One thing is for sure, I’m not the only one. Increasingly I hear and read about people getting headaches from perfume. It’s a very unfortunate side effect of being a perfume enthusiast.
Now you might think being someone who blogs about perfume and smells generally, that I therefore spend my days drenched. Not so. In fact I generally only wear perfume after three p.m. if I have nowhere to go in the evening. No restaurant, concert or theater trips get accompanying perfumes . I’ve been to those places and had my evening scented with someone else’s selection once too often. I have also gotten what you might call contact headaches from perfume saturated venues, and so steer clear of any powerful perfumes in public.
I find though that the perfume headache is frustratingly hard to predict. I have discovered that modern oud synthetics often trigger them for me, so have learned to avoid men’s perfume counters these days because those notes are so common in masculines. Bond Number 9 ‘s New York Oud really got to me, and ended in a double date with the Motrin bottle. However those ouds are not the only sinus busters on the market.
Synthetic ambers can also be disasters. Although I like Nest’s Midnight Fleur it gives me awful headaches, as does Bath and Body Work’s Pink Chiffon. However my troubles do not end with inexpensive perfumes. They extend to expensive bottles as well. Lolita Lempicka is very pretty but I cannot be around the first fifteen minutes without trouble, and some Pradas can be hazardous for me too, particularly the amber. Guerlains are hit or miss. Guerlain’s last formulation of
Vetiver, the one in this bottle, was good but a sure headache inducer for me. (I ended up using it to deter moths in the winter clothes closet. That worked)
Indie perfume houses can give me headaches, I’ve gotten them from many of them, with the notable exception of Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier, which is one of four totally headache free houses for me- the others are Parfums de Nicolai, Chanel, and so far, Parfums d’Empire.
I’ve even gotten headaches from natural perfumes, most memorably Strange Invisible Perfume’s L’Invisible which was a total headsplitter as far as I was concerned. This was a bit of a shock since I had assumed that most of my problems were with synthetic ingredients, but that’s obviously not the case.
How to avoid headaches? One solution I’ve found is not to wear perfume on your wrists. I often wear it behind my knees or even on the soles of my feet, or on the back of my neck. This works pretty well, the other is to avoid perfume on overcast or low ceiling days, when the atmospheric heaviness is likely to cause headaches anyway. Dosage changes things, one single spray is enough if something is strong.
Another good bet is to avoid sprays altogether. I once ran into a depressed SA at a Douglas Perfumery who told me she had to switch occupation because her sinuses were permanently inflamed by all the micro sprayed perfume she encountered at her job. She had been ordered to move on by her ear nose and throat doctor and was sorry to go. I’ve learned from her story to opt for dab bottles, and sometimes even for oils instead of sprays. The headache factor does not disappear but does diminish.
Sensitization is a causal factor here. I circulate among a small number of perfumes so that I don’t develop a problem with a favorite scent. You can also spritz on kleenex or cotton balls for that waft but toss if it gets to be too much for you and I use this technique with new perfumes. ( The scent equivalent of It’s Only Lunch.)
I think it’s worthwhile trying to find the perfume house that makes things you can live with comfortably. I’ve done this simply because of the length of my experiments with fragrance, but every consumer’s tolerance level probably varies. Finally, try to identify the notes that do it for you whether synthetic or natural and avoid them.
Have you encountered the perfume headache and what set yours off?