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The joyous, riotious, festival of colours, Holi, is around the corner and you walk the streets in constant apprehension about giggly youngsters pelting you with water balloons from rooftops.

However, you needn't feel terrorised by colours. Knowledge about the damage they can do, how to prevent it and how to tackle minor skin problems that may arise as a consequence, can put your fears to rest.

The damages

Colours, in dry or liquid state, can cause a condition called 'acute irritant contact dermatitis' ie rashes and redness, with intense burning and itching in the exposed areas . They can also flare up existing allergies.

Dandruff and acne can worsen, and chronic itching for days afterwards can thicken and darken the skin, a condition called 'lichenification'.

Hair exposed to colours can become dull, dry and brittle. Accidental ingestion of colours can cause toxicity, as they're usually prepared from metal oxides like lead.

Prevention is better than a curse

Say no to facials, waxing or threading, in the week preceeding Holi.

Liberal application of olive oil all over your body and hair on the morning of Holi will prevent colours from directly coming in contact with your skin, and will lessen the damage.

Use vaseline under and over your nails or scrape your nails over a candle to accumulate wax underneath. This will prevent colour clogging and undesirable permanent staining.

Wear protective clothing before playing with colours. A swimsuit or waterproof tights under your clothes would protect your body from the harmful effects of chemicals in colours. Wear full-sleeved clothes and use a scarf or bandana around your head to protect your hair.

Be careful while eating the tempting bujiyas, chaats and jalebis -- you might swallow colour accidentally spilled on the food or from your hands.

Don't overdo fried foods and sweets if you don't want to break into acne. A non-alcoholic thandai with its almonds, khus and rose extracts is quite healthy. Use organic colours or vegetable and flower extracts as a substitute for Holi colours.

Handling the aftermath

Remove colours as soon as you've finished playing Holi. Use acetone or kerosene to remove permanent paints. If colours don't come off in the first wash, rub warm olive oil and lemon juice generously over skin, leave for an hour and bathe again.

Other good colour removers are vinegar, mustard oil, curd, soapnut (reetha) extract.

Use plenty of conditioner after shampooing. Load on the moisturiser generously, after bathing.

For irritated skin or minor rashes, apply a mixture of calamine lotion with a few drops of mometasone lotion (examaple: Elocon lotion). Apply an ice pack on the irritated skin. If the condition persists, go to a dermatologist.

If you have acne, wash your face clean with Cetaphil cleanser and apply an antibiotic gel like Clindamycin gel.

If you suffer from dandruff, prevent on acute attack by shampooing with your usual anti-dandruff shampoo, then rubbing in a few drops of lemon juice and oil or a few drops of Candid-B lotion.

Now, that you know how to protect your skin, there's no need to hide your face this Holi. In fact, smile and offer the other cheek!