mask with brush

When you think about Burmese women, the first and lasting impression that they leave you is those golden-painted cheeks. However, why do these young and old women in Myanmar paint their faces with thanaka paste?

Thanaka might sound exotic to you but its local name is actually something that we are familiar with: sandalwood tree. Thanaka (Limonia acidissima) is also known as an elephant apple or wood apple.

Thanaka has been and still is a part of Burmese culture for centuries. It is a practice that is passed down from one generation to the next.

In order to harness thanaka powder from the bark, the tree must be 35 years of age.

The bark of the thanaka tree is what is used to make the paste, and traditionally, it is mixed with water to form a thick paste. The paste is applied to the face as an effective natural sunscreen, especially for the locals of Myanmar.

The practice of applying the thanaka paste on the face has been going for ages, and women believe that it is a way of preserving their beauty. They also believe that it will cleanse their skin of all impurities and give them a smooth and radiant skin that stays for years.

Thanaka is also used for other purposes, such as protecting the skin from insects, preventing fungal infections, and treating burns. It has been reported that the paste prevents black spots from forming on the skin of the people of Myanmar.

Age-Old Process of Thanaka

At around 34 to 35 years old, the tree will start drooping, and its leaves will change to a yellowish-brown. At this point in the tree’s life, you can harvest the bark and use it to make the paste.

It is traditionally sold as small logs. However, over the years, pre-ground thanaka powders and pastes are now readily available. As for the local Burmese women, they prefer the organic form of thanaka without the mix of other ingredients.

How To Apply Thanaka Paste

Thanaka paste is applied as a thin layer to your entire face up to your neck. Then apply another thicker layer on your cheeks, forehead, nose, and any part of your face that is very exposed to the sun. Usually, you can use your fingers to evenly apply the paste, or you can use a brush.

Why Painting Faces Is Popular in Myanmar

Painted faces in Myanmar are not for tourist attraction. Golden-painted cheeks are almost seen in almost every child, teenager, woman, and even seniors. Even some men have their faces painted with watery gold paint.

Thanaka paste is not only for cosmetic purposes and protection for the sun that the women of Myanmar apply thanaka paste to their faces. It is also part of their age-old tradition and culture.

All in all, it is a practice that is definitely worth trying if you are looking for a new cosmetic ritual that is both healthy and time-tested.

Where To Buy Thanaka Paste

In Myanmar, homemade thanaka powder and paste can be bought easily in the open markets and almost every shop, especially in tourist spots and big cities such as Mandalay, Bagan, and Yangon.

You can buy both the powder, paste, or wooden blocks of thanaka. When you buy the powder form, you can just mix it with water to produce a paste that you can directly apply to your face or any part of your body. For those who want to buy wooden blocks, then you'd be able to store them for a long time.

If you're not in Myanmar, then you can order commercialized thanaka products online.


Thanaka is a cosmetic paste that comes from a tree, and it is a traditional part of Burmese culture. It is well-recognized for its ability to prevent burning in the sun and protect the skin from any other external agents.

Healing Bark offers 100% natural Burmese organic thanaka powder products so you can keep your skin clear and protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Let our thanaka paste give you the glowing skin that you want to see for yourself. Check out our authentic products today!