Tips avoid skin irritation after celebrating festival of colours

Contributed by Dr. Sravya Chowdary Tipirneni, Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield

Holi, one of the most awaited festivals in our country! Usually, during the Holi season, the percentage of patients for skin infection increases by 10% cases than the normal days. The majority of the cases would be because of ‘Atopic Dermatitis and Eczemas’ which is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. This is caused due to the chemicals used in the colors. Urbanization has led to natural organic colours being replaced by industrial dyes which are relatively inexpensive, hence harsh on the skin and hair.

What causes Holi colours to irritate the skin?

Often, powders, pastes, water colour and very adherent colours called “gulal” contain ingredients which causes micro-traumas to the skin such as mica dust (a sparkling agent). Wheat flour can also cause damage to the skin.

Ingredients used for manufacturing colours are: 

  1. BLACK: Lead Oxide
  2. GREEN: Copper sulphate and malachite green
  3. SILVER: Aluminium Bromide
  4. BLUE: Prussian Blue
  5. RED: Mercury sulphate

Main reasons for the skin Irritation/ Damage: 

  • FACE: Usual site where the colours are applied.
  • HANDS: Preparation of the solutions.
  • Scrubbing vigorously to clean the colour off
  • Allergic reactions
  • Flares of Eczemas, Acne, Nail infections occur as well.

So what can we do to enjoy this festival of colours? 

One-week prior: 

  • No salon procedures (Threading, Waxing, Facials) / Dermato-cosmetological procedures. (Chemical Peels, Lasers etc.)
  • Good nourishing creams / Good moisturizing will help keep the skin hydrated and the barrier intact.


  • Apply Petroleum Jelly all over the body, this is very important to prevent seeping of colours into our skin and acts as a waterproof barrier. Protect your cuticles, thereby preventing nail infections as well.
  • Try wearing clothing that covers you as much as possible including a fancy and creative bandana or scarf for your hair to reduce damage directly
  • You can layer all this on with a Spray of sunscreen
  • Lip balms with an SPF factor are available as well
  • Please try to stick to natural vegetable organic colours only


  1. DO NOT RUB in the colours vigorously in the hope to remove them, this can only cause more irritation and micro-abrasions all over
  2. Slather on oil on the whole body and hair, wait a minute or two and stand under a shower of streaming water for a few minutes and let the colours wash away.
  3. Use a gentle liquid soap of pH value 5.5.
  4. Pat dry your skin, do not wipe.
  5. Moisturize well all over.

DON’TS in the week after Holi:

  1. No salicylic / Glycolic acid face washes
  2. No- Scrubbing, use of Toner, lightening / De-pigmenting creams
  3. No sunscreen on already irritated skin.

Have a safe “allergy and damage free” Holi with these simple Do’s and Don’ts!

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