Headache from Perfumes – Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Perfumes hold importance in generating emotions, stimulating thoughts, and regulating moods. Apart from this, some people may experience problems such as migraines, headaches, and allergies. Often people attribute certain perfumes to memories. But on the other hand, they are also one of the main allergens and triggers for people with headache conditions or low tolerance towards specific smells.

How does it feel?

An allergic reaction initiated by a scent in your favorite perfume may trigger a headache with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing sounds in breaths
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Asthma attacks
  • Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
  • Congestion feeling in the chest
  • Heavy chest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness.

Causes of perfume headache

  1. Allergy: Fragrance allergies are not uncommon as a triggering agent for headaches. Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), characterized by increased sensitivity to an agent in the perfume composition that is not a trigger for masses, may trigger a headache in particular individuals.
  2. Osmophobia is a disorder of the sense of smell in which the fragrance intensity multiplies to a point at which it becomes unbearable and may cause a headache.
  3. Olfactory receptors: The number of olfactory receptors varies among individuals. Not all individuals experience the smell to the same extent as others. Increased olfactory receptors may be an easy trigger for headaches in such individuals.
  4. Vasodilation/vasoconstriction: Certain chemicals in the scents can diffuse into the bloodstream. These chemicals can either cause vasodilation or vasoconstriction and may result in a headache.

What may trigger a perfume headache?

Asthma: People with asthma may experience headaches with scents with associated asthmatic symptoms like wheezing, tachypnea (rapid breathing), tachycardia (increased heart rate), mental confusion, and dizziness.

Perfumes and migraine: Stimulation and inflammation of the trigeminal nerve caused by perfumes may trigger a migraine attack. It is associated with symptoms including one-sided head pain, increased sound and light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting.

Management of perfume headache


Headache from perfumes are common and diagnosed by unilateral or bilateral head pain, watery eyes, runny nose, and breathing difficulties on exposure to perfumes or other scents.


  • Over-the-counter analgesics, like Tylenol, are recommended
  • Anti-histamines may help overcome the signs of allergy.


  • Identification and avoidance of the chemicals in the perfume or scent that are troublesome
  • Avoid going to large perfume shops or shops with strong scents
  • Use products and cosmetics without perfume or scents in them
  • Non-comedogenic products should be preferred.

Home remedies

  • Hydrate yourself
  • Drink tea or coffee
  • Taking a light massage
  • Relax
  • Take deep breaths in the fresh air.

When to consult a doctor?

Headache from perfumes do not last long and fade away with time. However, if the condition persists longer than a few hours and is associated with other symptoms, see your doctor.


Can the smell of perfume give you a headache?

The smell from your favorite perfume may also trigger a headache if the scent is maximized to an unbearable level. This also depends upon the chemical composition of the perfume.

Can strong perfumes trigger migraines?

Scents from perfumes may interfere with the trigeminal nerve (CN V) and may trigger a migraine attack.

How does perfume affect the brain along with headaches?

Perfume affects and increases brain activity, stimulating emotions and moods. It also affects memory, cognition, and other psychological functions.

Last medically reviewed on 2022-11-10.