Holi skincare

Safeguard your skin this Holi, with Dr Apratim Goel’s, skincare tips

By Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist

Traditionally, Holi celebrates the return of spring – a time when several trees bloom  and the colours that people use come from these flowering trees. Over the years, with the disappearance of some of these tree varieties from urban areas, the natural colours were gradually replaced by cheaper industrial dyes. Now, Holi is played with chemicals and toxins, grease and grime, and sometimes glass. These colours contain oxidised metals or industrial dyes and can be very harmful to the skin. Here are some precautions before and after holi to keep your skin, hair, eye and nails safe.

Precautions to be taken before playing holi

  • Use natural / herbal homemade colours. Make colors at home experiment with different natural products available like henna can be used as green colour, turmeric powder can be used as yellow colour, dry rose petals and other dry petals can be grounded to make powder and used as dry gulal. These things will not harm skin instead act beneficial for skin.
  • Use barrier cream or oil (mustard oil is best) in generous quantity on all exposed body parts. Let the skin absorb it for 20-30 minutes. Then apply waterproof sunscreen. Apply Vaseline inside nails, feet, elbows, at the back of ear. People with sensitive skin should avoid colours on sensitive areas of skin.

  • For those with a history of skin allergy or rash, take an anti-allergic tablet on the previous night to avoid skin irritation and rash.

  • Oil the hair well prior to color. Massage hair oil generously on scalp and hair length ,this will protect hair from excessive dryness caused by colors.

  • Try and wear clothes that cover most of the exposed body parts.

Harmful effects of colours
Playing with colors during holi is fun but can be harmful to the skin as well, especially people with sensitive skin and tendency for skin allergy or eczema. They can cause allergic contact dermatitis to colours and dyes. This will show on skin as itching, red rash, swelling and irritation on the area of skin where the color was applied. Sometimes the allergy can spread later on to whole body.

The colours affect different skin in different ways. For some people especially with thin skin, dry skin, family or personal history of skin allergy or asthma, even a little amount of colour left for a little time can cause severe allergy or rash. In some cases even kidney failure and skin cancer has been reported. On the contrary, there are lots among us who play with these colors the whole day long and there is no allergy or any other side effect.

The dry colour powders, the oily pastes and the watercolors all contain toxic substances capable of affecting human health. Disorders like discoloration, contract dermatitis, abrasion, irritation, itching and chapped skin are often mistaken as normal side-effects of Holi. But any colour that leads to any of these conditions is harmful. Eczema is the most common type of reaction seen post-Holi, especially if the colors have already caused a rash, thereby making the skin dry and open to chemical penetration. Solvents like lead, benzene, aromatic compounds can lead to dry skin, which is only the primary irritant. Once you rub the skin to remove the color, benzene dissolves the keratin in the skin. Don’t use nail paint remover to remove the colors because the skin then absorbs organic compounds.
While the application of very little amount of colours should be an ideal solution to avoid any kind of allergy, the option of application of body oil, like coconut oil, also serves as a protective layer for the skin. If the oil is applied on the body before playing with colors, it can prevent allergies and irritation. However, if the colors react or irritate the skin, they should be immediately washed away with running water. While washing off the color, use lukewarm water and keep your eyes and lips tightly closed. If irritation persists use calamine lotion.

In case of any irritation or burning, calamine lotion can be applied. If the irritation persists, consult a dermatologist urgently. Antihistamines, topical steroids or antibiotics can be used. In severe reactions Systemic Steroids may be used.

Alternatives to harmful colours
Use only herbal Holi colors. Remember, this may cost you a little more but your skin and hair will be safe. Moreover, the cost of dermatologist and other medical expenses resulting from use of chemical Holi colours will be saved. When buying herbal Holi colors, feel them. They should be soft and must feel powdery, like talc or refined flour (maida) and not grainy or gritty. For a cheaper option, you can even make natural colors by doing it yourself. Here are a few things one can do at home:

  • Mix haldi powder with besan for a lovely yellow.
  • Slice a beetroot and soak in water for a deep pink.
  • Boil Marigold or Tesu flowers in water for yellow colour.
  • The other easy way to get a yellow liquid colour is to soak peels of pomegranate (Anar) overnight.
  • For an orange red paste, henna leaves (mehndi) can be dried, powdered and mixed with water.
  • For a bright reddish-orange, mix dry sandalwood powder and a pinch of lime with two teaspoons of haldi powder and a few drops of water. Use this only after diluting with 10 litres of water.
  • For a vibrant magenta, grate one beetroot, soak in one litre of water, boil or leave overnight.

To know more about Holi skincare precautions, chat live with Dr Apratim Goel on March 6 at 2pm by logging on to chat.timeswellness.com

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