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Thanaka (Myanmar Traditional Cosmetic) By Phue Phue Sandi Win Thaw

By Phue Phue Sandi Win Thaw

The most appropriate cosmetic for the weather of Myanmar is Thanaka because of the tropical monsoon climate. There is no person in Myanmar who has not worn Thanaka. Burmese people apply it as a its cosmetic for their beauty in addition to its benefits and applicability as a medicine for skin damage. That’s why not only Burmese girls but also Burmese boys wear it regardless of young or old age. These trees grow abundantly in Central Myanmar like Sagaing Division, Mandalay Division, Magway Division.

Thanaka is also widely used in religious events and festivals especially in rural areas but can also be found in some urban areas. “Thanaka Grinding Festival” (Thanaka Thway Pwel Taw) is held yearly in some parts of Myanmar on the 1st day of Thingyan (Water Festival). On this day, girls grind Thanaka and boys sing songs. After grinding, Buddha images are washed with the Thanaka cream as ritual to get merits and this super cute tradition is still alive. In the traditional donation festival (Shin Laung Hlae Pwel), Thanaka is also used in decorating prospective novice monks (Shin Laung) by applying it on the face of prospective novice monk (Shin Laung).


Thanaka is used by Burmese girls as a valuable cosmetic starting over 2000 years ago. The earliest literary reference to Thanaka is in poems of King Razadarit’s consort in 14th Century and Shin Maharatthasara, monk-poet, in 15th Century. In the earliest times, not only normal citizens but also royal families wore Thanaka. Thanaka is worn by people who live

in rural areas as their daily used cosmetic, however, some people in urban areas also wear it daily. Nowadays, ready-made cosmetics with Thanaka as a paste or powder form are also produced.


Thanaka is naturally sold as small logs individually or in bundles. Natural Thanaka can be worn by grinding this small log with a small amount of water on a circular slate slab called “Kyauk Pyin”, which has a channel around the rim to drain water. The bark is commonly used to make cream for applying on the face as yellowish-white marks in attractive designs. The most common form is a circular patch on each cheek, nose, or patterned in the shape of the leaf according to your favorite patterns by hand or with a bristle brush to make the lines of the face bright. Some people apply even on the hands, arms and leg as natural sun cream.


This Myanmar Traditional Cosmetic gives many benefits for skin. Thanaka can be applied as the natural foundation, natural sun cream, natural skincare, pimple remover and face mask. It has a fresh and cool sensation, that’s why we can also call it a natural soothing cream and can be used as a moisturizer. It is good for oily skin because it can dry easily

after wearing and can absorb oil from the face. It also gives protection against pollution and dirt as a mask. Thanaka has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and in Myanmar is used to lighter shin tone. All parts of Thanaka (bark, wood, root, leaf, and fruit) are useful as medicine. It can also be used as traditional medicine by mixing of with other ingredients.

Foreigners who visit Myanmar should try to wear Thanaka. Wearing Thanaka can reduce skin damages (sunburn, itchiness, sun allergy, etc.) from the effect of the types of Myanmar’s weather. That’s why visitors can conveniently travel in Myanmar by wearing “Thanaka” (organic cosmetic) instead of wearing chemical based cosmetics. Today, there are many places that provide Thanaka to visitors. Therefore, international and local visitors can try of easily. If you are a foreigner, wearing Thanaka is a must-do when you visit Myanmar.


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