Holi is the festival of colours, water balloons, gujiyas, bhang, and freedom for pure colour madness enjoyed not only by Indians, but, now, by people across the world. But as lighthearted as the fun of playing with colours is, there is the danger of having low-grade colours being put on you that may lead to itching and rashes, and even serious injury.
Traditionally, Holi colours were made from natural ingredients like flowers and herbs, but that has changed drastically over the decades, with many people preferring more ‘pakka’ or permanent colours. (How else would you explain your colleagues’ pink and blue faces the next day at work). Though, organic natural colours have made a comeback, it is always a good idea to play it safe and be careful, without compromising on the fun.
Before you go out armed with your colours, ready to attack, it would be better to cover even the slightest of cuts and scrapes with a waterproof band-aid, as some chemicals in the colours can even lead to later-stage cancer, blindness, skin diseases, or (in extreme cases) even loss of limb should they enter your blood stream through the cut and get absorbed. Some of the toxins used in the colours can result in a range of diseases, including skin allergies, systemic amyloidosis, irritation leading to chronic skin eczemas, etc.
So, to make sure you have loads of fun this Holi, but don’t rue it later, here are some tips to keep in mind before the colour games begin.
* Dry skin allows the chemicals present in Holi colours to penetrate easily, so always oil the whole body. Preferably with coconut oil, olive oil, or vitamin E oil. For your hair, you can use mustard oil in copious amounts, at least an hour before you start to play. And remember to tie it up, if you have long hair.
* Take care to oil areas behind your ears, between your finger tips and even near your fingernails.
* One way to potect your fingernails from absorbing all that Holi colour is by painting it with the darkest colour possible so that the Holi colours are unable to go inside the nail bed.
* Opt for a pair of old sunglasses while playing Holi so that you can protect your eyes. This way, you look fashionable too! If you don’t own a pair of disposable ones, you can buy an inexpensive pair just for the occasion. Trust me, it will be money well spent.
* Also, should colours enter your eyes any way, wash your them clean with cold water; and see an eye specialist if the irritation persists after few hours of playing Holi.
* It is difficult to make out differences between a natural colour and a dye. Try to use only herbal colours or home-made colours from kitchen or garden like tesu flowers, genda flowers to beetroot juice, maybe, and you can even request your guests to adhere to the same policy. After all, it’s for their well-being as well. If anyone forces ‘pakka’ colour or black grease, avoid having it smeared on to your face. Compromise with a handprint on your clothes instead.
* Don’t play or be in wet clothes longer than 2 hours. Try and restrict your play to dry Holi, but even so keep washing face and hands regularly in between. You can also keep a bowl of curd handy, keep applying it on each other occasionally — that not only helps remove the colour but also moisturises and hydrates your skin. Who knew, Holi could turn into a beauty regimen.
* Do not forget to apply sunscreen over the layer of oil before venturing out. Opt for a gel-based one that is waterproof as well. Any brand with SPF 26-plus is sufficient for Indians. Apply it around 30 minutes before playing. Should be out in the sun for more than 3 hours, then remember to reapply a coat later.
* Should you get hurt while playing Holi (and we all know that it sometimes does happen) and there is a bleeding/cut, immediately put the body part in running water and ice it. Also clean the wound with an antibacterial lotion, say like Dettol or Savlon, and refrain playing any further. Another precaution would be to take a tetanus toxoid injection, just in case, if you haven’t taken it in the past four or five months.
* Keep drinking water while playing Holi, this will ensure that you’re hydrated under the sun.
What should you take care of, post-Holi
* Once you’re done playing, stand under running water for 5-10 minutes. Simply stand, you don’t need to aggressively scrub or scratch.
* Use liquid soap, applying it very gently on your body. For tough colours, opt for home remedies to deal with it.
* Home remedies like applying lemon juice directly on to your skin; curd and sandalwood mixture is great; and you can also make a turmeric and white flour paste, keep it on for 15-20 mins, and then wash it away with non-boiled milk. This mixture can be applied on all areas with colour after making it bit wet with plain water.
* To clean your face, use olive oil on cotton to remove the Holi colour ‘make-up’, but only after thoroughly washing your face with clean water. Again, opt for home-made scrubs like those using white flour to get rid of the tougher colour stains.
* Make sure to check the nooks and crannies of your body to ensure there is no toxic colour left. If you do find spots of colour, then use the natural ingredients we’ve mentioned before to get them out. It might take a couple of days, but the colour will eventually fade out without harming your skin.
* Avoid using exfoliates or bath salts for 48 hours after playing Holi, since your skin will very sensitive.
* Do not use steam or sauna for the next three days as well, since the body can absorb remaining colour on your skin, as the steam opens up your pores. For the same reason, avoid any activity that would make you sweat.
* Going for a skin facial is a good idea post-Holi, but opt for a medi-facial, which is bleach and steam free and avoids chemicals, that too, only after 48 hours of playing Holi.
Armed with all this information, you’re bound to have a smashing and safe Holi this year.