Is Your Makeup Giving You Migraines?

Updated 08/01/19

There's the old adage that beauty is pain. But if your makeup or skin care is giving you migraines, it’s gone too far. Seriously, even a Holy Grail eyeliner isn't worth a crushing headache.

It's true that certain ingredients in beauty products can be a dealbreaker. Emilie Davidson Hoyt, founder of the natural skincare line Lather, knows this firsthand. She revealed to us that her experience with migraines was actually the driving force behind starting her company. Intrigued, we dug a little deeper into the connection between migraines and cosmetics.

Meet the Expert

Emilie Davidson Hoyt is the founder of Lather, a natural skincare brand in Pasadena, California. Inspired by her lifelong struggle with migraines, Davidson Hoyt has grown her company to provide migraine-friendly products across the country.

Dr. Frank Lipman, integrative and functional medicine physician and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, was far less surprised by our questions than we had anticipated. “Fragrance can often be behind many adverse reactions to traditional beauty products, causing skin rashes, asthma, and even headaches,” Dr. Lipman says. “Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens, with one in every 50 people suffering possible immune system damage, according to the EU’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products.”

Meet the Expert

Frank Lipman, M.D., is a South African native who migrated to the United States and started Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in Manhattan, New York. Practicing for over 35 years, Lipman combines both eastern and western techniques to help his clients find physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Turns out headaches and migraines brought on by synthetic fragrances are actually a type of allergic reaction. “Having a sensitivity to fragrance is similar to any other type of allergic reaction,” Dr. Lipman says. “An allergic reaction will depend more on the chemicals being used to create the fragrance and less about what the product is made to smell like.”

Unfortunately, cosmetics companies are not obligated to divulge the specific ingredients that go into a fragrance since that can be considered a trade secret. Many of these hidden ingredients could be known allergens. If you think your makeup, skin care, or perfume might be the root of your migraines, choose products that keep their ingredients lists transparent.

“On the label, 'fragrance' should be followed by a list of ingredients in parentheses,” Dr. Lipman says. “Look for a product that uses essential oils instead of 'fragrance (parfum),' or choose products with no added fragrance.” Dr. Lipman also suggests using EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find fragrance-free products and check the toxicity of any ingredients on the label.

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