Women’s faces made a big impression on me in Myanmar. Specifically their painted faces. Almost all women (all of the small girls and most of the teenagers) had their faces covered in a cream paste. Some were casually smeared with it, while others (especially teenaged girls) were painted with very creative designs.
It is called thanaka, a yellow powder made from grinding a thanaka bark against stone with a little water. The resulting yellowish paste is mixed with body lotion or face cream and smeared over the face and sometimes body. Thanaka is used for its sun blocking and skin moisturising properties. It soothes and evens out skin tones. It is regarded as the best medicine for pimples, skin rashes and acne, removes body odor and serves as an insect repellent.
I spent several days walking around with my face ‘painted’ with thanaka paste. Local women seemed to like sitting me down and decorating my face with it.
Each time, it was a lovely experience and I liked the flowery smell which was similar to sandalwood but more delicate. Afterwards, I didn’t feel it was necessary to apply sunblock for the rest of the day. Despite the very hot temperature my skin felt cool and after washing it off at the end of the day, my skin felt smooth, soft and hydrated. I must also mention the fact that having my face painted made breaking the ice with Burmese people easy as pie!