Sunscreen in Myanmar: Thanaka

Rangoon Market007

In Myanmar/Burma, people use thanaka on their cheeks to stay beautiful and to protect against the powerful sun. I didn’t get to try it myself although I did spot some of the raw brown sticks bound together for sale at the market. Locals grind this bark into a buttercup yellow and white paste before smearing it on their cheeks.

I didn’t know where to start.

So, I suppose I’ll have to finish with the endless traveller’s whisper: maybe next time.

The Dragon Route

This post forms part of The Dragon Route, a trip around China, Vietnam and Burma/Myanmar It’s sponsored by Cathay Pacific UK, my artistic patrons so to speak! You can reach Yangon through their flights to Hong Kong and partnership with Dragon Air. Find out all about that over here. 

Have you ever seen thanaka? Would you wear it?

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13 Responses to Sunscreen in Myanmar: Thanaka

  1. Morgan Rhodes July 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    That’s really neat!!

    • Abi King July 23, 2013 at 7:03 am #

      It’s really widespread, too. I probably could have put around 100 photos on this post!

  2. Howie Chan July 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Interesting! Is it then a tough market for sunscreens? Just starting to explore your blog Abi, fabulous!

    • Abi King July 30, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      I think it’s been a tough market for all kinds of things, given the political situation! That’s all changing now though…

  3. Becky the Great July 27, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    How does it smell? As a very pale ginger girl, I can’t live without sunscreen but the feel and smell is often kind of repellent.

    • Abi King July 30, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      It doesn’t smell of much – at least chopped on the market stall and left in the sun. Perhaps there’s a smell when it’s freshly chopped or grated? It looks as though you would feel it when it’s on your skin, though (a bit like a face mask…)

  4. Christoffer Moen August 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Pretty interesting. I wonder how it holds up in the heat? Do they need to reapply every couple of hours like sunscreen?

    • Abi King August 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      I think so. After a while it crumbles away and leaves patches exposed – a little like a face mask!

  5. Voyagista August 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I have tried it on when visiting a family close to Inle, not so nice on a pale european skin like mine!

    • Abi King August 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      Did it look as though you’d had an accident with your yoghurt at breakfast? ;-)

  6. Burmese's Secret (@BurmesesSecret) August 18, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Hello Abi,

    Why didn’t you try the Thanaka cream. If you are back in the UK and would like to try Thanaka based products,
    you can order from us at http://burmesessecret.com . We are selling all natural Thanaka based beauty care stuffs.

    On a different note, I am really enjoy your “Dragon Route” Series. :)

    • Abi King August 21, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Not enough time for everything I suppose! I only saw it sold in chunks as wasn’t quite sure what to do with it…

  7. Lars October 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I have tried it when I was back home when nobody could see me. Bought plenty of thanaka cans in order to spend all my local money at the end of the trip.
    To my surprise it has some positive effects on the skin. After washing it of the skin felt much smoother and also seemed to be better cleansed. However it was really difficult to wash it of always some of it remained and I looked like a chinese with the remaining yellow traces. On the next morning I had a chinese pillow as well. So there is probably a reason why it is not so popular elsewhere.
    If somebody wants to have original thanaka you can contact me for buying some of mine.

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