Sunday, October 20, 2019

Posted at: Mar 16, 2019, 2:08 AM; last updated: Mar 16, 2019, 2:08 AM (IST)

Guard your skin

The use of chemical colours during Holi can prove disastrous as these increase chances of allergies and infections

Dr Rinky Kapoor

Holi is a festival of fun and frolic. A festival celebrated with plenty of colours and zeal, the tradition is to wish a happy Holi by smearing or sprinkling colours each other. Till a few decades ago the Holi colours were derived from natural sources like dry or fresh flowers and leaves, etc. Even sandalwood paste, saffron, turmeric, henna and fuller’s earth were also used to play Holi. 

However, with changing times and quick-fix solutions came industrial colours that rapidly replaced the natural ones as these were cheaper options available easily. These colours are inexpensive dyes made using various chemical processes and include a variety of harmful compounds such as malachite green, auramine, methyl violet, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, prussian blue and cobalt nitrate. Mixed with starch or wheat flour and mica dust, the colours are disastrous for the skin as these increase chances of allergies and infections even in otherwise healthy skin textures. 

As a result, Holi can cause various skin and other allergies and inflammation. These problems characteristically present themselves during or few days after Holi and the condition is also popularly known as Holi dermatoses. Those who have had allergies in the past, here’s a quick lowdown on the harms of using chemical colours, the best cure for the resulting conditions and a guide to keep skin safe and healthy.  


Holi dermatoses can manifest itself in various forms: 

  • Itching in eyes and other areas
  • Burning sensation
  • Pain
  • Oozing
  • Scaling 
  • Lesions
  • Erosions 
  • Blisters
  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Bumps
  • Acute nail-fold inflammation
  • Abrasions
  • Aggravation of pre-existing dermatoses such as acne, eczema, and paronychia
The face is the most commonly affected because this is where the colours are mostly applied. Hands are also commonly affected as again these are most used in mixing and handling of colours. Other common areas include the scalp, forearms, neck and thighs. 

Rubbing hands vigorously or on the face and scalp to rub in the colours can cause tiny abrasions on the skin leading to infections and inflammations as dermatoses are usually related to the irritant, allergic contact and mechanical factors. 


Itching, burning, and other unpleasant sensations or reactions on the skin should be treated immediately. Wash off any colour or paint on the skin instantly with cold water and visit a dermatologist to get the right treatment. Various treatments that the doctor might suggest can include:

  • Application of corticosteroid ointments to the affected areas to reduce the symptoms.
  • Antibiotics and antifungal creams to heal the skin.
  • Soothing ointments to combat dryness.
  • Washing skin with mild pH friendly soaps that do not have any harsh dyes.
  • Oral medicines for severe reactions.


Some precautions observed beforehand can go a long way to prevent the onset and aggravation of such skin conditions.

  • Use organic or natural colours. You can also make some colours at home like by mixing turmeric with some roasted chickpea powder to make gulal along with finely powdered hibiscus flower to get a deep hue of red.
  • For those having a hypersensitive skin, eczemas, psoriasis, and other eczematous skin conditions, it is best to avoid colour contact, at least with chemical colours.
  • Apply coconut oil on your hair and scalp before playing Holi to prevent the colour from blocking the pores.
  • Apply aloe vera gel and oil on your body to create a layer of protection on the skin. Don’t forget to cover the ear area.
  • If any kind of colour gets in your eyes, wash them immediately. Don’t blink too much to get the colour out of your eyes as it will only cause damage.
  • Use sun screen on the skin to avoid skin damage.
  • For lips, use Vaseline to keep these moisturised throughout. You can apply Vaseline to the ears as well.
  • Apply transparent nail paint on the nails and also on the inside of the nails to prevent the colour from getting inside the skin.
  • Stay hydrated at all times by drinking water and juices regularly. 

Post-Holi care

Once the festivities are over, here are some suggestions for skin care:

  • Rinse face and body with plenty of water.
  • Clean the skin with baby oil.        Do not scrub the skin for at least 48 hours after Holi.
  • Use natural ingredients like curd and chickpea flour to exfoliate the skin and cleanse it.
  • After bathing, apply moisturiser liberally all over the body to seal the moisture in.
  • Get your skin treated immediately if you notice anything different.
  • Do not bleach, shave, wax or go for facials or clean-ups for few weeks.
  • Avoid using makeup or anything  harsh on your skin for a few days.
  • Let your skin breathe and get back its natural moisture.
Follow these simple tips to keep your skin safe and enjoy Holi. 

—The writer is consultant dermatologist, at The Esthetic Clinics & Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai.


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