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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?

Although is a type of sandalwood tree, the “Thanaka” has a beautifully exotic, foreign ring to it. Its botanical name is "Limonia acidissima" but you may hear the locals refer to it as “elephant apple” or “wood apple.” As has been mentioned in some of our other blogs, there’s a lengthy process involved before the Thanaka tree is mature enough to be the source of the paste. However, once it matures, thanaka paste and powder can be made with ease.


The Road to Maturity is a long One


Once it reaches 35 years of age, the tree is cut into small logs and then sold in street markets by numerous vendors. Its bark and roots is the raw material the paste-making powder is created from. When making the paste, the Thanaka powder is mixed with water on a small, pizza-sized stone slab known as a kyauk pyin. The paste is made by wetting the slab and rubbing the Thanaka bark against it until you have enough paste.

Initially, the paste looks colorless and watery. However, once it starts to dry on the skin, it takes on the beautiful golden hue that it is known for. Keep in mind that homemade Thanaka paste works best when it is freshly made. Thus, it’s best if you prepare it prior to every application. It only takes a few minutes and very little effort to make enough of the paste to have a sufficient amount for applying. However, a single application can last you all day.

Popularity mixed with Tradition

If you’ve never visited Myanmar before, then you won’t understand how the widespread popularity of using Thanaka paste is steeped in tradition. However, once you visit one of the smaller villages such as Mandalay or Yangon, you’ll quickly realize that those golden-painted faces you’ve seen on the internet are by no means some fake tourist attraction or a myth. From toddlers to seniors, nearly every woman, teenager, child, and even some men have their faces painted with Thanaka paste. Not only do they believe it protects them from the sum but has skin care properties.

For more information about the use and benefits of Thanaka paste, please visit the Healing Bark website by clicking here or call us today at (800) 770-9988.