The Global Design Research Team Documents a Burmese Tradition

Thanaka Powder is a natural skincare product used by Burmese women and children as a holistic approach for sun protection, skin lightening, anti-aging, and perfume.  Lextant’s design reseacher, Max Berney, documented this Burmese tradition as Myanmar is on the brink of cultural shifts resulting from the introduction of western culture.

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Yangon, Myanmar

Western ideals for skincare and cosmetics are quite similar.  But how does the concept of beauty enhanced by cosmetics differ in regions sheltered from this western ideal?

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Nyaung U, Mandalay, Myanmar

Thanaka Powder is a natural skincare product made from ground Thanaka bark used throughout Myanmar and neighboring countries.  Thanaka is used by women and children as a holistic approach for sun protection, skin lightening, anti-aging, and perfume.

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Yangon, Myanmar

The application of the paste is very decorative, in contradiction to the western use of cosmetics which accentuates facial features, not the product.

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Yangon, Myanmar

Sheltered by a military dictatorship for the last 20 years, Myanmar’s society has limited exposure to western norms for beauty practices.  Burmese boys are unaware that western boys view cosmetics as solely female products, and proudly wear Thanaka.  Burmese women have never seen nor used western cosmetic products.

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Mandalay, Myanmar

Do you think Burmese women would prefer an invisible cosmetic?

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Yangon, Myanmar

As foreign media and beauty products enter Myanmar’s newly open society, a distinctive feature of Burmese culture is both threatened and poised to influence regional cosmetics.

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Mandalay, Myanmar

More than a daily sunblock, the use of Thanaka is a part of Burmese cultural identity and creates a means of individual expression.  Pharmaceutical companies seeking to enter this region should re-examine the role of cosmetics, from being invisible to being visible.

These global corporations must ask themselves how their current products will impact societal values on beauty and cosmetics product usage.  those seeking to develop future product pipelines in Myanmar and neighboring countries would be unwise not to leverage cultural norms behind traditional practices and customers.

Max Berney is a part of the design research team at Lextant, a global user experience consultancy in Columbus, OH.  Understanding current behaviors can lead to new and breakthrough opportunities for product and package innovation. To learn more about how Lextant’s global design research team can help you get close to your customers to understand current and desired experiences, call us at 614-228-9711 or send an email to  Lextant – the human experience firm.

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