Thanaka – Myanmar “Face Painting”

Myanmar Thanaka

Burmese Thanaka – Natural Sunscreen and Traditional Cosmetic 

Trying thanaka in Bagan
Trying thanaka in Bagan

When you arrive in Myanmar, you may notice Myanmar people have something on their faces. You might be curious what it is. It is called Thanaka in Myanmar Language, from the ground bark of Hesperthusa Crenulata or Naringi Crenulata (English Common Name) Trees. It is natural sunscreen and traditional cosmetic. Thanaka trees are slow growing trees and it can be grown in the Central Myanmar near Bagan area. It takes five to eight years to get good Thanaka trees to sell at the market. Shwe Bo Thanaka from Sagaing region and Shinmadaung (Shin Ma Mountain) from Magway are the most popular and favorite for Myanmar. Their fragrance is stronger than the other Thanaka trees.

There is popular Myanmar Classic Song about Shwe Bo Thanaka which is written by famous song writer. He mentioned that “You bring Shwe Bo Thanaka to Yangon, you will have yellowish skin even though you have brown skin”.

A child wearing thanaka
A child wearing thanaka

It is daily used by people in Myanmar. Whether you are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Christian, all ladies and babies love it. Some men also apply it especially from country side. Normally we make regular patterns for daily and beautiful patterns for special days like wedding ceremonies or donation ceremonies. Some men and ladies put thick Thanaka layers on their faces when they go to farms or work under the bright sunshine. It can be also used as medicine to cure stomach infection, malaria and heart disease. That is the reason, my mom always feed me Thanaka paste when I was young after taking shower while she applies it on my face and body. It provides you cooling sensation on your face and it protects our skins from sunburnt, acnes, pimples and blackspots on our faces. For these reasons, we prefer to use Thanaka rather than chemical cosmetics including my grandma and mother.

Experience Authentic Burma on our Myanmar Private Tours

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