In 2007, Janaki Jathar Naralkar played Holi for the last time.
She was in Class 11, and after thoroughly enjoying the festival with her friends, she returned home with colour smeared all over her face and body.
However, in just about an hour, her skin started itching. When she looked in the mirror, she saw rashes across her face and it felt extremely dry.
These were signs that her skin was reacting to the colours, and this happened even after she had thoroughly washed her face.
Janaki went on to study cosmetology in Pune. In a conversation with The Better India, the make-up artist recalled how that incident ended her Holi celebrations for good.
“I discovered that I had sensitive skin that day,” she says.
“My skin got dry, itchy and red. Thankfully, the condition wasn’t too severe because I had applied coconut oil on my face and body before heading out for Holi. It was supposed to act as a protective layer, but my skin still ended up reacting to the chemicals,” she adds.
While Janaki escaped with a somewhat minor reaction, toxic chemicals like lead, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, zinc, asbestos and mercury (to name a few) that are used to manufacture coloured powders are extremely harmful.
They can lead to temporary blindness, asthma, renal problems and in the case of mercury sulphite (used to make the red colour), even cause skin cancer!
The markets are flooded with the synthetic, chemical-infused colours that are manufactured on a vast scale and sold for relatively lower prices, making them a popular purchase.
Speaking to the Times of India, SK Arora, a skin expert explained how these colours are manufactured and why.
“The preference to get darker and long lasting colours, chemicals and metal oxides are used to give thick textures to colours.
Oxidised metals or industrial dyes mixed with the solvent are very often used in such colours which pose [a] significant health risk,” the doctor said.
While these toxins ideally need to be mentioned in the colour packets, Janaki explains why that doesn’t always matter when it comes to school or college students.
“At the time, I didn’t know much about the chemicals present in the colours. But, even if the ingredients are mentioned, how many of us bother to read and understand them? Any problem related to the hair and skin takes weeks to get solved. And when we expose them to toxic chemicals, it damages our skin faster than it can recover. It’s best to avoid the toxic colours than risk your skin,” she tells TBI.
So does this mean that you need to give up celebrating Holi?
Of course not. You can go natural and organic to enjoy the festival!
Take for example the brand Eco-Exist. They make Holi colour powders using ingredients such as beetroot, rice flour, turmeric and kumkum. Not only are these lab-tested powders free of heavy metal, but some of its ingredients are also actually beneficial for your skin!
Gulmeher is another such brand that handmakes Holi colours using flower and vegetable ingredients with the help of former waste-pickers who are now empowered as artisans.
Brands like Gulmeher and Eco-Exist will protect you from the side-effects of heavy metals while also providing medicinal benefits.
Amita Nagarkatti, a 52-year-old make-up artist from Pune, also spoke to us about the importance of using organic colours.
“Chemical ingredients cause long-term pigmentation in skin and may also make it very sensitive to the sun. Oil-based powders and pastes are especially harmful and will poorly affect your skin, no matter the type. While itchiness and rashes are short-term, pigmentation and sensitivity will continue to affect you for a long time. If you wish to play Holi, organic colours are a must. Not only are they great for the environment, you will also not see any side-effects, since they are made from natural ingredients.”
You may also like: Beetroot to Amla: Make Organic Holi Colours With These Kitchen Ingredients!
Organic colours might be slightly more expensive than chemical powders and pastes, but as they say, prevention is better than cure.
This festive season, opt for powders that will protect your loved ones. The best part is that you don’t have to hunt for the products; just click on the link below to shop for them.
We wish you a safe and healthy Holi!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)