golden-painted cheeks of many Burmese women and children (along with some of the men). Whether they’re Buddhist or Muslim, young or old, most Myanmar females apply Thanaka paste to their faces on a daily basis. So the question arises. What is Thanaka paste and why do so many women paint it on their faces?

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Is Thanaka Myanmar’s Primary Sun Protection Factor

Myanmar is a part of the Southeast Asian region where the sun can be extremely bright and the humidity extremely high. Since ancient times, the locals have used a traditional formula to counteract the sun’s harsh UV rays and protect the skin. Men, women, and children have been applying Thanaka paste to their faces and other exposed areas of the body for centuries. The thick paste is made by mixing ground tree bark with water and applying it to the skin in order to prevent the damaging effects of the sun. It is commonly applied to the cheeks, forehead, and nose (areas that are prone to sunburn).


Mixing and applying Thanaka Paste

Visitors to Myanmar are encouraged to try Thanaka Paste because of its ability to brighten and soften the skin. The paste is made by mixing equal parts of Thanaka bark (that has been ground into a powder) and water. Once it becomes a creamy paste, it is applied to the face (see above). Most users enjoy it for its fragrant smell as well as its other benefits. It will eventually (usually in about 5 or 6 minutes) become a dry, thick mask that can last up to 6 hours per application. You can easily rinse it off when done.

Thanaka has a yellowish-gray color and looks similar to face paint. It is commonly applied in leafy designs or geometric and playful shapes. Myanmar locals love Thanaka for is skin-nourishing qualities which help to soften and soothe skin that has become dull or irritated. Furthermore, if you apply the paste or a traditional sunscreen when going outdoors, it can ease the irritation resulting from sunburn. Primarily a sunny country with tropical weather, skin irritations are common and that is why traditional methods of cooling and caring for the skin are still used.

Additionally, individuals who are prone to hyperpigmentation with medium to dark skin tones can use Thanaka to provide a brightening effect that fades dark spots and creates a complexion the is even and radiant. For many Southeast Asian locals who have olive toned skin, discoloration is often a major concern. However, those who use Thanaka paste to counteract skin discolorations are usually pleased with the results.


Shifting Beauty Trends

Unfortunately, traditional Thanaka paste use in Myanmar is being threatened by shifts in existing beauty trends. Many young Burmese women today are applying retail cosmetics and make-up as well as store-bought sunscreen. However, you can still see many locals in the smaller Myanmar villages with their faces painted with the Thanaka paste. For more information regarding this product and its amazing benefits, visit the Healing Bark website by clicking here or call us at (800) 770-9988 today.
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Effective Skin Care with Thanaka Face Masks

Used for over 2,000 years in Burmese culture, Thanaka may just be the best kept beauty secret from the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar.  It is a key component of several types of beauty creams and face masks that benefit your skin in different ways.  The basic paste is made by grinding the bark or roots of the Limonia acidissima tree which grows in the central most region of the country.  Once pulverized into a powder, it is mixed with water form a creamy, yellowish paste that is applied to the skin.


Interestingly enough, there are a variety of ingredients that can be added to this mixture in order to create a range of face masks that benefit the skin in different ways.  Consider trying any or all of the following for single applications and improved skin health:


Traditional Face Mask

The basic face mask is made by mixing equal parts of Thanaka powder and water (usually 1 to 2 teaspoons of each) until a creamy paste result.  Clean your face and then apply the paste evenly over it.  It will be dried within 5 to 10 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove it with lukewarm water.  For smoother, softer skin, we recommend applying it 1 or 2 times weekly.


Brightening, Smoothing, and Softening Face Mask

To naturally brighten, smooth out, and soften facial skin, mix 2 teaspoons of Thanaka powder with 2 tablespoons of avocado or coconut oil, 1/4 teaspoon honey, and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder.  Apply the mixture evenly with a fan brush and leave on for 20 minutes.  You can use a face towel to wash it off provided you don’t mind that it will be permanently stained by the compound. However, it does give your skin a softer and cleaner feel.


Gentle Exfoliating Face Mask

For a face mask that gently exfoliates the skin, mix the Thanaka powder with honey and milk.  Apply the paste in a circular pattern by gently massaging it onto your face.  Let the paste sit for 5 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. You will find that the skin is smoother and softer.


Nourishing and Rehydrating Face Mask 

Mix 2 teaspoons of Thanaka powder with 1 teaspoon honey, 4 tablespoons milk, and 25 grams ground walnuts to form a creamy paste.  Apply this evenly over the face and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off with lukewarm water.


In addition to the above, Thanaka face masks also help to diminish the size of facial pores, reduce skin impurities, and leave the skin soft to the touch.  To learn more about Thanaka and its many benefits visit the Healing Bark website today.

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The Many Benefits of Thanaka

The fact that we live in a world that is controlled by technology is evidenced by the many chemical and synthetic products that are all around us in our everyday world.  A good example of this is the many beauty and cosmetic products lining the display cases and shelves of thousands of stores nationwide.  Unfortunately, we have lost sight of the effectiveness of nature when it comes to solving our everyday problems.

However, the Burmese culture has applied their local traditions to areas where modern technology cannot make a particular better than its natural, organic counterpart.  Such is the case where beautification and skin care products made from the bark and roots of Thanaka are concerned.  By developing natural solutions for the care and well-being of our skin, we not only look and feel better, we are leaving a smaller carbon footprint.


2,000 Years of Cultural Tradition in Powder Form

Thanaka powder is made from the bark and roots of the Limonia acidissima tree that is indigenous to Myanmar’s dry central region.  The Burmese people have used this for over 2,000 years to beautify and protect their skin.  The powder is made by pulverizing the bark and roots of the Thanaka tree on a circular stone slab.  At that point, it is mixed with water to form a yellowish, creamy paste that is that is topically applied to the skin of the face and arms.  And that’s where the magic begins. This helps keep your skin protected while ensures that organic products protect the environment.


Benefits for the Skin 

The popularity of Thanaka throughout the Burmese culture is attributed to the many benefits it provides our skin.  Consider the following benefits of using it:


  • Antioxidants – Thanaka is rich in Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant that protects the skin from damaging free radicals and pollutants in the air. Furthermore, it’s an effective moisturizer that provides a cooling and hydrating effect, making an ideal compound for applying to the skin after long periods in the sun. 
  • Environmentally friendly – from mined minerals that leave the surface of our planet scarred to ocean-destroying chemical compounds, the active ingredients in beauty products today have a tremendously adverse effect on the environment. Thanaka is an environmentally friendly, natural solution with regenerative and sustainable qualities.
  • Healthy skin – coumarin and marmesin are the active ingredients that account for Thanaka’s anti-aging, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties while also making it ideal for treating and preventing acne. Additionally, it controls facial skin oils and is effective for the removal of dead skin cells.


Want to learn more about Thanaka? We have a range of information that you might be interested in. Visit the Healing Bark website by clicking here.

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Why Is Thanaka a Myanmar Household Tradition?

 The Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar is the home to a traditional custom that dates back over 2,000 years, namely the use of Thanaka by Burmese women and children as well as some men.  If you ever visit this country and have the opportunity to spend time with and speak to any of the locals, you will quickly discover that the Burmese people feel a great sense of pride about wearing this yellowish paste on their faces.  Not only is this a traditional skin conditioning agent, it is a cherished part of the Burmese culture as well as their national identity.


Daily Use 

Thanaka emits a fragrant, sandalwood-like scent and is a traditional component in nearly every Myanmar household.  Every day, Burmese women, children, and even some of the men will paint the yellowish, creamy paste on their faces after bathing.  The locals believe that it controls oily skin, has a cooling effect, and tightens their pores.  It is applied in a number of from a basic smear to more elaborate patterns.  It can be applied very lightly or as a thick facial mask.  There are no rules.

It is commonly used as a natural sunscreen on the faces and arms of individuals who tend the rice paddies or work outdoors for several hours at a time because they believe that it protects their skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays.  The wearing of Thanaka is a centuries old Burmese female beautification technique and is revered by many women as a traditional beauty secret.  Its popularity is partially attributed to its skin-cooling and smoothing properties along with its sandalwood-like fragrance. Traditionally, women and children use this but many men prefer using it to create a barrier from the harsh sun rays.


Retail Availability

Thanks to modern day science, Thanaka can now be found in many retail locations in Myanmar and Thailand.  Retailers and traders that sell the product on a daily basis are claiming tremendous earnings from the sale of the product as well.  However, many legitimate sellers have cautioned buyers to beware of products that do not have the Ministry of Wealth’s stamp of approval on them. However, not all traditionally used items are certified but people believe in their effectiveness. 

Yet while synthesized retail cosmetics are less expensive and more conveniently sold in the marketplace, Burmese women have remained loyal users of the traditional organic versions of Thanaka products.  This is attributed to concerns of many consumers about the purity of the newer synthesized versions sold by numerous retailers today.  To learn more about Thanaka and its many benefits, visit the Healing Bark website today.

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Thanaka – the Beauty Secret found in Tree Bark

If you’ve ever visited Myanmar and certain areas of Thailand, you may have noticed the yellowish painted designs on the cheeks and arms of Burmese women.  Whether they are Buddhist or Muslim, old or young, nearly every Myanmar female apply this paste derived from the tree bark or roots.  But what is this and why do so many women in this region of Southeast Asia wear it on their faces? 

It is known as Thanaka, a natural compound that is made by grinding the bark or roots of the Hesperethusa crenulata or Limonia acidissima tree into a fine powder and then mixing it with a small quantity of water to form a creamy paste.  The tree is often called elephant apple or wood apple but, in any event, the word “Thanaka” (thana.ka) sounds exotic yet foreign when pronounced properly.


How is Thanaka Paste made?

It takes a minimum of 35 years for the tree to mature and be large enough to produce the highest quality product possible.  At that point the tree branches are removed and cut into smaller fireplace-sized logs and sold in indoor and outdoor markets.  The bark as well as the roots of the Thanaka tree is the raw materials that the paste-making powder is made from.  In order to make the paste, you need a round stone slab known as a “kyauk pyin”, which is about the diameter of a small pizza.

The next step is to wet the slab and start rubbing the Thanaka bark against it until there is a sufficient amount of the paste that can then be applied to your face.  Keep in mind that the paste is going to appear colorless and watery at first but will eventually attain its golden color once it dries on your skin.  Keep in mind that the homemade paste will only work when it is made fresh before each application.  However, it only takes a couple of minutes and very little effort to make enough of it for a single application.

However, there are many companies that are selling Thanaka powder that can be mixed with water to create a paste.


Thanaka is all about Tradition 

Thanaka was first mentioned in 14th and 15th century Burmese literature.  However, the stone slabs used in the making of Thanaka paste were found when several 2,000 year old archeological sites were excavated.  Whether you noticed it or not, Burmese women with painted faces appeared in movies that were filmed in Myanmar.  They were quite popular during the colonial era in Southeast Asia and were even mentioned in George Orwell’s first novel “Burmese Days.”


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