Get fairer skin with Argo Naturals Pure Thanaka Powder The DIY Way


Hello sun protection fanatics! Would you smear some yellow paste on your face and head out if I told you it’d protect you from sunburn and sun damage? Probably not huh? Well, many girls and even guys in Myanmar (Burma) won’t bat an eyelid about going public with a face full of such a paste to protect their skin from the scorching Myanmar sun. Yes, we’re talking about a yellow paste of thanaka powder–Myanmar’s age-old skincare secret that keeps the Burmese from having their face damaged by the sun’s harmful rays even after hours of outdoor work in the fields.

Many people probably don’t know this but thanaka powder has been around since ancient times in Myanmar and it was made famous by a legendary queen of Beikthano who reportedly had smooth, glowing skin because she loved using thanaka. Although popular in Myanmar, the use of the powder has also spread to neighboring countries including Thailand. I don’t know about Myanmar since I’ve not stepped foot on that land but I remember seeing many girls and women in Thailand strutting around with patches of the paste on their cheeks and noses.

facePhoto Credit: SLOW LIFE Foundation via Compfight cc
Ground tree bark powder
At that time, I had no idea about thanaka powder and thought it was just some odd indigenous cosmetics. Little did I know that this powder comes from the ground bark of the Limonia acidissima tree in north Burma–also known as wood-apple, elephant-apple, monkey fruit, and curd fruit tree in vernacular English.

Apparently, these trees grow abundantly in central to north Myanmar but they must be at least 35 years old before being considered mature enough to yield good-quality cuttings. The yellow powder is produced by grinding the bark of the thanaka tree on a flat, smooth stone with water. After adding some water, the yellow powder becomes a milky yellow liquid and it dries quickly when applied to the skin.

So what are the advantages of using thanaka powder on our skin? Surely the fact that the Burmese have been using it for around 2000 years must count for some skin deep benefits.

Beauty benefits of thanaka powder
Bascially, this tree powder contains antioxidant properties. Besides sun protection, the natural ingredient can help smoothen skin, clarify and constrict pores, moisturize, and control unnecessary oiliness. Studies have also shown that thanaka has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help to leave acne skin naturally clear and beautiful.

According to a 2010 study performed by researchers at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (source), the powdered bark is rich in free radical fighting agents, has an extremely low toxicity and contains properties that inhibit tryosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis and skin discoloration, which means it also possesses significant skin-whitening properties.

argo naturals pure thanaka powder

Green sustainable packaging
I had the opportunity to try this exotic age-old beauty ingredient when Argo Natural sent me a jar of their pure thanaka powder for review all the way from Switzerland. Just look at the beautiful bamboo jar with their signature tree design and the little bamboo mixing bowl. Aren’t they too lovely?

And instead of an extra paper box, Argo Naturals goes green with minimum packaging material. In addition, their thanaka powder is also available as a refill in a lightproof kraft paper bag beginning from 65g and available up to 500g. So we’re looking at a company which is green conscious.

Mix with equal parts water
The jar of Argo Naturals Pure Thanaka Powder is quite sizeable and opens up to very fine looking yellow-white powder. The powder has a very light scent that reminds me of wood. Scooping is easy with the wooden spoon and the easiest way to use this powder is to mix an equal amount of water (preferably mineral or distilled water) to however much powder you want to use and combine the mixture into a paste. The trick is to ensure the mixture doesn’t turn out too watery. When applied on the skin, the mixture should not drip so that you can leave it on for around 10 to 20 minutes before washing off. (I guess you can always choose to leave it on for longer but just don’t forget to wash it off before leaving your home or you might be mistaken as a Burmese or Thai.)

Pure Thanaka Powder Brightening Face Mask
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Beauty Mask
  • Thanaka powder x 1 tablespoon
  • Mineral or distilled water x 1 tablespoon
  1. Mix the thanaka powder with the water into a thick paste. You can add more powder if you want a thicker consistency.
  2. Apply mask on cleansed face
  3. Leave mask for 10 to 20 mins
  4. Wash face with lukewarm water



Other DIY ingredients
However, water isn’t the only ingredient to use with the thanaka powder. You can add yogurt, honey, aloe or even a few drops of your favorite oil to a DIY mask that suits your skin type. Personally, I like the use of yogurt with thanaka because yogurt is my all-time favorite DIY ingredient.

The Argo Naturals Pure Thanaka Powder is very fine and has a slightly gritty texture when applied to the skin. It makes a good exfoliant and so you can choose to use this as a face mask cum exfoliant.

I’ve read that those with acne conditions have had good results using thanaka powder for acne healing. You may want to scour the web for more confirmation on that but you’ll be sure to find some before and after pictures of acne sufferers who had amazing recovery using the powder on their skin.


Issue of lead
While thanaka powder is great for our skin, I’ve read reports of lead found in the powder and hence, you need to be careful about the source especially if you get it online. Apparently, imported products with a foreign distribution company are more likely to be lead-free.

I asked David Honegger of Argo Naturals regarding his position on this and here’s what he said: “In the case of thanaka powder, lead comes from the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Besides personally checking the plantations for not using any of these, we regularly check our thanaka powder at the laboratory for heavy metals such as lead or mercury after the USEPA Standards to assure that it is safe.”

Price and availability
Argo Naturals Pure Thanaka Powder is available at US$44.90 for 65g. Price for refill starts from US$39.90. The price is on the high side but international shipping is available and is free when your purchase is above US$35. Payment is via credit card or PayPal. Also available at Argo Naturals is their pearl powder and spirulina powder at US$49.90 and US$39.90, respectively. For more information, check out their website.

So anyone tried using thanaka powder before? Do share with us your experience if you have.

© copyright notice


  1. Ida says

    What don’t understand is this: Is the powder supposed to have UV protection properties if you put it on and then wash it off again, or is it just used for those other benefits you mentioned?

  2. chenyze says

    Hah! My mom/aunt would apply it on for me whenever I go back to Burma for a visit. They say it’s sun protection and has whitening effects but…. I don’t really think it has helped much! I’m skeptical about how it fares on sun protection compared to sunscreens, but it is soothing and cooling on the skin, and it does help with oil control.

    In Burma, most people wear it the whole day. Kids might have a thin layer of thanaka applied all over the neck, hands, legs also. It’s important not too apply it too thickly on your face though, unless it gets too stiff when it dries.

    • Sesame Chew says

      I would rather use a sunscreen too. I think the idea of going out with this on the face doesn’t sit well plus it’ll be flaking when dried. But I’m thinking perhaps the whitening effect might work for some people when used consistently over a period of time.

  3. Pollya says

    Hey Sesame, I just came back from Myanmar and I saw quite a few women wearing this on the streets! I was thinking what is this strange “mask” that these people had on their faces! What a coincidence you’ve just blogged about this, so now I know!! :-)
    At first I was even wondering if it was some sort of skin disease… but I figured couldn’t be since it seemed relatively “common” and the people didn’t seem ashamed/embarrassed by it… But if it was some kind of facial treatment, I was wondering how the women could stand having this dried up layer of caked stuff on their face the whole time! Oh well, maybe they get “used to it”, or maybe for beauty’s sake, people are willing to do all sorts of things, hee hee!

    • Sesame Chew says

      Oh what a coincidence! Ah, I guess it’s strange to ask them so we tend to guess what’s with the whole powder and paste. Now we all know.

  4. Audris says

    I’ve travelled to Yangon for work a few times over the last 2 years. It’s not just the women, I’ve also seen Thanaka smeared over men’s faces :) And erm I have to agree that they are still relatively tan in complexion.

    I also bought a small jar (<S$1) of Thanaka paste as a souvenir back to Sg. It smells really good and fragrant, but I never tried it on my skin. Didn't know it had anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Will have to ask my local colleagues if they can source a jar for me to try from a reliable source. Might use that instead of pimple cream for the occasional pimple or mix it with my DIY clay masks.

    • Sesame Chew says

      I am not surprised. The powder even with sun protection properties need to be smeared quite thickly and probably reapplied since it may flake off. Don’t think the Burmese use it with so much considerations. So I would recommend thanaka powder for other uses instead of sun protection. It’s just not feasible for that purpose.

    • Sesame Chew says

      Yes, the packaging is really nice and that was what I was first drawn to. I thought it look so impressive.

  5. Diane says

    I hope with the exorbitant price (40-50 times vs in myanmar), that the swiss company compenseate the suppliers otf thanaka well and promote conservation I just went there in myanmar and bought a container of the powder for 1sgd.

    • Sesame Chew says

      That’s a big difference! Woah. I wonder if the process is a lot more stringent. As for corporate responsibility, I think the company has some sort of policy they put up on their website.

  6. stella says

    i find it real ironic that you had your tub mailed all the way from switzerland when we’re in southeast asia just right next to myanmar (ok, close enough ;-))

  7. may says

    Hi Sesame,

    Thank you for posting this. Thanaka powder is a lifesaver for my oily skin. I don’t mix it with water to use it as a skincare anymore due to the yellow paste it leaves (used to when I lived in Yangon) but rather, as a loose powder on top of foundation, be it liquid, bb cream or mineral foundation.

    It is the only type of loose powder that helps keep my foundation last. I have tried the various commercial loose powders/mattifying powders in the market but none of them could keep my foundation last longer than the good old thanaka.

    • Sesame says

      Oh so interesting! Hmm…maybe I’ll try it as a primer over my eyelid and see if it helps to resolve the issue of oiliness for me. Thanks for the tip!

  8. rose says

    is thanaka helps in reducing the unwanted hair & black spots permentalyy….????? im very interested to buy can anybody give me a suggestion pleaseeee….

  9. rose says

    in how many applications of using thankaa powder, it will reduce unwanted hair & back spots permantely????

    • Sesame says

      I am not sure…may depend on individual. Try using it for a month three times a week to see if you get results.

  10. Pixiethee says

    I use thanaka powder everyday now since 2010. I found out about it thru bio essence tanaka. After finding out that it doesn’t complement my skin(clogged pores n oily although it helps to lighten my blemishes), I began googling up for the natural thanaka itself . That perhaps I could use it in other formulations beside bio essence. Initially I thought it a Japanese product(lol). When I found out that there’s some natural formulas out there sans the long list of ingredients I knew I had to try it. And so I did and had never stopped since. I apply it ever so thinly below my foundation. I like it so much. Ironically, if used sparingly and over a long period of time, besides its oil control properties, it helps to balance skin’s hydration(or perhaps skin’s collagen formation). I did go thru a period of not using it and realise that my wrinkles especially my laugh lines became obvious. I don’t know what it is about the thanaka, but the reaction on the skin differs after u use it for a longer period of time. Because now when I use it, I realise it helps with my skin moisture’s level as compared to when I first use it(makes it matte).

  11. says

    A very informative post. I find it hard to source it here in India but will check online, thanks :)
    coralcrue last post is: Best Hair Stylist In Mangalore: Fringge Elite Unisex Salon Review

  12. L. Stafford says

    I’ve have just started using thanaka powder made into a paste with safflower oil. I found it online it is supposed to be a natural long term way to stop hair from growing back. I haven’t been using it long enough to tell a difference yet. Everything I read says to make a paste and apply it before bed and leave over night. Some said daily others said 3-4 nights a week. After about three months the unwanted hair is supposed to go away forever.

  13. Ki says

    I’m interested in trying the thanaka-safflower oil mixture for hair removal and to even out my skin tone. My only concern is that my skin is darker(brown skin with reddish undertones) than those who I have seen use and review it . I don’t want to bleach my skin just correct hyperpigmentation on my face. If anyone has info- please let me know.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: