Picture Source: Lonely Planet
Many people will be surprised to know that my race is actually Burmese. This is because I actually look nothing like the typical Burmese (tanned with dark South-East Asian features). Instead I look very very Chinese with fair skin and almond shaped eyes. My family migrated to Singapore more than 25 years ago when I was just 5 years old and I grew up in Singapore. Growing up in a Burmese household, the Thanaka powder is as common to me as cooking oil in your kitchens. My mother would grind the Thanaka bark against a stone slab to form a creamy paste and apply it to her skin after bathing. Sometimes she would apply a thicker layer on her cheeks to form what is known as “ba guak”. She would also use the Thanaka powder as loose powder and use it to set her liquid foundation makeup. I remembered that when we first moved to Singapore, my elder sister was just starting Primary 4 (the equivalent of Grade 4 for the rest of the world). Not knowing that the Thanaka powder was not common to see in Singapore, she actually went to school with “ba guak” applied thickly on her face. She got laughed at in school by the other kids and came home hurt and furious. But my elder sister was a spunky and feisty girl (she still is full of sass!) and she still went to school with the Thanaka powder, not caring about what other people might say, albeit she wore it in a light loose powder layer rather than a thick yellow paste layer.
A child with Thanaka “Ba Guak” on her face (Source from https://burmatravel.info/burma-information/burmas-thanaka-paste.html)
For me personally, I still use the Thanaka powder everyday as my loose powder after my sunscreen. I find that it not only helps to mattify my face after my generous application of sunscreen, it doesn’t dry out my skin unlike some loose powders. In fact, the Thanaka powder also helps to soothe and cool down my skin on hot days. Most days, I’m good to go out with just a dusting of the Thanaka powder on top of my sunscreen as it also provides some slight coverage. I do not wear any other base makeup unless I need to attend an important function.
Where can you find it?
In Singapore, I believe that the Burmese shops in Peninsula Plaza sell the Thanaka powder. It shouldn’t be very expensive (not more than S$15).
Thank you for reading!