Photo: A Burmese girl with thanaka cosmetic paste applied on her cheeks and a straw hat
This girl wearing a conical straw hat and wearing a coat of thanaka cosmetic paste on her cheeks was seen selling jade necklaces to tourists at Mingun Pahtodawgyi (incomplete stupa in Mingun), northwest of Mandalay in central Myanmar (Burma) in February 2005.
Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from any of the thanaka trees growing in central Myanmar. These are perennial trees, which include Murraya spp (thanaka) and Limonia acidissima (wood apple). They must be at least 35 years old to yield good quality cosmetic paste. Generally, cut logs are sold in the market from which buyers make the paste, or thanaka can be bought as ready-to-apply paste or in powder form.
Thanaka cream can be prepared from the powder of the bark, wood or even roots of a thanaka tree, mixing it with water. It is has a sweet fragrance, and looks like sandalwood paste.
For over 2000 years, Burmese women (and even children) have been using thanaka to apply on their faces (or even the whole body), and now the culture has spread to the neighboring countries such as Thailand.
Apart being a type cosmetic, thanaka imparts a cooling effect and is a good shield against sunburn, and also an antifungal. It is believed to be a cure against skin infections, acne, blackheads and also lightens the skin.