Harrowing Holi- The Nasty Effects of Chemical Holi Colours
Holi is a celebration of everything beautiful and good; colours, human kinship, good over evil, spring, nature’s bliss and happiness. Considering the festival’s purpose, it is ironic how there’s nothing natural or good about the Holi colours commonly sold in markets. It is common knowledge that synthetic Holi colours laden with chemicals are bad for the skin, but most don’t understand the extent of this damage; toxic metals and other cheap constituents are potentially fatal, and even short-term exposure can have drastic effects on health. In this blog, we shall explore the substances commonly used to give Holi colours their bright tinge, and their effects on the human body.
Types of Holi Colours and Common Additives
Holi Pastes & Metallic Colours
It’s a common sight every Holi, droves of young people looking like gigantic silver and gold trophies, coated in a metallic membrane. While the image is hilarious and Instagram-worthy, these giant oscar statues are not simply playing Holi, but with their skin and overall health. The chemicals used to impart these colours their signature metallic sheen include toxic metals like lead oxide, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide and mercury sulphite, among others. The effects of these chemicals range from eye irritation to kidney failure; and in the worst-case scenario- cancer. These shiny colours should be avoided at all costs if you value your skin.
Dry Colours or Holi Gulaal
The simple gulaal, without which Holi is simply incomplete, is not as innocuous as it looks. Gone are the days when gulaal was harmless- the Holi colours inundating the markets today are full of poison, in fact, most Holi gulaal sold is a lethal mix of toxic heavy metals and asbestos or silica. These metals completely disrupt metabolic function and build up inside vital organs like kidneys and the liver. Silica and asbestos are known carcinogens, and different heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium etc also have dire effects on the body.
Water colours are very popular, mix them with water and pour it on your unsuspecting victim. Some of them are so intense that they don’t come off even after weeks. What mass producers of these colours won’t tell you is that most of these water colours contain Gentian violet, a particularly toxic and hazardous chemical which can cause skin and respiratory ailments. The longer it stays on the skin, the higher chances of developing such problems.
Health Risks Associated with Synthetic Holi Colours
The additives in synthetic gulaal can lead to many short and long-term effects. Apart from minor skin damage like rashes and hives, the heavy metals and toxins in these colours can also cause severe harm to your skin and other organs. Here’s how these synthetic Holi colours affect different parts of the body.
This one might seem quite obvious but apart from break-outs and allergies, synthetic Holi gulaal can also lead to more serious skin ailments like skin infections, abrasions and in the worst-case scenario, cancer. The metals and carcinogenic materials in gulaal also make the skin more sensitive and vulnerable to allergies. If these harmful chemicals enter the body through a cut, it can even lead to metal poisoning.
Another fairly common reason why people avoid playing Holi is that the colours make the hair dry and the scalp itchy. There have also been cases of extreme hair loss due to prolonged exposure to the chemicals present in Holi colours. From split ends to hair roughening, these synthetic Holi colours do no favours for your hair. Even anointing it profusely with oil will not help protect your hair from these chemicals.
The eyes are the most sensitive part of the body and the chemicals in artificial Holi gulaal can wreak havoc on them. Contaminants like copper sulphate and lead can lead to anything from eye infections, severe conjunctivitis, and puffy eyes to temporary blindness. The glass particles in synthetic Holi gulaal can also cause permanent cornea damage. Those with lenses must take particular care around Holi colours.
In recent years, with more awareness about the harmful effects of synthetic gulaal, people have started leaning towards herbal and organic gulaal. However, in most cases, these claims are not authentic or backed up by any credible scientific trademark. Most manufacturers who claim herbal/organic/natural actually use relatively less toxic colour dyes which are safer than their synthetic counterparts but by no means natural or 100% safe.
Nobody should be denied the pleasure of playing Holi, and you can always make Holi gulaal at home. It is a bit of work but at least you wouldn’t have to worry about toxins. Alternatively, you could get Phool Natural Gulaal for your Holi celebrations. Our colours, like most of our other offerings, are certified natural by EcoCert under the COSMOS standard, the highest certification for organic and natural cosmetic products. This means that all constituent ingredients are 100% natural, and the colours are completely safe-for-skin.
Phool Natural Gulaal comes in 6 lively shades, all handmade from natural flowers and other organic ingredients. They have also been blended with our essential oils, giving them refreshing fragrances with unique notes. These colours are good for you, good for the people who make them, and good for the planet.
Here’s wishing all of you a very happy and safe Holi!