Thanaka: Traditional Burmese Sun Protection

March 2014 | Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Original Article | 306 | Copyright © March 2014

Anne Goldsberry MD MBA,a Alan Dinner PhD, and C. William Hanke MD MPHa

aLaser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana in Carmel, Carmel, IN

table 1
Marmesin is the component of thanaka responsible for sun protection. In 2004, Joo and colleagues extracted marmesin from thanaka bark and determined its molecular structure. They found that marmesin contains UV-absorbing chromophores, with maximum absorption 335 nm, and concluded that marmesin could be a commercially useful UV-A filtering product.3
Scientific understanding of the mechanism of action of thanaka has increased popularity of the product. It is no longer a secret of the native people of Myanmar (Figure 2). Cosmetic companies in Myanmar and Thailand are increasingly adding thanaka as a natural ingredient to their products and marketing these products internationally.


None of the authors have disclosed any relevant conflicts of interest.


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  3. Joo SH, Lee SC, Kim SK. UV Absorbent, marmesin, from the bark of thanakha, Hesperethusa crenulata L. J Plant Biol. 2004;47(2):163-5.
  4. 100% Pure Thanaka Powder (Traditional Burmese Beauty Secret) vs Bio-essence Tanaka White [updated 5/30/2012]. Available from:
  5. Mansoor S. A Natural Skin Care Thanaka (thanakha), Traditional Make Up and Eco Friendly Solution of Chemicals.


Anne Goldsberry MD