Thanaka: The Burmese Beauty Secret.
In Myanmar, Carla Sommers discovers the beauty secrets of the Burmese and finds that beauty is not only skin deep at times, but that one prized beauty product comes not from the factory – but the forest….
Every culture and society had its own notions of beauty. From the pale faces of the Japanese geisha to the tattooed features of the Maoris. To enhance our perception of beauty there are many herbal and man-made preparations that, over the centuries have become de rigeur, from Egyptian kohl eyeliner, to scented hair oils and nowadays, makeup.
In modern day Myanmar, people still use the traditional cosmetic known as Thanaka, as a daily cosmetic and skin conditioner. Thanaka is made from the branches of the sandalwood tree, (linoria acidissimia) When ground, the bark of the Thanaka tree, it is claimed, acts as an astringent, sunscreen and antiseptic.
It is a common sight on the streets of most towns and cities to see people with swipes of powdery yellow paint on their cheeks, noses or arms. The yellow comes from the juice of the ground bark. There is nothing so unusual about using bark preparations for beauty purposes in Myanmar – hair is made extra glossy by boiling an extract from the tayaw shrub and even elephants get a body scrub with sticks of the aptly-named Soap tree!
How to USE Thanaka Powder as Face Care
Whichever Thanaka you choose, the liquid works fast at tightening the skin and covering blemishes. In hot, arid climates like that of Pagan, dry European skins may find it too astringent, but as an impromptu herbal sun screen it is invaluable.
Even if you do not buy a stick to take home, the sight and smells of the unique yellow-painted faces of the Burmese people are an unforgettable part of the memories of Myanmar, as are the smiles of this great nation of gentlefolk.
The Hesperethusa crenulata or Limonia acidissima, as the Thanaka tree is formally called, is a common tropical plant species that grows not only in Burma, but also in other parts of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It’s believed that both the bark and the fruit of this tree contain valuable medicinal properties (in China, the fruit is said to cure stomach problems), but only in Burma is the tree bark traditionally ground down into a powder and then mixed into a watery paste to be used for skincare and cosmetic purposes.
Thanaka Facial Mask
Mix 1-2 teaspoons Pure Thanaka Powder with the same amount of water until it forms a creamy paste. Apply the cream evenly over your cleansed face. The mask will dry after 5 to
10 minutes depending on its layer thickness. The mask can easily be washed off with lukewarm water after 20 minutes. We recommend an application once or twice a week. As a result your skin will be smoother, softer and have an evenly tone.
After your face has been toned or moisturized use a big powder brush to gently puff thePure Thanaka Powder over your face in circular motions (this way your facial hair will not stand up). Make sure to tap the powder brush on the edge of the jar before applying to get rid of excess face powder. This face powder will not just make your skin look more beautiful but will also protect it against harmful environmental influences due to the Thanakas skin protecting properties.
Mix 1-2 teaspoons Pure Thanaka Powder with 3 teaspoons of water until it forms a liquid paste. Apply the Cleansing-Paste evenly over your face and gently scrub/massage to cleanse your skin. Wash the Cleansing off your face with lukewarm water. The Cleansing frees your skin from light calluses, excess sebum and dirt particles.
According to a 2010 study performed by researchers at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and published in the Journal of Ethno pharmacology, the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the Thanaka bark, together with UV absorption properties, make for an ideal daily face pack. The study showed the powdered bark is rich in free radical fighting agents, has an extremely low toxicity and contains properties that inhibit tryosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis and skin discoloration, which means it also possesses significant skin-whitening properties.
The gentle, non-toxic nature of theThanaka bark is safe to use everyday, the research concluded, and as such, “it could be a good candidate source for cosmetic ingredients.”
And that’s exactly the way things are headed.
“Basically Thanaka contains a number of substances that act similar to tannins, which work as an anti-itching product, tighten your skin and work against wrinkles,” Honegger says. “In addition to protecting against free radicals and UV radiation,Thanaka has properties that protect the skin against acne, so if you use it as a face mask, it controls your facial oil and its anti-bacterial properties can remove blackheads and so on.”
Thanaka powder is so versatile that it is compatible with other skincare products, Honegger says. “So if you have a face mask that you use regularly, you can mixThanaka powder into it, get the benefit of your regular face pack and a lot more.”
Today, more countries across the globe—Thailand, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and some European nations, to name a few—are discovering the virtues of Thanaka, and some cosmetic companies are starting to incorporate the powder into their products.