Meet Ko Aung, a young broker at the famed Mandalay Jade Market. Just as he goes to the market every morning, he told us he never forgets to put on Thanaka. Different from most others, his pattern is asymmetrical. He only applies it to one cheek to cover up something with which we have all struggled.

With Burmese youth, Ko Aung is as smooth as they come. His use of Thanaka for self expression doubles as a way to treat pimples both day and night.

With Burmese youth, Ko Aung is as smooth as they come. His use of Thanaka for self expression doubles as a way to treat pimples both day and night.

As many of us have tried dozens of cures and concoctions to get rid of pimples, Ko Aung and many other Burmese teenagers use Thanaka to treat "red spots," their name for acne. We have learned that Thanaka paste is particularly effective at soaking up oils and drying the skin during the hot summer months. As such, it is not surprising that it is equally effective at absorbing the oils and bacteria that cause acne. People also mix the paste with lime and salt to strengthen its effect. Though many abnormal patterns are a result of self expression, many are also a result of biology and hormones.

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