(Thanaka bark sold on the streets of Myanmar)
Since I came to Myanmar on the 18th of March, I noticed a lot of things. It is once again, a whole new world perhaps for western travelers, but for me it was a time travel. Time travel how? The local wardrobe reminds me of my grannies’ when I was growing up, their kind of ‘lipstick’ we called “Nga-nga” which is Betel Nut wrapped in a Betel leaf locals endlessly chew whichever age bracket they belong to, then they have their own sunblock for sensitive skin people they called, Thanaka.
Burmese Sunblock for Sensitive Skin: Thanaka
However, there was something I thought we didn’t have back home that were noticeably common in Myanmar. The Thanaka Makeup. Thanaka makeup is made from Thanaka tree, which the bark were manually rubbed on a rough stone, adding few drops of water to produce a mud-like yellow cream that will then be applied all over the face.
How to apply Thanaka
Chowen, the pretty young girl who is working in the hostel I stayed in Mandalay, asked me to try it as they dressed me up as a local. After scrubbing a bark of Thanaka on the stone, she (Chowen) applied it on my whole face. The wet mud cream felt soothing on my face but because it was dark then(Myanmar shuts their power off for 3 hours everyday for no one knows the reason why), we a flashlight to survive.
(Smart Burmese kids wearing their sunscreen)
As it dries out on my face, she applied face powder on it and when it dried, I looked like a ‘Zombie’. I borrowed her sponge and dropped some water on it as I tried my best to balance out the Thanaka on my face except on my cheeks. I then, put more Thanaka on my cheeks and then layered it with face powder on top. It was actually funny, but since its common in Myanmar, guess what? No one laughs on myself but me!
When I went down, they were all cheering about how I look. The kids were even jumping and running telling their moms that work in the hostel that I look like Burmese person that way. The staff actually took their phone cameras one by one to take photos of me on my own and then with them. “No difference!” the cute kid said.
(Thanaka on men is not quite common)
Thanaka Makeover Experience
I wore it the whole day, the day before I left Mandalay. Washed it only before going to bed when I had a shower. The next morning, I noticed that my tiny blemishes on my cheek is gone so I asked the reception staff if there’s a nearby place to get it, I thought I can keep some for few days to use back home. They said, it wasn’t too near but I can easily get it if I only said it earlier(the airport taxi will be picking me up in 15 minutes). I told her, I just noticed it this morning so I didn’t think I would even want more of it. I told her to not bother because I might come back next time or probably ask a friend who will visit Myanmar to get some for me or some ways I can figure out to get one.
On my search on how to get myself one as I am back home(don’t get confused since I keep bouncing around, it’s wherever I am based which right now, it is somehow Thailand) while writing this, I found out that Thanaka grows only in Asian countries like Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, and we have them in the Philippines too. It was the skin protein that protects the skin from the sun and moisturizes it too. Thanaka as a skin care product should be cut not after 35 years, the time they said the necessary skin protein in it has naturally developed according to one Filipino video about it.
I should say, Thanaka is really a good skin care product but I still suggest you to do the ‘skin test’ first before putting it on your face.