34 Migraine-Inducing, Stomach-Turning Toxic Chemicals in Perfume

Published on: Modified on:



Try as you might to prevent migraines from ruining your day, some migraine triggers such as perfumes are unavoidable.  Fragrances found in synthetic perfumes, scented shampoos, lotions, and detergents permeate your atmosphere, triggering migraine headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even slurred speech.  That’s because many leading perfumes contain actual poisons that endanger your health, chemicals proven to cause central nervous system disorders, and damage to reproductive organs.

Do perfume labels include a list of all ingredients?

No. Current federal law allows perfume companies like Calvin Klein and Christian Dior a special loophole for trade secrets- the right to list  harmful headache-inducing chemicals as  “fragrances”- an undisclosed cocktail of ingredients, thus protecting their top-secret formula.  Most popular perfumes contain chemicals that the EPA recognizes as carcinogens, allergens, and narcotics– some of which the FDA banned years ago, and many of which are identical to the toxins cigarette manufacturers put in their tobacco to hook consumers.

What are the side effects of perfume exposure?

Toxins from perfumes seep into your skin, permeate your lungs, cause damage to your nervous system and ailments like severe headaches, skin rashes, and respiratory illnesses.   Here are some of the most common reactions:

  • Headaches- Strong scents are a common migraine trigger for many patients of chronic headaches. Some other migraine triggers are bright lights, loud noises, food ingredients, sleep irregularities, hormones, and weather changes.  Read Avoiding Migraine Triggers- Here, There and Everywhere
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Confusing speech, talking “gibberish”
  • Chest tightness and wheezing
  • Diarrhea and vomiting, particularly in babies
  • Sinus inflammation
  • Reduced pulmonary function
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms
  • Rhinitis and airway irritation
  • Sense organ irritation
  • Contact dermatitis

Perfumes and Migraines: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Stinky

Study clears the air about secret toxins in perfumes

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group recently conducted a study that focused on 17 leading perfume labels.  Lab testing revealed 38 undisclosed ingredients, which they published in their article Not So Sexy: The Health Risk of Secret Chemicals in Fragrances. Some of the biggest offenders included American Eagle Seventy Seven, Chanel Coco, Britney Spears Curious, and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio.

Chemicals found in perfume

Over 1500 chemicals are used in most perfumes and fragrances.

Here are some of the most common ingredients:

  1. Acetone- EPA hazardous waste list, and central nervous system depressant
  2. Amylcinnamaldehyde- Irritating to eyes, respiratory system, and skin
  3. a-Pinene- Sensitizer, inhalation exposure to high concentrations associated with irritation of the respiratory airways.
  4. a-Terpineol- May cause ataxia, headaches, depressed central nervous system
  5. Benzaldehyde- Harmful if swallowed, exposure causes sore throat, rash, and eye pain
  6. Benzophenone- Disruptive to hormones and thyroid
  7. Benzyl Acetate- Carcinogen, possibly a cause of pancreatic cancer
  8. Benzyl Alcohol- Causes headache, nausea, and dizziness
  9. Benzyl benzoate- Disruptive to hormones
  10. Benzyl cinnamate- Irritant, dangerous for the environment
  11. Benzyl salicylate- Disruptive to hormones
  12. Beta ionone- Possible carcinogen
  13. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)- Disruptive to hormones and thyroid, possible carcinogen
  14. Cinnamyl alcohol- Irritating to skin and eyes,
  15. Coumarin- Carcinogen, toxic to liver and kidneys, used to kill rodents, common ingredient in cigarette tobacco products
  16. Diethyl phthalate (DEP)- causes abnormal development of reproductive organs in male babies and sperm damage in adult men
  17. Ethanol- EPA hazardous waste list, causes central nervous system disorder
  18. Ethyl Acetate- Narcotic, on EPA hazardous waste list
  19. Eugenol- Sensitizer, allergen
  20. Farnesol- Skin irritant, allergen
  21. Formaldehyde- Air pollutant, carcinogen, exposure causes wheezing, allergic reactions, skin rash
  22. Galaxoide- toxic to the endocrine system
  23. g-Terpinene- Causes central nervous system disorder
  24. Lilial (Butylphenyl methylpropional)- Disruptive to hormones, allergen
  25. Limonene- Carcinogen, causes central nervous system disorder
  26. Linalool- Narcotic, causes central nervous system disorder
  27. Lyral- Allergen, causes eczema
  28. Methylene chloride- Banned by the FDA, carcinogen, EPA hazardous waste list, causes central nervous system disorder
  29. Musk ketone- Disruptive to hormones
  30. Myrcene- possible carcinogen
  31. Octinoxate (Octyl methoxycinnamate) – Disruptive to hormones and thyroid
  32. Oxybenzone- Disruptive to hormones
  33. Toluene- Carcinogen
  34. Tonalide- toxic to the endocrine system

Which perfumes should I avoid?

Here is a list of perfumes that contain dangerously high levels of toxins that may cause migraine headaches, dermatitis, respiratory illness, hormonal disorders, and organ failure:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce
  • American Eagle Seventy Seven
  • AXE Bodyspray For Men – Shock
  • Bath & Body Works Japanese Cherry Blossom
  • Britney Spears Curious
  • Calvin Klein Eternity (for men)
  • Calvin Klein Eternity (for women)
  • Clinique Happy
  • Coco Mademoiselle Chanel
  • Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
  • Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio
  • Halle by Halle Berry
  • Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity
  • Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow
  • Old Spice After Hours Body Spray
  • Quiksilver (for men)
  • Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Heavenly

Read more about migraine headache triggers:

What’s that Smell? Migraine Sensitivity and Olfactory Auras

Migraine Weather Triggers- Seasonal Migraines in the Fall


Perfumes filled with unknown chemicals, group alleges

The Good Scents Company

Not So Sexy: The Health Risk of Secret Chemicals in Fragrances