Society, Triggers

Rantings on Perfume, Scented Hair Products and Paris

REI employees shouldn’t be allowed to wear perfume. I’d prefer if no one in retail wore perfume, but I’ll complain about REI because I was there this morning. Doesn’t perfume contradict the values of the nature-oriented store?

I was at REI in the first place for quick-dry travel pants. The perfect pants that I scored at Goodwill last week must have been soaked in perfume, which I didn’t smell at the store. Washing and hanging them outside to dry once didn’t do the trick. Washing them after they’d been tightly sealed in a plastic bag with baking soda for five days didn’t work either. How can someone wear so much perfume that two washings can’t make a dent in the scent?

I had to give up on the thrift store pants. My new pants don’t smell. They are much more attractive and handier for travel. They also cost 10 times as much. Like with the cellphone, I’ve been thwarted at my attempt to save money.

My next complaint: Deodorants are scented for good reason (although they’re one of the few products that are available unscented). Even lotion I can understand. Hair products have no excuse. Not only are they perfumed, the scents are STRONG. Why are they scented to begin with? To cover up how the ingredients smell? Yes, I got my hair cut today. Yes, I washed the product out immediately after getting home. Yes, I got a migraine.

I can’t believe how sensitive to smells I’ve become. Cinnamon and rose have triggered my headaches forever, but they are only a small part of my odor triggers now. It has gotten so bad that I might have to strike Paris off my list of places to travel.

4 thoughts on “Rantings on Perfume, Scented Hair Products and Paris”

  1. Just had my first migraine (I’d rather give birth to another child) and a lot of things came together for me. When I look at a list of migraine triggers, many have applied to me for years.

    I, too, am very scent sensitive. In the shower if I bend over and by mistake get a whiff of my teen sons’ shampoo a shot of pain goes through my eye. I then shower most of the time breathing through my mouth. To be honest, I’ve spent much of my life breathing through my mouth to avoid smelling things.

    My question. Do you have a list of products that have proved to be mild? I’ve been using Pert for a family shampoo. Recently the boys have put me on the spot and demanded MANLY shampoo. Pert is unoffensive and not “feminine.” Do you know of any other mild smelling shampoos?

    1. Meg, scent triggers are a very personal thing. Your best bet is to smell shampoos in a store to see which ones you’re OK with. Many people are less sensitive to products that are scented with essential oils instead of artificial fragrance, so a sniff test at Whole Foods or a local coop could be a good place to start. There are some great fragrance-free shampoos (I like Desert Essence). Maybe that could be a compromise with your sons? It’s not “manly,” but it won’t be girly either.

      Take care,

  2. Oh, don’t skip Paris, just stay out of the perfume stores. Parisians don’t wear excessive amounts of perfume – they value it highly and consider it vulgar to waste it by bathing in it.

    I had only one migraine in Paris, and that was due to airlines screwing up our flights (and consequent stress and lack of sleep) combined with the really unhealthy French breakfast. It is almost impossible to find anything other than coffee+croissant for breakfast, and most of the cafe patrons chase that with a cigarette, which they are allowed to smoke in the cafe (until January 08, when the smoking ban goes into effect, hooray!). I can’t think of a more deadly breakfast for a migraineur.

    If you are staying at a hotel that caters to Americans or Brits, you might find a more substantial breakfast – we learned our “continental” breakfast included ham, cheese, and yogurt as well as pastries and coffee. Or you might pick up some decent food at a market the day before, and eat it in your room.

    For what it’s worth, I learned yesterday that one of my friends has virtually no sense of smell. Talk about understanding how the other half lives! Whenever she lives alone, she throws food out a day or two before the expiration date, just to be safe, because she can’t smell when it’s gone bad. She automatically doubles the garlic in any recipe. I wonder if some of the excess perfume wearers are people like my friend (who wears no perfume, by the way) – except instead of doubling the garlic, they double the perfume.

    Thanks for the info. I know I’m being melodramatic. Perhaps it is only the in typical spirit of excess that Americans wear so much perfume!

    I wonder if your friend had migraine if she would have migraines triggered by smells. That is, do you have to actually smell something for it to be a trigger or is it a reaction that happens anyway.


  3. Just a suggestion: I have switched to men’s shampoo because the scent is much lighter. I currently use one kind called “Crew” in some citrus/mint scent that to me, is barely even there. It’s kind of pricey (I get it at CVS), but the relief from overly prefumed hair is completely worth it!

    Great idea. Thanks!


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