One of first things you notice in Myanmar – after all the gold – is the women’s faces. Yes, they’re beautiful, but also covered in a creamy, pancake-like paste. The unique maquillage is an emollient called thanaka, an all-in-one sun block, make-up, skin conditioner and acne cure.
Thanaka, the beauty secret of young Burmese women…
…and the more mature.
Thanaka is made from the murea exotica tree of central Myanmar which, we were told, is a local sandalwood. Thanaka has been the beauty secret of Burmese women’s since the earliest times because of its capacity to cools skins, tighten pores and control oiliness. According to an old Asian proverb Burmese women have the most beautiful skin in the world, no doubt because of this magic salve. Mothers also use it to protect tender children’s skins.
..and for tender young skins too.
One of thanaka’s most valued properties is as a protection against Burma’s harsh tropical sun for the many who work outdoors for long periods, especially in rural areas. It’s not uncommon to see women working on road gangs and in rice paddies so the cosmetic assistance of this peculiarly Burmese sun block would be greatly appreciated.
Time to get out the thanaka.
Thanaka is not just for casual slathering. It offers artistic opportunities for the adventurous with many women – especially the young – etching intricate designs into the cosmetic covering, not unlike the creamy artistry achieved by some our more talented baristas.
Another reason for us Western women to envy our Burmese sisters’ cosmetic secret is that it’s organic. No nasty chemicals or preservatives.
If only I had known about thanaka when I was a sun-loving, oily-skinned, pimply teenager!