Our Story

The story of Royal Thanaka is one of resiliency, community and hope. It is proof of what can manifest when similarly motivated individuals, originating from 3 different countries on 3 different continents come together with common goals of education, global consciousness, and community.

The founders of Royal Thanaka share a vision driven by the desire to honor the ancient wisdom of the ancestors and of nature for the betterment of the planet and humanity.

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Royal Thanaka: Resiliency, Community and Hope

The founders wish to bring awareness to the endangered Thanaka tree of Myanmar (Burma) as well as the cultural health and beauty heritage practice that utilizes the ground bark of the tree. This is a practice that historians believe has been done since the time of the Bagan kingdom (CE 849-1297). This is also the inspiration for “Royal Thanaka” the company, its name, and their line of skincare products. It is the bridge between people, planet, and products.

Thanaka Tree History and Sustainability

The Thanaka tree (Limonia Acidissima) grows primarily in Myanmar (formerly Burma). There it is known also as wood-apple, elephant-apple, or curd fruit trees. While it can take up to 30 years to produce a tree of good quality, the branches can be harvested every four years. They will grow back. Trunks from multi-trunk trees can also be harvested every four years and new stronger trunks will sprout from the roots.

Artifacts support that over 2,000 years ago the legendary queen of the ancient city of Pyu used and loved Thanaka. The first written reference of Thanaka in Burma is in a 14th century poem that speaks of the use of Thanaka in the palace of King Rajadhirat, the unifier of the Mon people.  It specifically refers to the queen’s use of Thanaka, as she loved the fragrance and effect of Thanaka on her skin.

Currently, in Myanmar, the Thanaka tree is in danger. Farmers are finding the financial income declining. Wholesale prices are low. Also, it is common in the cosmetic industry to utilize only a scant amount or even synthetic Thanaka in their products. As a result, farmers are turning to higher income yielding trees. Entire Thanaka crops have been uprooted, in some cases amounting to as many as 900 trees removed.

Royal Thanaka’s products contain a higher percentage of Thanaka than other cosmetic lines. In addition, they are committed to paying the farmers fair value for their crop and are dedicated to giving back to the Thanaka farm community.

Traditional Skincare Use of Thanaka

Traditionally, Thanaka tree bark is ground on a stone slab into a powder. A few drops of water are then added to make a paste.  Each morning a virtually transparent thin coat is rubbed onto the face, (neck, arms and legs). For decoration, a design is made on the face with a thicker paste. Thanaka is worn all-day and rinsed off in the evening. The paste has been shown to reduce wrinkles and blemishes, even out the complexion and soften the skin. 

Commitment to Community and a Better Life

Royal Thanaka is the fruition of the dreams of immigrants.  Founders and owners Htwe Htwe and Myo Naing emigrated from Myanmar (Burma) to the U.S. in 2002. Mary Ellen Sheehan’s formative ages, 3-6, were spent in Ireland. Her parents immigrated to America from Ireland in the 1950s.

The founders of Royal Thanaka met at the International Community School (ICS) in Decatur, Georgia. It is an intentional and diverse community of people committed to global justice and educational excellence. They are dedicated to the same commitment in the Royal Thanaka business composition, philosophy, practices, and products.

The idea for a socially responsible skincare line occurred to Mary Ellen during a visit back to Ireland in 2016. She recalled her friends Htwe and Myo sharing stories of the women of Burma each morning applying paste made from the bark of the Thanaka to their faces and children’s faces for skin protection and health. Mary Ellen presented her idea to her husband Dave Spokas and her friends who readily embraced the opportunity to work together and brings to pass their shared lifelong aspiration for a better life - for all.

The name “Royal Thanaka” came to be out of respect to the deep history of use of Thanaka by ancient Burmese royalty. In addition, its founders are committed to producing only supreme products that will leave the user feeling regal.

The mission of Royal Thanaka is to create an exceptional product with time-tested effectiveness; to pay staff a living wage; to collaborate with organizations that serve vulnerable populations, and work toward nature conservation and education. As teachers, an engineer, and an IT manager the Royal Thanaka founders had a steep learning curb in working with chemists and the cosmetic industry.

Despite the hurdles, their concept proposed four years earlier, launched in September 2020. Royal Thanaka introduced to the skincare market their first product their Ultra Rich Moisturizing Cream. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, rays of hope began to shine through.

Ultra-Rich Moisturizing Cream

The Royal Thanaka Ultra Rich Moisturizing Cream is inspired by the traditional use of Thanaka and the associated benefits including sun protection, hydrating, cooling, improved complexion and anti-aging. The main ingredient is Thanaka extract. Studies have shown it to be high in antioxidants and vitamin E, anti-inflammatory with astringent properties.

To support the commitment to the Earth community, sustainable materials are utilized wherever possible. The Royal Thanaka Ultra Rich Moisturizing Cream contains no petrochemicals and the palm oil is certified sustainable. Also, it is manufactured in recycled glass jars with a recycled plastic lid and biodegradable insert and packaged in decorative boxes. 

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Antimicrobial Properties of Thanaka, a Burmese Powder Used toTreat Acne. Journal of Biosciences and Medicines, 5, 1-6.https://doi.org/10.4236/jbm.2017.57001

Seiverling, E.V.,Trubiano, J.P., Williams, J.C., Ahrns,H.T.,Craft, D.W. and England, M.R. (2017) Analysis of the “Aqueous and alcoholic extracts of Thanaka have, however, been shown to inhibit inflammation by blocking free radical release”.

Journal of Ethnopharmacology Volume 132, Issue 2, 11 November 2010, Pages 466-472 Biological activities and safety of Thanaka (Hesperethusa Crenulata) stem bark Extracts from Thanaka bark showed strong anti-inflammatory, significant antioxidation, mild tyrosinase inhibition and slight antibacterial activities. All extracts and the original bark powder showed no detectable genotoxicity while very low cytotoxicity with IC50 value of more than12 mg/ml was detected in the water extract. Thus, the use of the Thanaka bark in the form of a watery paste as a skin care regiment is not only safe but also beneficial to skin. Thanaka: Traditional BurmeseSun ProtectionMarch 2014 | Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Original Article | 306 | Copyright ©March 2014Anne Goldsberry MD MBA, a Alan Dinner PhD, and C. William Hanke MD MPHaa Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana in Carmel, Carmel, IN

National Geographic History & Culture: Out of Eden Walk September 20, 2020 In Myanmar, everyone swears by this natural skin cosmetic Paul Salopek, "People use Thanaka as a beauty aid. It’s said to soften the skin and prevent wrinkles."