Do My Smells Make Me a Headache Trigger?

A man recently told me that I smelled good and asked me what scent I was wearing. I hadn’t showered, so I was stymied. Until he said I smelled like sage. He was talking about my deodorant.

I hadn’t before thought of myself as having a scent. Even though smells are big migraine triggers for me, the scents that I wear aren’t a problem for me — but they could be for other people.

I’m astonished by how many scented products I use: shampoo, soap (body and face), lotion (body and face), hair products, deodorant, laundry detergent, fabric softener. Now that I’m trying to buy products that have as few additives as possible, this is even more difficult.

  • For shampoo and hair products, I use what makes my hair look good and doesn’t make me sick. I’ve searched to no avail for unscented products that work well. I settled on one with a light peppermint smell. It’s tempting to shave my head again.
  • My lotion has to be rich and I’ve never found a thick, highly moisturizing lotion without a scent. According to my mom, my favorite lotion smells like powdered doughnuts. Probably too overpowering. Oils are too greasy, so they’re not a good solution. Even grapeseed oil, which is one of the lighter oils is greasy enough to leave spots on my clothes.
  • Body soap isn’t a problem, I use unscented Dr. Bronner’s. Although its many uses are touted right on the bottle, using it as shampoo makes my hair greasy and my face breaks out when I use it as a face soap.
  • Deodorant is non-negotiable. I found one that works and I’m not switching. At least the smell could be mistaken for food.
  • I use lightly scented laundry detergent and lavender fabric softener. Sometimes I add some lavender extra lavender essential oil to the mix. None of the unscented stuff I’ve tried does the trick.
  • And I can’t forget the cellphone, which will be perfumed and thus perfuming me for the rest of its life.

Now you know exactly how I smell, which I doubt you truly care about. It was a good exercise for me. Maybe the scents I use are headache triggers for me and I just don’t realize it.

Writing this, I began to smell a flowery cinnamon odor — not something I expect to encounter in my house. I’ve changed my clothes and the scent remains. I think I’m paranoid.

6 thoughts on “Do My Smells Make Me a Headache Trigger?”

  1. For deodorant you might try one of those Thai Crystal mineral salt rocks. You just wet your underarms and rub the salt rock under there for 15-20 seconds on each arm pit. It works amazingly well all day long. No smells, no mess. You’ll still sweat, but that’s what your body is supposed to do. I’ve even started rubbing it all over my feet, and I no longer have stinky feet. 🙂

  2. I swear by Neutrogena fragrance free lotion. The hand lotion is terrific if you wash your hands often. Great for the feet, too. Even their body lotion is strong, just isn’t concentrated like the hand lotion.

  3. no scent, no hype skin care products. The author of “Don’t go to the Cosmetics Counter without me” I think you’ll like her body butter. Free shipping in Sept. and she has sample sizes. Lots of her stuff on Ebay too.

    Thanks for the tip.


  4. Kerrie, have you tried Aveeno products (, particularly their lotions? They have a number of unscented products and even their scented products don’t have strong smells. I particularly like the “Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion – Fragrance Free.” It’s worked great for me and I’ve had some major skin issues.

    Hope it helps.

    Amber, I feel your pain. I have olfactory hallucinations too. But I never get smells as nice as butter. Mine smells are nasty, but I prefer them to the real smells of people’s colognes. People need to learn that more perfume doesn’t replace showering:) But really, if the smell stays after you leave, the perfume is too strong. We need billboards that say that!


    I haven’t tried Aveeno. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Take care,

  5. Hi Kerrie,
    It’s so interesting that you write this and that you post so often about scents. My olfactory hallucinations have been off the charts lately. Usually it’s the normal bad burning but last night I could not go to sleep because all I could smell was butter…it isn’t even that it was bad, but it was driving me crazy. And really making me want popcorn.
    Also, I love that I live in city with public transportation – my headaches/meds have made driving a distant memory anyway – BUT I do have to deal with the curse of the overly cologned commuter. Each morning on my way to work I am packed into a pod with a hundred of the most heavily perfumed men and women in the country. I know that sounds harsh. But as we approach each stop and more and more scents blend together my head screams for me to get out. Maybe scarves and winter coats will create a buffer.
    Maybe my equally cursed sinuses will do me a favor – or maybe the imaginary butter will return.
    Sending you good scent-free wishes,

    Your commute sounds awful! It is October, maybe you could try a clown nose? 🙂

    Take care,

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