The Holi festival is just a day away and the bazaars are awash with the myriad colours of gulal. The colours in the market may dazzle the revellers, but the fact is that a majority of these colours are synthetic-based meant for industrial purposes like dyeing of textiles and not for human skin.

In the olden days, colours from natural extracts of flowers, roots and herbs that are traditionally good for the skin were used to celebrate Holi. Those days are long gone by and natural colours have been replaced by synthetic dyes.

“Desire for darker, brighter and long lasting colours has fuelled use of such colours. Oxidised metals, industrial dyes mixed with engine oil are used in such colours. Mercury sulphate is used to get red colour, copper sulphate for green, aluminium bromide for silver and lead oxide for black. They are harmful because they contain heavy metals,” says Dean, Home Sciences, ANGRAU, Dr. A Sharada Devi, who is leading the eco-friendly colours project of tribal women in the State. Since two years, ANGRAU researchers have collaborated with tribal women of Chintapalli to produce eco-friendly colours derived from natural dyes that can be used safely on the skin. Skin and eye allergies are very common forms of health hazards due to excessive use of synthetic colours during Holi. They cause skin rashes, itching, pimples and allergic reactions to hair. The ANGRAU researchers have derived five-colours including blue, pink, orange, green and yellow from flowers, wood, barks and even roots of several plants.

“We have used flower sources such as kesula and marigold for yellow shades, mehendi and other dried leaves for green, red sandal wood powder and madder for orange and red shades and barks of trees for brown colour. For magenta shade we beet root,” explained Dr. Sharada Devi. Dermatologists want revellers to avoid using kerosene, sandalwood, camphor and turmeric to get rid of colours. Doctors say that colours should be washed with cold water and mild soap and after that applying moisturiser or a cold cream.

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