When I realized my favorite fragrance was giving me headaches, I gave up perfume entirely, but a rise in brands focused on clean and natural ingredients gave me hope.
For about the first 10 years of my adult life, I wore the same perfume every day. I won’t name it here, but it’s a popular, premium, powdery, floral, woody musk that’s been around for almost 20 years. The first time I smelled it, I was obsessed. I have been praised constantly. Eventually, I got used to the scent I couldn’t even smell it anymore, but the compliments kept coming, and I can remember how I loved it at first, so I don’t want to change everything. rank. It’s my signature scent.
In my late 20s, I started having sporadic migraines for the first time in my life. I don’t know why (although they happen in my family), and they don’t happen often enough for me to worry or see a doctor. Soon after, I moved across the country to Los Angeles. Before moving house, I set myself a strict budget, and when I ran out of that perfume, I didn’t replace it. After moving, I thought I could play with different scents – new city, new me, I guess! I comb the fragrant aisles of Nordstrom and Sephora. I have purchased travel sizes and discovery sets here and there. I sometimes get press samples. I even asked legendary perfumer Frédéric Malle to personally choose a scent for me. But after a while, I noticed that an hour or so after I drank one of these perfumes, I felt nauseous – lightheaded, headache, and sometimes nauseous. Migraine attacks continue and become a little more frequent. Probably confused with my signature scent, I thought; but after resetting that old standby, which I used to not be able to detect on my own, I noticed the same symptoms. Suspicious that there was a connection between the days I wore perfume and the days I had migraines, I came to the sad conclusion that I couldn’t wear perfume anymore, so I stopped altogether. The headaches also stopped.
HOW DOES Perfume Cause Exfoliation?
Along with cigarette smoke and gasoline, perfume is one of the most common odors known to trigger migraines. There is also evidence that this sensitivity is more common in women. However, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish whether an aversion to odors – scientifically known as odontophobia – is a cause or a symptom.
Andrew Charles, professor of neurology and director of UCLA’s Goldberg Migraine Program explains, “I see patients who they perceive as the trigger of their migraines are actually the initial presentation. of migraine headaches. “For example, when people interpret light as bright, the [migraine] attack has already started, but they interpret it as a trigger rather than understanding that there are many symptoms of sensory sensitivities. This really comes before the pain.” This can happen if you notice your reaction to a scent is inconsistent. But that doesn’t mean scent can’t be a trigger either.
Dr Charles said: “There is a plant called the ‘headache plant’ where there is a fragrance or vapor from it, if you inhale them it causes a severe headache. “So we know that things that you breathe in can be triggers, and the mechanism for that is thought to be activating these are called TRP channels, which are channels that respond to other substances.” .” It is believed that these channels can turn the migraine mechanism on or off.
While all of this certainly sounds great, there’s sadly no guarantee that any of these brands won’t give you a migraine, and whether they sense of sensitivity, neither of them can claim to be different. Simply put, migraines are complex.
Dr. Charles of UCLA told me when I asked about patients’ tolerance for some scents more than others. “The whole point with migraines is that everyone is a little bit different and so there isn’t anything consistent that we can recommend to everyone other than exploring our own experience. them and really try and systematically get to grips with what, because they’re problematic versus potentially useful.”
To me, with the thought, care and transparency they put into their formulas, and anecdotal evidence, “clean” and transparent brands like the ones mentioned above feel like right place to start. I’ve cautiously (one spritz, on one wrist only) tested several of these brands and the results have been mixed. One person gave me an instant but very mild headache. One gave me a headache a few hours later. And after testing another, I got my first migraine in over a year. This could be directly related to that particular perfume, or simply my reintroduction to perfume after years of abstaining from it.