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Your makeup may be giving you a headache

August 9, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 11 Comments
A couple of days ago, I received an email from someone in Australia who had tried Folligen for hair loss and awoke the next day to a raging headache. Other readers have mentioned this, so I felt obliged to take a look at the ingredients in Folligen. My research suggests that the copper itself - the main active responsible for helping hair regrowth and eyelash growth - could be the culprit. However, as I dug around further, I found that there is a strong (circumstantial) link to parabens and migraines and many examples of people ditching their paraben-packed eye shadow and becoming headache free.

As for my Aussie correspondent, it is conceivably the copper that is causing the headaches. There are folks who suffer from copper allergies and the symptoms can be severe (although note that this description of copper side effects is at 100% concentrations). Why do I think it is that rather than the parabens in Folligen (see below for the list of ingredients in Folligen)? Because he is a man. Read on and all will be revealed.

Web sites devoted to migraine cite plenty of anecodatal evidence of links between parabens and headaches. However, I couldn't find any specific studies that showed a positive cause and effect (or otherwise - it doesn't seem to have been researched). But we do know that parabens are xenoestrogens. This means that they mimic the estrogen hormone and it is this that leads some experts to speculate that there is a link between parabens and cancer. Now estrogen is also responsible for the monthly migraine that accompanies my cycle.

So, logically, absorption of xenoestrogens via makeup and skincare products could lead to more frequent hormone-related headaches. If you do an internet search on parabens and headaches, you will find plenty of women saying how they started getting headaches with the use of a product that contains parabens and that symptoms stopped when they eliminated the product from their routine.

Now all of this could be putting two and two together and making seven. However, recent studies have started to investigate the levels of estrogen in our face creams, suggesting that women are exposing themselves unknowingly on a daily basis.. I will keep researching the subject and post again if I connect anymore dots.

Ingredients in Folligen Cream

Purified water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice (aloe vera) gel, copper peptides (hydrolyzed soy protein and cupric chloride), squalane, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, ethylhexyl palmitate, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, polysorbate 80, cupric chloride, saw palmetto oil, beta-sitosterol, allantoin, propylene glycol, methylparaben, propylparaben, diazolidinyl urea, tocophersolan (Vitamin E), menthol, lavandula augustifolia (lavender) oil, fragrance, mixed (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) tocopherols.
  • March 15, 2018

    by kathleen

    My lipstick and face cream had parabans..I had migraines for years until I stopped using them. The migraines were everyday..they are completely gone now

  • November 1, 2015

    by Ivian

    To Angie June 5, 2015
    I also recently started experiencing headaches when a wear eye makeup. Something that I do about 5 times a year. Due that I have a very, extremely sensitive skin around my eyes. I can't even put face cream around them. I can't wear make up at all on my daily life. I've been like this for about 5 year now. Got kind of used to go around without make up on my eyes. I've tried everything. Recently bought 100 percent pure from USA. got it on line. Very disappointed to find out. I can't wear it on a daily vases. I would love to find something out there that allow me to wear make up everyday...

  • October 1, 2015

    by Jen

    I discovered that liquid foundation causes severe pain in the side / back of my neck, which turns into what is usually a silent migraine (this is a migraine where half your head / face goes numb. Disconcerting to say the least). The neck pain was so severe that it was intolerable.

    As with many weird allergies, it took a while to figure out what the cause was. I switched to powder foundation and the migraines stopped, along with most of the neck pain. I can use the liquid as concealer in very small amounts, but applying the foundation face-wide is definitely a bad thing.

    I suspect that part of it is that the liquid doesn't allow the skin to breathe as well, as well as the fact that the skin absorbs the liquid stuff. The skin is the largest organ our bodies have, and absorbing all those ingredients (toxic or not) into your body is going to have an effect at some point - especially for those of us who are sensitive.

    The makeup in question, ironically, was the only brand that did not make my skin break out. It was also labeled hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin (as were the others I reacted to - hypoallergenic means nothing). No breakout was supposed to mean no reaction. Guess not.

  • June 5, 2015

    by angie

    To anna's comments on 9/11/11, I also get migraines from make up. I've tried everything there is, I think. My left eye starts hurting, like pressure, and I get the whole migraine nausea experience. Mineral make up that has any sparkle or metallic to is does make my eyes itch too. I was fine until I had a make up skin care party from MK. I had a reaction to it and have never been the same. I wish there was something we could use as a barrier on the skin so that make up would be possible. I can only wear mineral make up a couple hours with Benadryl, still suffering, but survive it. The migraine is not worth it most of the time, which makes me sad.

  • November 2, 2014

    by Johanna

    Hi Ally,yes ime the same ,I have allergys with all face creams also mascara which I wore for years now that gives me headaches and sore,watery eyes even shampoos again I have tried every shampoo and can only use head and shoulders because again the others will cause me headaches and sore eyes. Somebody told me about the aloe vera face cream from the body shop so ime off to buy some.

  • October 29, 2014

    by Ally

    I agree with the face cream headaches. Have also found that oil-based concealer (used liberally!) has brought on a migraine :( Have come to the conclusion it has somehow affected my sinuses when I have used it on my cheeks (broken veins). Seems to give me all the symptoms of maxillary sinus problems = massive long lasting migraine. Anyone else found the same?

  • May 11, 2014

    by Natasha

    I don't understand one bit how makeup can give you a headache... someone please explain....

  • January 11, 2013

    by Sieveronica

    Yeah i just figure it out myself all this years ive been having bad headache and bad mood one day i went to a derm for laser treatment and decided to use the derm prod for sensitive skin which only 2 prod day sunblock and night moist so i stop with the anti aging the foundy the powder and wallaaa my headache mood swing stopped now i only use make up for special occasions and quickly wash if off. Sighhhh sad but thats the way it is,,o btw i can use body lotion either ..hiksss.

  • September 11, 2011

    by anna

    Hi, I wore eye makeup (mascara and eyeliner) every year for about 12 years and now, if I have it on for more than 5 hours, I get a migraine. This developed over the course of about 2 months. I became allergic to one, then another, and eventually all. It makes me so unhappy as I look so much better with it. I have tried everything, mineral makeup, organic makeup, paraben free stuff, hypoallergenic, everything, but it all gives me pounding eyeballs and nausea. I don't get any skin reaction, watering or itchiness, just migraine. I have been to a specialist, and they can see no cause. Anyone have any ideas what may cause this and if there is another makeup I can try? Or something I can take to reduce this allergy migraine trigger? I would really love to be able to wear it on my wedding day. I have felt like a ghost for four years now. I can't even use the tinting products.


  • February 17, 2011

    by Kat

    In my case, it is the copper, not parabens. I just started using copper peptide products and I within hours had a huge migraine (and I don't get migraines, for the record). Second day I started getting some of the same symptoms though not as intense or severe, but still there.

    I checked all the products and they are paraben-free. It's the copper. And I am hoping these symptoms will pass as I acclimate to the copper peptides.

    For those out there who suspect copper, try easing into your copper peptide use. Half the dose/application. Try using it once every two day or once a day. You'll be glad you did.

  • February 12, 2011

    by ivelyd velez

    I been using a face product religiously for the past years. Recently I traveled for a couple of days and to minimize my lugage I decided to just take my eye cream instead of my face cream 1 oz/30ml(clinique repairwear)and just take a convenient size .5 0z/15m(clinique all about eyes rich). Well to make the story short I was migrane free in my vacation. I thought that being stress free was the reason. Until I arrived back from the trip and resumed my normal routine. Upon my arrival I showered and applied my face cream. I put away the small one that I was using while traveling. The next morning I woke up with a headache. The second day I woke up with headache. I woke up with the headache and I had been stress free for the past 5 days. So what did I do differently the day before? Sudently I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Since February 5 I have been pain free. I stop using the cream and coincidentally my headches are gone. A correlation? For now I am enyoing my unpainful days. I wonder how many people are swallowing migrane pills without knowing that the cause of the suffering could be that cosmetic cream that they loyally apply everyday.

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