While traveling through Myanmar, photographer Michele McCormick photographs thanaka on the faces of young Burmese children, a girl and a boy. The girl wears a cheerful, red printed top and she has flowers in her hair. The boy dressed more simply begs near with his family near a temple. Their expressions are similar- somber yet innocent, however the thanaka brightens their serious tone.
Myanmar is ridden with well-preserved culture due to being cut-off from the world for many years. Nowadays, more and more tourists are visiting the country and are greeted with the thanaka custom upheld by its people.
Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste, ground from thanaka (Burmese for “elephant”) trees native to Myanmar. It is applied to the face typically highlighting the nose bridge and both cheeks in a circular and/or leaf pattern (although design application varies). It is sometimes also applied to sun-exposed areas of the neck and arms.
As an ancient Burmese beauty secret, thanaka is worn mostly by females but by male children, too as it is known for its skin benefits. The product gives off a sandalwood-type of fragrance and aides in:
- Promoting smooth skin due to hydrating components
- Acne and blemish removal due to antiseptic properties
- Natural sun protection
- Skin tightening
- Skin brightening/lightening
- Unwanted hair removal
Due to its popularity, the paste’s use spread to the neighboring countries of Thailand and India. Abroad, once the thanaka is spotted, many instantly know of the wearers origins.