Use natural colours and be alert against harmful ones during Holi celebrations to prevent infections from dampening festive spirits, say doctors.
The colours available in markets may contain chemical dyes, acids, mica, glass powder and dangerous alkalis, which can cause skin irritation, blisters, flaking and other damage.
“People who handle colours often complain of conjunctivitis, visual impairment, asthma and brutal skin reactions. Some of the colours are highly toxic and can even cause cancer,” said Dr Vikas Goswami, senior consulting oncologist at Fortis Hospital.
The colours also cause corneal damage. “Every year more than 1,000 people come to the emergency ward on the day of Holi with complaints of eye trauma. Many complain about eye irritation caused by the chemicals in the colours,” said Dr Harbansh Lal, senior consultant of ophthalmology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Doctors suggest a few tips to protect skin, hair and eye:
Before playing holi
Ensure that you apply oil liberally on your hair and skin, especially behind the ears, on the earlobes and nails and other areas where colours can settle easily.
“Dry skin allows the chemicals to penetrate easily, so the oil is protective. Use coconut oil, olive oil or Vitamin E oil for the body, and mustard oil for hair. Apply it one hour before you go out to play,” said dermatologist Dr Deepali Bhardwaj.
Physicians stressed on the importance of applying a sunscreen. “Use a gel-based sunscreen as it needs to be waterproof. Anything above SPF 26 should be good,” said Dr Shehla Agarwal, director, Mehak Skin Clinic.
Dr Agarwal advised applying it 30 minutes before going out to play. “Reapply if you are out in the sun for more than three hours,” she said.
Doctors also suggested wearing clothes that cover most of the body. “Avoid heavy fabrics such as denim that do not dry easily. Do not stay in wet clothes for more than two hours,” said Dr Agarwal.
Also, make sure you wear glasses to protect your eyes. It is also important to cover any open wound with a waterproof band-aid so that chemicals don’t enter the body, doctors said.
They also advised using colours that can be taken off easily. “Red and pink colours can be removed easily, so try to stick to them. The gaudy ones such as purple, green and orange contain more harmful chemicals,” said Dr Agarwal. If forced to apply permanent colours or grease, make sure it is applied on a covered part of the body. Avoid getting it on your face, said Dr Bhardwaj.
While in the sun
Doctors highlight the importance of staying hydrated while out in the sun. If you get hurt, stop playing with colours immediately, they said. “If you get something in the eye, do not rub it. Wash it immediately, preferably with distilled water, but tap water will also do. If vision is blurry, make sure you go to a nearby emergency ward,” said Dr Lal.
Removing the colours
Don’t start with scrubbing to get the colours off, they said. “Wipe your face first to get the gulal off. Use cleansers to remove the colours that are still on the face,” said Dr Agarwal. Stand under running water for 5-10 minutes to remove any colour which can be washed away before applying liquid soap gently, said Dr Bhardwaj.
Avoid using kerosene, petrol and spirits to remove stains, as they will dry the skin. Use home remedies instead – apply lemon juice over the colour patches; use a mixture of curd and sandalwood or turmeric with flour.
Wash hair with a mild shampoo till hair feels clean. Don’t forget to deep condition, said doctors.
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