Migraine is a common and debilitating neurological condition, affecting millions of people worldwide. Various factors can trigger migraine attacks, including stress, hormonal changes, and certain foods. Even everyday personal care products like fragrances, hair dyes, and cosmetics may also play a role in triggering migraines or contributing to their underlying causes. This article will explore the science behind these connections, shedding light on the potential dangers lurking in your bathroom cabinet.
The Science of Scent
Fragrances are ubiquitous in personal care products, including perfumes, lotions, and soaps. However, they are also among the most common migraine triggers. The main culprit is usually the synthetic chemicals used in these products, which can cause sensitivities and provoke migraines in susceptible individuals (1).
Smells can provoke migraines through a phenomenon called osmophobia. Research has shown that migraineurs may have a heightened sense of smell during an attack, making them more susceptible to fragrances and other odors (2). To reduce exposure to potential triggers, it may be beneficial to choose fragrance-free or hypoallergenic personal care products.
2. Hair Dyes
Chemical Composition and Migraine Risk
Hair dyes contain a variety of chemicals, some of which may contribute to migraines. For example, paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient in hair dye, has been reported to cause headaches and migraines in some individuals (3). Moreover, some hair dye chemicals can lead to allergic reactions, which could exacerbate migraines.
To minimize the risk of migraines associated with hair dye use, consider seeking out products with fewer chemicals, like henna-based dyes or plant-based alternatives. It’s essential to perform a patch test before using any new hair dye product to ensure no adverse reactions occur.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
Cosmetics, including makeup and skincare products, can contain a variety of chemicals that may trigger migraines. Some common culprits include:
Parabens: These preservatives have been linked to hormonal disruptions, which could, in turn, exacerbate migraines (4).
Phthalates: Found in many cosmetics, phthalates may disrupt hormonal balance, potentially contributing to migraines (5).
Formaldehyde: This known allergen, sometimes found in cosmetics and personal care products, can provoke headaches and migraines in sensitive individuals (6).
Choosing Safer Options
When selecting cosmetics, look for products labeled as hypoallergenic, paraben-free, or phthalate-free. Opting for natural or organic cosmetics could also help minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients and Migraines
Sunscreens are essential for protecting our skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, some chemical sunscreen ingredients may contribute to migraines. Oxybenzone, for example, is a common ingredient in chemical sunscreens that has been shown to cause skin allergies and may have hormone-disrupting effects (7), potentially exacerbating migraines.
Choosing Safer Sunscreens
To minimize the risk of migraines associated with sunscreen use, opt for mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These sunscreens provide broad-spectrum protection without the potential migraine-triggering effects of chemical ingredients.
5. Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants can also contain ingredients that might trigger migraines. For example, some products include synthetic fragrances, which, as mentioned earlier, can provoke migraines in sensitive individuals. Additionally, aluminum-based compounds, commonly found in antiperspirants, have been linked to neurological issues (8), though more research is needed to understand their potential connection to migraines.
Choosing Migraine-Friendly Options
To reduce the risk of migraines associated with deodorants and antiperspirants, choose fragrance-free or hypoallergenic products. Also, consider using natural or aluminum-free alternatives.
Everyday personal care products can contain a variety of ingredients that might trigger migraines or contribute to their underlying causes. By being mindful of these potential triggers and making informed choices when selecting personal care products, migraine sufferers can reduce their risk of experiencing attacks. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect your personal care products are contributing to your migraines, as they can provide personalized advice and treatment options.
(1) Kelman, L. (2004). The Triggers or Precipitants of the Acute Migraine Attack. Cephalalgia, 24(6), 417–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2982.2004.00652.x
(2) Demarquay, G., Royet, J. P., Mick,
G., & Ryvlin, P. (2006). Olfactory hypersensitivity in migraineurs: a H(2)(15)O-PET study. Cephalalgia, 26(9), 1123-1128. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2982.2006.01177.x
(3) Bolduc, C., & Shapiro, J. (2001). Hair care products: waving, straightening, conditioning, and coloring. Clinics in Dermatology, 19(4), 431-436. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0738-081X(01)00192-9
(4) Darbre, P. D. (2015). Endocrine Disruptors and Obesity. Current obesity reports, 4(1), 18-27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-014-0124-6
(5) Gore, A. C., Chappell, V. A., Fenton, S. E., Flaws, J. A., Nadal, A., Prins, G. S., Toppari, J., & Zoeller, R. T. (2015). EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Endocrine Reviews, 36(6), E1-E150. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2015-1010
(6) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018). Formaldehyde in Cosmetics: What is the Evidence for Harm? Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/formaldehyde-cosmetics-what-evidence-harm
(7) Downs, C. A.,Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R., Fauth, J., Knutson, S., Bronstein, O., Ciner, F. R., Jeger, R., & Loya, Y. (2016). Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 70(2), 265-288. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7
(8) Mold, M., Umar, D., King, A., & Exley, C. (2018). Aluminium in brain tissue in autism. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 46, 76-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2017.11.012