The obsession with rosy lips along with many other beauty standards has interesting ways of trickling down into our homes. In some parts of the country, more commonly in Uttar Pradesh, kattha masala, the peachy-red paste slathered on betel leaves, is applied to a baby’s lips to make them rosy. Is this practice beneficial?
Kattha is extracted from the heartwood of the Acacia catechu tree (khair/khadir) that is highly prized for its medicinal qualities. The extracts of this deciduous tree have been used in tanning animal hide/skin (and later in dyeing textiles) since the 17th century. So, there is some logic behind using kattha as a colouring agent.
The safety of continuing this practice over a period of time hasn’t been tested by modern methods. At present, most ayurvedic practitioners assure that no harm can come from applying kattha masala. This is because the paste is derived from khadir whose heartwood extracts have been used for treating many oral disorders such as gingivitis, mouth ulcers and cuts for several centuries. Much of the extracts’ healing properties occur because of the presence of
Tannins: responsible for imparting a tart taste to fruits such as grapes. Tannins are good for healing oral cuts, bleeding gums, bruises and works as an anti-inflammatory agent
Catechins: have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties
Flavonoids: have anti-inflammatory properties
Taxifolin: have antibacterial properties
It is important to understand that the colour of the lip, like the complexion of a person, is genetically predetermined. It can be altered by a dye/compound only as long as you use it. Consulting a doctor who might have had the opportunity to study the long-term effects of such a practice on newborns might help you and your family arrive at an informed decision.