So it is that time of the year again when gulal and gujiya, pichkari and pakora vie for our attention even as many among us try to match steps with each other to the beats of “Rang barse.” As expected, the market is full of colours of various brands, pichkaris of different shapes, gujiyas and a variety of other sweets, bhujias and a range of other namkeens, all to make the annual festival of colours an occasion to remember. Time is also to keep caution and choose the right thing from the market for you, your family and friends.

Ajay Rana, dermatologist and director at New Delhi's Berkowits Hair and Skin Clinics, points out, “There was a time when people used only natural colours made at home. With industrialisation, flowers and herbs have been replaced by chemicals and other toxic substances. Health hazards, including skin diseases, have resulted from this manufacturing trend.” Harsh chemicals in Holi colours can cause itching and rashes which lead to eczemas upon scratching. Dermatitis, abrasion, irritation, itching, dryness, pruritus and burning sensation also occur quite frequently following the Holi celebration with colours.

Moreover, because of the chemicals in the colours and the dust present outside, hair can turn brittle and extremely dry with the Holi colours.

Dr. S.K. Bose, senior dermatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, also talks about the effect of toxic colours on our skin, nails and eyes. He says, “People who have previous skin problems like eczema, atopic dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne vulgaris, paronychia, folliculitis and eye and breathing are the worst sufferers.”

To make the festival a success, here is a list of things to keep in mind:

Use products that are natural, even if that means you have to pay a little more. The colours will not only look more beautiful, they will also be soft on your skin and hair.

Before playing Holi, apply a thick layer of a good quality cream or oil to all body parts exposed, including the face, a particularly sensitive area.

It is also a good idea to protect your hair with a generous layer of oil, even better to get your head covered with a cap or a scarf, before playing Holi.

Washing off the colour from the skin and hair is very important. For this, do not rub the skin vigorously with soaps, think of a cleanser instead, followed by a liberal application of moisturiser. Baby oil, gently massaged off the leftover colour, works well too.

Remember, hot water fixes the colour on the skin and makes it difficult to get rid of, so use cold water instead.

Never use kerosene, petrol or spirits to remove the stains from the skin.

Apply calamine lotion over the affected area of your skin. Avoid exposure in the sunlight as it may further harm the skin.

Consult your dermatologist in case of any skin discomfort that does not subside after a few hours of playing Holi or feels particularly uneasy.

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HEALTH PROBLEMS RELATED TO COLOUR CHEMICALS

Black Lead oxide Renal failure

Green Copper Sulphate Eye allergy, Puffiness, temporary blindness

Silver Aluminium bromide Carcinogenic

Blue Prussian blue Contact Dermatitis

Red Mercury Sulfate Highly toxic can cause skin cancer

Preparing colours at home

For dry yellow colour: Mix turmeric (haldi) with chickpea flour (besan)

For liquid colours

Yellow: Boil marigold or Tesu flowers in water

Pink: Soak peels of pomegranate overnight (anar)

Deep Pink: Slice a beetroot and soak in water

For orange-red: Grind dried henna leaves (mehndi) and mixed with plenty of water

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