Thanaka (thanakha) is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark.
Thanaka cream has been used by Burmese women for many centuries as a natural cosmetic, sunscreen, skin preservation treatment and insect repellent. Applying Thanaka to the face and skin makes it smooth, clear, and cool.
Thanaka trees must age for at least 35 years prior to being harvested. The wood of several trees may be used to produce thanaka cream. Limonia acidissima (english: Wood Apple, Elephant Apple, Monkey Fruit) or Hesperethusa crenulata is a common tree in Southeast Asia.
Thanaka contains two active ingredients, coumarin and marmesin. Coumarin accounts for the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, phytochemical, anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties.
The wood, bark or roots of the tree are ground into a powder. The thanaka yellowish-white powder is mixed with a little water and applied immediately to the skin with fingers or a brush. The powder and skin absorb much of the diluting liquid, leaving a yellow crust with a floral fragrance. The creamy paste is applied to the cheeks, nose, and arms in an informal smearing or a decorative fashion drawing flowers, leafs or geometric shapes.
Thanaka application is more common among women, but is also applied by men.
Thanaka can be found sold in markets throughout Myanmar in its original form (wood logs) or as a cream in a plastic jar as well as in powder form.