Natural Beauty: Using Thanaka for Acne and Uneven Tone

January 25, 2015
Natural Beauty: Is Thanaka the Miracle Cure for Acne and Discoloration?

Is this the miracle cure for acne and uneven tone?


I discovered thanaka firsthand while visiting Thailand. During my journey from Phuket to Chiang Mai I often saw women and children (and sometimes men) with a yellow powdery substance on their faces. Sometimes it would be smeared on, and other times it would be applied into a design to the cheeks and forehead. When I asked some local villagers what it was for they told me that it was used for cooling the skin. I thought to myself If it cools the skin, what else can it do?

While in the country I noticed an effortless beauty and very little acne or discoloration. I began to wonder what other benefits this mysterious thanaka was good for. I decided to do some more investigating and this is one time that my inquisitive mind has definitely paid off. Turns out, thanaka is originally from Burma and while widely used to keep the skin cool in southeast Asia it is also quickly becoming a popular alternative in natural beauty solutions.

So what exactly is this mysterious miracle beauty secret made of? Thanaka is a finely ground powder made of a type of wood that is native to Burma. The powder is ground on a stone until its very fine. Then its simply mixed with water and applied. Since it’s so simple and pure, I had to check out. After one application, I was sold. Even after just leaving the thanaka paste on for twenty minutes, my skin was noticeably different. Any pimples I had were shrunken but my skin did not feel dried out. According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of London and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, thanaka bark is highly anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and absorbs UV rays. The study also revealed that thanaka inhibits tryosinase, the enzyme that triggers melanin synthesis and affects skin discoloration–hence, even skintone! Using thanaka is simple and easy, and a must-try for every woman’s beauty regimen.

Thanaka powder can be easily ordered online. I recommend making a mask that you rinse off. If you want to make lighter paste for general application, use more water. If you have a breakout that you want to spot-treat, make the paste a little thicker so that you can get more coverage on that area. After mixing, apply the thanaka to your face and allow it to dry for at least 20 minutes. If you apply a thicker mixture, you need to leave it on longer. Rinse off with warm water when you’re finished and then follow with a couple of splashes of cold water, to close your pores.

Thanaka gets rid of my breakouts without drying my skin completely out. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am noticing my skin tone is getting even more even and clear. Feel free to add a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice if you want to enhance its blemish fighting properties.

Have you tried thanaka? Or would you try it? 

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Photo: Chelcie Porter

Chelcie S. Porter is an artist and photographer from Chicago. A lifelong vegetarian, she lives a Rasta lifestyle and travels the world to provide professional development for artists and free education for youth through her nomadic artist's residency, La Casa de la Artista. She is the owner of Kindred, a line of travel-inspired accessories. You can often find her online talking about her travels on her radio show and vlog Travel Therapy. Find out more on her website, and Tumblr @ChelcieSPorter.


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