Holi is the festival of colours celebrated with much pomp and show, seeking fun in smearing one another with vibrant hues.
However, do you know what harm you’re causing amid all fun and frolic, not just to your skin but to others too? Blatant use of inexpensive OTC artificial colours prepared with chemical solvents and toxic agents, like lead oxide, mercury sulphite and copper sulphate, can cause minor to severe damage to your skin, eyes, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Holi, however gay a festivity, comes with a number of setbacks like frizzy hair, or rashes and breakouts. The dry gulal and the wet colours aren’t derived from natural sources. These contain chemicals, particles of mica and even lead, which cause skin irritation, heap on the scalp and get deposited inside the nails too.
Toxic chemicals, like lead, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, zinc, asbestos and mercury, are used to manufacture coloured powders. These can cause temporary blindness, asthma, renal problems and in the case of mercury sulphite (used to make the red colour), skin cancer. There are chances of attracting allergic contact dermatitis over skin and allergic reaction to eye due to these. Red bumpy itchy skin rashes may appear on and around the exposed area.
Does it mean no one will enjoy with colours? They’ll, but with adequate measures. A cautious approach makes Holi hassle free. Both adults and children are exposed to allergic reactions during Holi. Home-made or natural colours, especially the children, are best advised. Organic colours are safer than the artificial ones.
Wet colours can be more harmful as these deeply penetrate the skin. We must keep sufficient water nearby. In case of irritation to eye or skin, we must wash the area gently with water. One should wear loose cotton clothes and cover the body as much as possible. Parents should advise their wards to keep a safe distance from toxic colours, and plan ways to play more organically.
Artificial colours have strong acidic or alkaline component which can cause irritant contact dermatitis, burning of the area of contact, leading to change in skin texture or colour. The most harmful are the ones with metallic component which appear like paint when applied. Besides allergy, these damage liver and kidney on rare occasions.
The challenge arises when one removes the colours after the festivities. People damage their skin in haste to remove colours with vigorous rubbing. While some prefer using soap or face wash, this has ill-effects. It is necessary to wipe the colour off with moist cotton wool. We must avoid washing the face with soap, because it has alkaline content and causes further dryness. We must use a cleansing cream or lotion, apply and massage it on the face before stepping out to play.
Girls must tie their hair in a bun and also cover it with bandana or caps. Pregnant women and kindergartens must avoid playing with colours. Vigorous activities and toxic colours are harmful to the baby in the womb, and may lead to premature delivery, miscarriage or birth defects.
Researchers, these days, claim that artificial colours have an adverse impact on water and soil. These are highly structured polymers, and do not decompose naturally, causing another threat to the environment. Thus, it is important to celebrate a safe Holi.
(Dr. Aritra Sarkar, Consultant Dermatologist, Medica Superspecialty Hospital)