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  • Writer's pictureAung Naing Soe

Thanakha: Secret to Burmese Beauty

Thanakha, is a yellowish cream that Burmese people put on their face. It naturally comes from grinding the bark or root of a Thanakha tree that is seen in the middle region of Burma (Myanmar) widely. The earliest reference to wearing the traditional makeup dates back to the 14th Century. 

Most of Myanmar people from different regions of the country started their day by wearing Thanakha after their morning shower. It is applied to the face of mostly women and children before they go to work or school or do their daily activities. Even men also wear it. In addition to the beauty purpose, it is also used to protect from the heat. Most of the people, (including me as a kid) had put Thanakha on their hands and back to protect them from the heat during the summer. Now that time has changed, this fragrant traditional Thanakha is available in two ways. One can buy the bark of a Thanakha tree and grind it with water on the slab, or Thanakha is packed in ready-made cosmetic boxes produced by local cosmetic companies.

Regardless of being away from home for more than 8,000 miles, large populations of Burmese immigrants from Arizona still wear Thanakha while trying to adapt to the American Culture. Thanakha is available from five Burmese groceries stores here in Phoenix. 

Shaaban Bhi, one of the members of Burmese community living in Downtown Phoenix can’t start her day without wearing Thanakha. In addition to that she wants her kids to wear it too. Also, she loves to put Thanakha on the faces of kids living in her apartment compound.

01. Shaabaan Bhi, a Burmese refugee woman living in Phoenix Downtown wearing Thankaha to her daughter

02. Portrait of Shabanam, daughter of Shaabaan Bhi

03. Shaabaan Bhi wearing Thanakha on the faces of kids in her apartment compoun in Phoenix Downtown

04. Shwe Pyi Nan Thanakha packed in a box

05. Boxes of Shwe Pyi Nann Thanakha seen in Glaxy Asian Market Grocery Store

06. Khin Thida, the owner of Glaxy Asian Market working in her store

07. Saung Thakhin, daughter of Khin Thida playing with make up in the Glaxy Asian Market Store

08. Exterior of the Glaxy Asian Market

09. Shaabaan Bhi wearing Thanakha on the face of a kid from her apartment compound

10. Marry Sung and her younger brother Jason Sung gazing outside from their apartment in Phoenix Downtown

12. A Burmese kid with Thanakha playing in the apartment complex in Phoenix Downtown

Burmese kids with Thankha playing in their apartment complex in Phoenix Downtown

Portrait of a Burmese woman with Thankha on her face

Burmese kids with Thanakha

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