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Thanakha – A Myanmar traditional cosmetic

If this is your first time visiting Myanmar and you see Burmese people wearing a yellow-white paste on their face, you’ll probably wonder what it is and why they apply it. It is called “Thanakha” – a traditional make up or cream. While Thanakha is most commonly used by women, it is not uncommon to see men wearing it as well.

What Thanakha is: Burmese people began using Thanakha hundreds of years ago and it remains extremely popular. The product is obtained by grinding the Thanakha tree’s bark, which grows in tropical zone. It is used as a daily product but, but is particularly common at festivals and religious occasions.

How to apply and when: Thanakha is readily available from any cosmetic shop in the country. In order to prepare it, you first drop some water on a stone plate and grind the thanakha’s bark in order to produce the cream. It is then ready to apply, most commonly to the face but also the legs and arms. There are many popular varieties of designs for applying Thanakha: circles, squares, flowers and leaves are common, although the choice is yours.  It is used both during the day and at night.

Woman-Thanakha-Myanmar

Benefits of Thanakha: There are many benefits of using this unique and natural cosmetic product. It is used as sunblock cream to protect against the sun. It is particularly popular among rural workers laboring in rice fields in direct sunlight, for example. Thanakha is also believed to moisturize and remove impurities and oils from the skin, acting as a natural skin cleanser. Burmese people also eat Thanakha to keep themselves cool internally and ward off stomach problems. It is common to see children being fed it after it is applied cosmetically.

The use of Thanakha is still very common in both cities and rural areas. It is valued not only for how it looks and the long history behind it but also its practical benefits, and its use seems unlikely to disappear any time soon. Try testing it out yourself when you visit – you may find you wish to take some home with you!

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