Celebrating Holi the safer way!

Manisha Singh

Holi, which heralds the arrival of spring and brings colour in our lives, was traditionally celebrated with natural colours made from flowers. In fact, even today, Holi is played with rose petals and natural colours in Mathura and Vrindavan. However, over the years, traditional colours gave way to chemical colours. These colours contain mica, acids, alkalis and pieces of glass, which can be harmful for your skin and health to say the least.

According to Dr Shehla Agarwal, Dermatologist and Director Mehak skin
clinic, “The chemical colours being sold in the market are available in various
forms. As pastes, dry powders and water colours. When applied on skin, they
enter the body system and skin is the worst sufferer of these colours.”

Let’s analyse the harmful effects of chemical colours that are available in the market. Various studies have proven that the colour black contains lead oxide, which could lead to kidney failure and learning disability. The colour green contains copper sulphate, which could result in eye allergy, puffiness and temporary blindness. Similarly, colour purple obtained from chromium iodide may cause bronchial asthma and allergies. The bright and shining silver may dazzle your eyes and it contains aluminium bromide which is carcinogenic. The blue colour has prussian blue, which causes skin allergy. And the beautiful red has mercury sulphite, which may be the cause of skin cancer and mental retardation.

According to Dr Amit Malhotra, Sr Consultant, Dermatology, Max Healthcare, Noida, “People prone to skin problems are the worst affected and even a small amount of colour can trigger allergies and even asthma in them. So people with a history of skin problems should either avoid playing Holi or use herbal colours.” The same goes for children as well, according to Dr Malhotra as they have a sensitive skin, especially very small children.

Dr Shehla Agarwal reiterates that, “dry colours are made with two components, a colorant and a base. Colorant is the metal component and base could be asbestos or silica. Whereas silica may dry as well as chap the skin, asbestos a known human carcinogen gets built up in the body tissue”.

She further warns that if a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, it can be carried to the unborn child and damage it’s nervous system, resulting in premature birth and low birth weight.

Yet, our intention is not to scare you from playing Holi. No, we want you to go out and enjoy the festival with your family and friends. All we want for you is to have a safe Holi. And you can do that by playing Holi with natural and organic colours. With increasing social awareness, natural and organic colours are now easily available in the market. If you want, you can make them at home too. In fact it might be fun to do so.

There are simple ways to do it. Dr Shehla Agarwal tells you how:-

For saffron colour boil petals of marigold or peels of pomegranate and soak overnight to get yellow colour.

The Flame of the Forest, also called Tesu or Palash, dried flowers of which are available in cities, can be soaked overnight or boiled to get saffron colour.
Another flower called Semul, also called Silk Cotton, gives red colour.

We can get red colour from other ingredients such as red sandalwood powder, from which one can make both dry and wet colours. To increase its volume, add flour to it.

Moreover, you can boil 10 to 15 peels of onion in half a litre of water and cool it to get red colour.

Haldi or turmeric both can be used in both dry and powered form to create yellow colour. It can be mixed with besan or gram flour to increase the volume. Flowers like marigold (gainda) or yellow chrysanthemums can also be crushed to get yellow colour.

Green colour can be obtained from mehendi or henna powder. Here also you can mix an equal quantity of flour to it. Leaves of delonix regia (gulmohar) can also be dried and powered to get a nice green. Wheat plant when crushed will too give you a natural green colour.

If you like purple colour then simply put some amount of potassium permanganate in a bucket of water. It will easily dissolve to give you a purple hue.
For rich magenta colour, use grated beetroot and mix it with water. The mashed pulp can be used as paste.

If you want black colour then take a small or medium sized steel container and brush it with some mustard oil. Hold it on top of a lighted candle or burner, oil side down and facing the flame. After some time, a black soot will collect in the container. This, apart from using it to play Holi, is also a natural collyrium or kajol.

These natural colours are not only a safe way to play Holi but are also good for the skin as they are endowed with therapeutic properties.

So, you see, our aim was not to dampen the spirit of Holi but to motivate you to make natural colours and use them to bring colour to your lives. If you don’t want to make them at home then you can buy herbal or organic colours. It may cost you a bit more than the regular colours, but then no amount is more when it comes to your health.