Holi is a spring festival, also known as the festival of colours celebrated on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival signifies the arrival of spring, end of winter. In 17th century literature, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture, commemorated good spring harvests and the fertile land.

Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter.

  • On the day of Holi, people gather together and celebrate by applying colors in different forms on family and friends. Originally, the bright flowers plants which had medicinal properties were used to make the holi colors but Over the years,natural colours have been replaced by synthetic colours to the extent that most Holi colours sold in the market are oxidized metals or industrial dyes. All these are toxic and can result in anything from skin allergies to cancer, eye irritation to blindness… and much more.When washed, they enter our water and soil, and cause even more pollution. Some of the common colors used during holi celebrations come in different forms such as pastes,powders,and watercolors. Some of the common colors and their ingredients are black(lead oxide), green(coppersulfate and malachite green),silver(aluminium bromide),blue(Prussian blue)and red(mercury sulfate).(1)

These chemicals result to various symptoms of which Some of the commom ones found in a study done by ghosh et al include:

  • Itching,Stinging, irritation and a sensation of burning of the skinas the most common syptom followed by Inflammation (pain, redness),Crusting and oozing of fluid Exfoliation,Eczematous lesions including Xerosis and scaling,erosions,erythema,urticarial,Abrasions due to excessive rubbing to remove the colours
  • Acute nail fold infections
  • Pre-existing dermatoses are exacerbated like patients of acne,eczema,chronic paronychia,Lesions may get complicated with secondary pyoderma,
  • Ocular complaints may be seen like redness, watering and grittiness.(1)various other ocular problems are associated including conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, and periorbital necrotizing fasciitis have been described to occur due to contact with Holi colors,[24]

COMMON SITES INVOLVED ARE: face, dorsum of hands, palms, scalp, arms, forearms and trunk.

MECHANISM BEHIND THE SYMPTOMS: tissue injury caused by chemical agents leads to :

1.capillary widening leading to increased blood flow

2.increase capillary permeability leading to release of fluid

3.attraction of white blood cells leading to migration of white blood cells to injury

thus leading to inflammation, rdness, tenderness, swelling and pain

Common Signs of holi dermatoses are either due to the application of various colors during celebrating holi or methods used to remove colors once the celebrations are over. They include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Erosions and erythematous lesions
  • Acquired ichthyosis
  • Acute contact urticaria
  • Acneiform eruptions
  • Acute paronychia
  • Exacerbation of atopic dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • Secondary impetiginisation
  • Lacrimation
  • Dryness, and gritty feeling in the eyes

Prevention methods to avoid dermatoses are many including:

  • Avoid facials, waxing, threading etc 10 days prior to Holi
  • Application of olive oil all over the body and hair 2-3 hours prior to Holi celebrations
  • Apply Vaseline over the nail folds
  • Wear protective clothing (full-sleeved clothes, water proof garments and scarfs)
  • Remove colours immediately after Holi
  • Shampoo the hair, followed by plenty of conditioning
  • Use of natural colours
  • Increase public awareness regarding the health hazards of harmful colours
  • Consult a dermatologist immediately, in case of development of any skin problems

Celebration of Holi, is thus associated with many cutaneous problems.The colors are openly sold which contain harmful chemicals and even packed colors don’t give the consumers the right amount of information regarding the ingredients of the colors resulting into various hazards, many organizations have taken up this issue to prevent people from being harmed by such hazards.There is a clear need for strict vigilance of these colors being made in factories along with production of natural colors which provide benefits to the skin rather than harming it.



Sudip Kumar Ghosh, Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, Gobinda Chatterjee, and Debabrata Saha

  1. Chauhan D, Arora R, Das S, Shroff D, Narula R. Bilateral periorbital necrotizing fascitis following exposure to Holi colors: A case report. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2007;55:PMC free article[PubMed]
  1. Dada T, Sharma N, Kumar A. Chemical injury due to colors used at the festival of Holi. Natl Med J India. 1997;10:256. [PubMed]
  1. Velpandian T, Saha K, Ravi AK, Kumari SS, Biswas NR, Ghose S. Ocular hazards of the colors used during the festival-of-colors (Holi) in India: Malachite green toxicity. J Hazard Mater. 2007;139:204–8. [PubMed]


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