Celebrate Holi, but with care

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2011, 10:50 AM IST

New Delhi: Smearing gulal and splashing each other with colours - people love doing all this on Holi. But amidst the fun and frolic, they should not forget to take precautions to protect their skin and hair from the chemicals used in the colours.

Harmful ingredients such as heavy metals, acids and powdered glass are used in colours, say experts, who suggest some pre- and post-celebration remedies to take care of skin and hair.

"The black paste youngsters use has lead oxide, green contains copper sulphate, and red has mercury sulphite and so on. All these are toxic and can result in skin allergies," said Abhijit Desai, makeover expert and MD of Evolve Med Spa.

"Many dry powders use a base of asbestos talc, chalk powder or silica. Silica may dry as well as chap the skin. The shine in the colours is due to the addition of powdered glass or mica. Synthetic colours often contain lead oxide, engine oil, diesel, chromium, iodine and copper sulphate, which cause skin irritation in case of extreme exposure," he added.

Desai suggested that one should only buy skin-friendly natural colours.

"Before playing, apply petroleum jelly or edible oil on exposed parts to prevent colours from coming in contact with the skin. Wear clothes that cover the maximum part of the body, to protect your skin. This would positively help people who follow the age-old tradition of smearing colour onto the faces of their friends and family celebrate the colourful festival joyfully," he added.

Prashant C.P, head, technical division of Birla Kerala Vaidyashala, also felt people should cover most body parts while playing with colours. His company offers pre- and post-Holi skin care packages - Sarvakaya Abhyangam and Soundrya Samvartakam respectively.

"Sarvakaya Abhyangam is considered to be the best therapy to moisturise the skin and to ease tense muscles. It improves blood circulation, reduces stiffness and in turn increases freshness and enhances complexion. The natural Ayurvedic oils used for abhyanga protects your skin again the harmful colours," he said.

Talking about Soundrya Samvartakam, he said: "This package has various treatments for skin problems. It has medicated honey, yoghurt, herbal powders and juices of fresh herbs to remove colour stains. A skin rejuvenating oil massage will make your skin softer and cleaner."

In the olden days, Palash or Tesu flowers were used to make colours for Holi and herbs like henna, margosa, kumkum, turmeric, and bilva were used for dry colorus.

The experts felt that today, organic colours have been replaced by harmful industrial colours, most of which are dyes meant for industrial uses like dyeing textiles.

Navin Taneja, director, National Skin Center, suggested: "Apply a thick layer of good quality moisturiser or oil (baby oil or coconut, almond oil) on your skin. Let the skin absorb it for 15-20 min. Use serums or oil in your scalp to protect it from damage. Tie your hair into a bun or a ponytail to avoid excess damage. Colours and sunlight combined may cause a phototoxic reaction, so sunscreens of SPF 30+to SPF 50+ are a must."

Sangeeta Amladi, head Medical Services, Kaya Skin Clinic, too felt skin care is extremely crucial during Holi.

"The different colours can lead to allergic dermatitis. If the colours irritate the skin, they should be immediately washed away with ample water and then a moisturizer or local soothing agent like calamine lotion should be applied. These colours make your skin dry, so drink as much water as possible. It is extremely important that people should use moisturiser after cleansing," Amladi said.

Apply vaseline under and around your nails, feet, elbows and behind your ears, she said adding, "if a water balloon hits you near or on the eyes, rinse immediately with water. Do the same if at any time the colour affects your eyes".

To protect the hair, Almadi said people should oil them the night before.

"Hair can turn brittle and extremely dry if colour remains in it for a long time. This is due to the harmful chemicals present in the colours, so oil your hair the night before. Try to cover your hair with a cap or a dupatta while playing with colours," she added.

Rajesh Bendre, head of chemistry department, Bombay, Metropolis Healthcare Limited, felt that the kind of Holi played today harms the environment.

"Ideally, the joyous festival of Holi is meant to celebrate the arrival of spring while the colors used in Holi are to reflect of the various hues of spring season. But unfortunately, in modern times, Holi does not stand for all things beautiful. Like various other festivals, Holi too has become ruthlessly commercialised, boisterous and yet another source of environmental degradation," he said.

IANS