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Organic Holi Colors vs Synthetic Dyes

Celebrating good over evil, celebrating the divine love of Radha and Krishna, and marking the arrival of spring. There are several reasons why we celebrate Holi. 

But an air of mystery surrounds this question: why is Holi celebrated with colours?

Well, back in the day, when Krishna was a kid, he was conscious of his blue skin colour, and he wondered why even the fair-skinned Radha would ever like him. Seeing him in despair, his mother, Yashoda, asked him to go to her and ask her to put whichever colour she liked on his face. This is how their immortal love story started.     

Colours represent the force that united them, so playing with colours holds more importance in Holi celebration than you must have initially thought. For this, HelpUsGreen has taken an initiative and curated gift hampers for Holi, filled with colours and exciting festive goodies for a refreshing celebration.

Rise in Awareness: Organic Holi Colors vs. Synthetic Dyes

The age-old tradition of playing Holi hasn’t changed. Even today, we celebrate Holi by smearing each other’s faces with colours. However, what has changed is the rise of the use of synthetic colours for this. 

In the past, people used to play with colours made from flowers, herbs, and other organic materials. These were not only safe for the skin but also had a therapeutic effect. However, the commercialisation of the festivals has had a big negative impact on the people and the environment. These synthetic colours are made from chemicals that can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. The environmental impact of these synthetic colors is also a concern as they are non-biodegradable and can pollute water bodies.

The good news is that there is a growing awareness of these issues, and many people are now choosing to celebrate Holi with eco-friendly colours. This shift towards organic colours is a positive trend that promotes health and environmental sustainability. Are you still on the fence about which one should you go for? Continue reading to make an informed decision.

Organic Holi Colours

Natural Holi colours or herbal Holi colours traditionally reign supreme in celebrating Holi. Most commonly known as “gulal”, these organic colours for Holi are originally made from nature itself. Plant-based components form the base, often consisting of gram flour, rice flour, or arrowroot powder. These act as the base for the vibrant organic colours for Holi, ensuring a gentle texture and easy cleanup.

Further, the magic in organic Holi colours comes from extracts from flowers, fruits and herbs:

  • Red: Beetroot, pomegranate peels, red sandalwood, or red roses bring a crimson hue to the base.
  • Yellow: Marigold petals, turmeric powder, and even saffron infuse sunshine-like brightness to the base.  
  • Green: Spinach leaves, henna powder, or coriander leaves paint the landscape with a lush green tone.
  • Blue: Blue pea flowers, jacaranda blossoms, or even indigo leaves give the base a blue tone.
  • Orange: Bastard teak leaves, carrot juice, or paprika bring a touch of citrusy warmth to the base.

These natural colourants are not just beautiful, but they often hold cultural significance and medicinal properties and help celebrate in harmony with the environment. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, natural colours decompose easily, leaving no harmful traces on the land or water bodies. This protects vulnerable ecosystems and ensures cleaner and eco-friendly Holi celebrations. 

Beyond these environmental benefits, organic Holi colours prioritise your well-being. Here’s how:

  • Non-toxic and Hypoallergenic: Free from harsh chemicals, natural colours are gentle on the skin. It reduces the risk of irritation and allergic reactions. So, they are especially suitable for children and individuals with sensitive skin.
  • Pleasant Aromas and Soothing Effects: Most natural ingredients have their own natural fragrances and properties that help to improve the Holi experience. Imagine the calming scent of sandalwood, the uplifting aroma of citrus peels, or the cooling touch of henna. These elements add a layer of sensory delight and potential soothing effects to the celebration.
  • Now, let’s move on to synthetic colours.

    Synthetic Holi Colours

    The commercialisation of the festive season gave rise to the use of synthetic colours, which come at a hidden cost to your health and environment. These cheap and easy-to-manufacture colours are laden with synthetic dyes derived from coal tar or petroleum. These include chemicals like lead oxide (red), copper sulphate (green), and chromium (yellow). Additionally, harmful additives like mica powder and glass particles are mixed in for a shimmery effect.  

    These chemicals can pose significant health risks. Skin irritation, rashes, and allergies are common with its use. Eye contact can lead to irritation, redness, and even temporary blindness. Inhaling the dust can cause respiratory problems. Additionally, heavy metals present in some colours can lead to long-term health issues like developmental problems and organ damage.

    Apart from this, synthetic Holi colours pose a significant threat to the environment as well. Since they are non-biodegradable, they take years to decompose, leaving a lasting impact on the environment. The water bodies are not immune to its negative effects. Contaminated runoff from Holi celebrations can pollute rivers, lakes, and groundwater. These chemicals can harm aquatic life and disrupt the delicate balance of water ecosystems. Similarly, soil contamination can affect plant growth and soil fertility. 

    The following are some of the most harmful effects of artificial colours on skin:

  • Allergies and Irritations: As mentioned earlier, synthetic colours can trigger allergic reactions and skin irritations. These can range from mild itching and redness to severe rashes and allergic dermatitis. Children and individuals with sensitive skin are particularly vulnerable.
  • Long-term Health Effects: Some studies suggest that there are potential links between exposure to heavy metals in synthetic colours and long-term health problems like respiratory issues, neurological disorders, and even certain cancers.
  • Cultural and Social Significance

    Traditionally, Holi colours were derived from nature. Turmeric (haldi) symbolised purity and auspiciousness, red ochre (kumkum) represented good luck and fertility, and neem leaves offered medicinal properties. These colours reflect a deep connection with the natural world and its symbolic essence.

    This isn’t where Holi’s traditional significance ends. Across diverse cultures, Holi’s colours carry unique meanings. For instance, in Rajasthan, blue depicts Lord Krishna, while green signifies new beginnings. In Bengal, red symbolises the triumph of good over evil, while yellow celebrates fertility and prosperity. These regional interpretations enrich the festival’s cultural fabric.

    However, the traditional and cultural significance of Holi colours has not been immune to modern shifts. Modernity has led to the widespread use of synthetic colours, raising concerns about potential health risks and environmental impact. The thing is that modern life demands convenience, leading to the emergence of pre-packaged colour packets and water guns. While these innovations add ease, they risk diluting the cultural essence of Holi’s preparation and community bonding. Striking a balance between tradition and convenience becomes crucial to ensure the festival’s cultural relevance amidst changing lifestyles. 

    Consumer Awareness

    With evolving societal concerns about health and the environment, consumer awareness around Holi colours plays a crucial role in shaping the future of this festival. Government bodies, NGOs, and many community organisations have started educational campaigns to raise awareness about the potential health risks and environmental impact of synthetic colours. Additionally, informing consumers about the benefits of natural alternatives, such as their biodegradability and skin-friendliness, can help make informed choices. Furthermore, exploring "The Importance of Celebrating Harmless Holi" can provide deeper insights into sustainable and eco-friendly practices, fostering a holistic understanding of how our choices during festive seasons impact both personal well-being and the environment.

    The growing awareness has led many consumers to go for herbal colours. This shift signifies growing awareness and demand for sustainable and responsible celebration practices. This growth in demand for herbal colours has influenced several manufacturers to offer eco-friendly options, using vegetable dyes and organic ingredients.   


    Holi’s vibrancy extends beyond the explosion of colours; it reflects our connection to nature, community, and tradition. The choice between organic and synthetic colours is not just about aesthetics but about making a conscious decision that impacts our health, the environment, and the spirit of the festival itself.

    While organic colours offer undeniable benefits, they are gentler on the skin, readily biodegradable, and free from harmful chemicals. However, they may offer less variety in vibrancy and require slightly more preparation. In comparison, synthetic colours are readily available, offer intense colours, and require minimal effort. Yet, their potential health risks, environmental impact, and lack of connection to tradition demand mindful consideration.

    Remember, Holi’s true essence lies in celebrating joy, togetherness, and the triumph of good over evil. So, choose wisely. Pick organic options, source locally, minimise waste and opt for organic treats.

    Happy Holi! Choose wisely and celebrate responsibly.