This Holi, get back to nature

Last Updated 26 March 2013, 16:25 IST

Holi and colour are synonymous. There’s a bright side and a flip side. It is a fact that Holi colours can be very harmful for the skin and eyes.

According to dermatologists, artificial colours contain chemicals such as copper sulphate, chromium iodide, aluminium bromide and sulphite which may trigger allergies.

There’s good news. This Holi, you can keep away from the colours that contain harsh chemicals and dyes. Smear and get smeared with natural colour made from flowers and spices like turmeric, cardamom and other edible products. In fact, there’s more good news – you can make these colours right in your home, and with very
little effort.

Himanshu Verma of Red Earth, has launched a small project called Swarang on self-made colours. He says, “Holi celebrations in the City have seen a revival in the past few years...paradoxically, while there’s been a move towards organic or herbal colours, a lot of what is being sold under the label of ‘herbal’ seems very suspect. This is why we are promoting the idea of ‘make your own colour.”

Red hibiscus flowers are used to make red gulal; coriander, mint or gulmohar leaves can be dried and ground to get rich, green gulal and turmeric powder (haldi) mixed with gram flour (besan) or marigold flowers turns into yellow gulal.

Some of these magnificent colours can be made in minutes! Take yellow for instance. Turmeric powder mixed with gram flour is a  ready-to-use yellow gulal. Try this too. Dry marigold petals or yellow chrysanthemums and grind them together. Suddenly, as
if by magic, there are different shades of yellow colour powder!

Red gulal is not difficult to make too. Dry red rose petals or hibiscus, grind them and, hey presto, you have red gulal. In fact, you can use red sandalwood powder directly as red gulal. For wet red water colour, boil red sandalwood powder in water and then
dilute it, again, with water. Similarly, for magenta, grate a beetroot and soak it in water. Henna powder mixed with a little flour turns green.

Even though a lot of flower petals are needed to make these colours, one can be sure that there are no side-effects with home-made gulal and water colours.

Dr Neetu Saini, a skin expert and aesthetic physician, says any amount of natural colours is fine, but revellers should keep off the artificial colours that contain harmful ingredients.

“Green is obtained from copper sulphate which may cause eye allergies. Purple contains chromium iodide which may lead to bronchial asthma or other forms of allergy. Red, the most commonly used gulal, has mercury sulphite. Smearing such gulal on the face may cause skin cancer or minamata disease (mental retardation, paralysis, impaired vision).

Traditionally, Holi was celebrated with natural colours made from flowers and herbs. But with the passage of time, dyes replaced these natural ingredients. Probably this is the time to go back to one’s roots,” she adds.

(Published 26 March 2013, 16:25 IST)

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