Can Hair Coloring Trigger Migraine?
Last updated: January 2023
Our readers ask some of the best questions. This one is so good that the answer deserves to be shared with everyone.
"I stopped coloring my hair. Now my migraines are less frequent and less severe. Can you explain this?"
What a great question! Not being an expert on hair coloring, I decided to consult my daughter, who is a licensed cosmetologist specializing in hair coloring. She also happens to have chronic migraine. I figured if anyone could help us out, it would be her. I learned a lot. Hopefully, her wisdom will help you, too.
Is it the dyes?
Depending on the quality of your hair coloring product, it is quite possible that some chemicals could trigger migraine. She was quick to implicate bleach as the primary culprit. Apparently, the bleach used to strip color from the hair stays on the hair shaft and scalp for quite a while. This is one potential trigger that really sticks with you.
She didn’t rule out perfumes or other harsh chemicals either. Any strong smell can be a migraine trigger. She recommends using all-organic hair coloring with no perfumes or chemicals for hair health and migraine trigger avoidance to be safe.
Is it the process?
But she didn't stop with just ingredients. She explained that the physical process of hair coloring could also be a trigger.
The stylist must pull the hair tight to apply coloring to the root when applying an all-over color. This puts stress on the scalp. Using foils also requires pulling tightly on the hair dozens of times. Plus, the added weight of the foils themselves puts physical stress on the scalp.
If you color your hair, you have the added physical strain of raising your arms to apply color and wrap foils for several hours, too.
Hair coloring is not a fast process either. Sitting in a stylist's chair for hours can trigger muscle tension – yet another migraine trigger. You might also miss lunch or fail to stay hydrated.
Is it the salon?
If the chemicals and physical assaults on your scalp don't set off a migraine attack, there is still the possibility that the salon itself is a trigger. The fumes from manicures or chemical perms could certainly trigger an attack. Florescent lights, hairdryer noises, music, people talking, or the smell of perfumes can all add to a migraine disaster.
How can you identify your migraine triggers?
However, not all potential triggers will be your personal triggers. You might find that only certain brands of coloring are triggers. Maybe you will be able to tolerate an all-over color but not the physical stress of highlights, ombre, or multiple colors. Maybe you can't tolerate bleaching.
She recommends finding a quiet salon that does not offer manicures or chemical perms. Schedule the appointment during a slow time and arrive rested, hydrated, and not hungry. Choose an all-organic hair coloring and ask for an all-over color done by a licensed cosmetologist. It is the gentlest way to color your hair with the fewest potential triggers. Slowly experiment with other hair coloring services if you can tolerate basic coloring. Over time you will discover what services are tolerable and how to avoid the most toxic environments to minimize your trigger load.
Good luck and happy, migraine-free hair coloring!
In the past year, has insurance made it difficult to get your migraine treatment?