Myanmar is a very special place in all respects, people have their very own taste and style. Where else would one find men dressed in a wraparound skirt called Longyi, enjoying a tea leaves salad in hawker stalls by the street side? However, besides the myriad of Pagodas, there is nothing more typical of Myanmar than Thanaka.
While the neighbouring countries’ lifestyle magazines, billboards and TV commercials, promote hundreds of different and sinfully expensive anti-aging and whitening skin creams, sun protection, creams against acne and loss of moisture, designed by cosmetic manufacturers in London, Paris and New York, the 60 million Burmese prefer their unique beauty and skin care remedy, Thanaka, for a ridiculously low price.
Almost everywhere, you will spot women, men and children with a special ochre coloured make-up that decorates the face in a rectangular, square or circular shape. Thanaka comes from the bark of the Thanaka tree (Limonia Acidissima L and Hesperethusa Crenulata Roem) and is either bought ready made at the market, or produced at home. The bark is grinded to a fine powder on a flat stone (kyauk pyin) and mixed with water to form a liquid paste.
The nurturing paste is said to have many nourishing and healing properties. It is used as a protection against UV radiation, from loss of moisture, as a defence against insects, in slowing down the aging process of the skin and antibacterial. Studies in western countries have shown that Thanaka has a proven antioxidant effect on the skin.
All those who are not convinced should consider a comparison between the pure skin of the Burmese and the population in other Asian countries, where skin diseases are a widespread problem.