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Celebrate the festival of colours safely

Holi is one of the most exciting and eagerly awaited festivals of the year. A festival of colours, on this day people spread joy and amusement with the use of coloured powders, water bombs, ‘pichkaris’ to celebrate the onset of spring in our country. However every year dermatologists witness a rise in skin related issues and infections post the festival. A lot of people are left concerned and frustrated due to skin irritation, atopic dermatitis or eczema flare-ups post-Holi.

This is caused by the use of synthetic colours, industrial dyes and harsh chemical laden colours that are easily available in the market. Additional elements such as mica dust and very fine glass particles for shine are also commonly added to the powders. These can create micro traumas or micro tears on the skins surface and aggravate pre-existing skin conditions, cause rashes, redness, allergic reactions, irritation or even enter the bloodstream through wounds on the skin and cause further damage. Most common Holi colours have been found to have PM10 particles which can lead to unwanted skin reactions.

The following are some safety tips to have a healthy and safe Diwali.

1.       Follow Covid-19 protocols

As we are still in the middle of the pandemic, mass playing with colours is not advisable. It is mandatory to continue to use masks and limit celebration with only a few known people. An additional layer of disposable gloves can be worn to protect the skin from colours and other hazards.

2.       Avoid salon procedures prior to the festival

Procedures such as waxing, sugaring, threading, facials, lasers, chemical peels, etc leave the skin sensitive and prone to more damage. Avoid such procedures, and avoid excessive sun exposure for a few days. Keep the skin moisturised and healthy. Avoid cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption as these can damage the skin.

3.       Shield the skin before going to play

Apply a thick layer of oil or petroleum jelly over all parts of the skin before getting any colour on it. For the face, use a non-comedogenic moisturiser liberally. This will prevent the colour from crossing the barrier and limit the amount of skin exposure.  An additional protective layer of sunscreen along with this will help to protect from sun damage as well. Avoid playing in the sun for too long. Do not forget your lips, neck, chest and nails as these are also sensitive spots that are often missed. Use full coverage clothes and a scarf to protect your hair as well.

4.       Wash carefully post playing

Do not immediately jump into a hot shower and scrub at your skin. After playing, massage the body with oil to help lift the colour. Stand under running luke-warm water to let excess colour wash away. Then use a gentle soap, preferable with a pH of 5.5 to wash off the remnant. Towel dry yourself gently and moisturise. Avoid using any exfoliants, toner or skin lightening creams for a week, and use sunscreen when stepping out in the sun.

5. Soothing irritated skin

In case you suffer from red or itchy patches, use a bit of aloe vera gel or curd to soothe the skin. Add a bit of antiseptic to your bath water and also on any cuts or wounds to reduce the risk of infection. In case you experience a serious skin flare-up that persists, visit the dermatologist.

Ideally people should switch to organic Holi colours which use plant-derived dyes with very fine particulate matter so that there are no chemicals or rough particulates that can damage the skin. A quick Google search should offer many home-made recipes that use beetroot, henna, rice flour, haldi, jamun, food dyes etc that are harmless and give the same fun. Enjoy a safe and allergy free Holi

By Dr. Sneha Sood, Consultant Dermatologist, Aster RV Hospital

About Mahender Bansal

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