Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
image of different types of makeup products

Odd Considerations when Shopping for Makeup

One of my guilty pleasures as of late is watching videos of beauty gurus on Youtube. I love learning the newest lipstick combinations and watching tutorials on glam makeup, or everyday glowy makeup, even through my own attempts at following the tutorials usually end in total disaster. I find it so calm and interesting to watch talented folks share their knowledge on beauty and skin products, and I often find myself wanting to try out the recommended care products because they often look so amazing on the models!

The challenges of shopping with migraine triggers

Unfortunately, due to chronic migraine, I also absolutely dread going to beauty supply and makeup stores. Not only do they usually tend to absolutely send me into whiplash upon entering from the thousands of scented products lining the shelves, they also tend to be extraordinarily, painfully bright, and loud. As well, I am not an online shopper. I feel too much anxiety ordering products online, especially beauty products because they so often look different online than they do on me, and I like to try things out before I commit to them.

As trivial as it may seem, migraine poses a real dilemma to me being able to explore something I find really cool: beauty and makeup products. I previously wrote about how migraine affects my ability to wear the hairstyles I grew up loving, and not being able to go into a store and try new makeup is another way in which migraine hinders one of my interests.

Strong scents and bright lights

While asking for accommodations for chronic pain is so often times necessary, I feel as though hoping for a scent-free, dimly lit, quiet makeup store is a little contradictory. After all, they are trying to sell glitz and glam, but it sure would be nice to be able to explore the aisles, and get expert help from the cosmetologists and beauticians in the store without fear of triggering a migraine and getting too sick to make the drive back home. It makes my stomach feel nauseous just thinking about spending time in a beauty store. I always felt really discontent when walking around in the mall (another nightmarish activity I don’t know how I did so often in my teenage years) and suddenly a strong scent of perfume would brush me in the face when passing a makeup counter.

Small annoyances

For many who suffer from migraine, even subtle scents can trigger a painful attack, and that means a lot of very strong scented perfumes are out of the question. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have shopped in-store for beauty products, but usually, I get makeup from grocery stores of drug stores— for one, there are times when I have to be at these stores anyway, to get food, toiletries, or medication. The beauty aisles in these stores, too, usually don’t smell too strong, because there aren’t open ‘tester’ products on the shelves, making exploring them much more bearable. This, however, isn’t the same experience at all—I still can’t try out the makeup before purchasing, so sometimes I end up wasting money on products that don’t work when I get home. And… there aren’t any specialists of experts around to answer questions or give advice at the average grocery market. Ugh. It’s really a small annoyance compared to the pain migraine can cause, but it sure can get me down sometimes.

No clear answers

The few times I have gone into Ulta, or Sephora, I have asked for help and picked out products I really like, but I have also gotten a migraine without fail. It is one of the worst environments for me personally, and it bums me out whenever I see a new, cool video for a makeup look I’d like to try, because chances are I won’t be able to go out and research, in person, those products. I am still trying to find a workaround for this specific, migraine dilemma. I tend to feel so much better about myself when I feel and look good, and for me, trying out beautiful makeup looks is apart of that. I honestly just find it fun, too (and yes, even–perhaps maybe even especially– those of us who do suffer from pain so often, deserve to have fun when we can!) For now, grocery store lines and risky online beauty product purchases are my go-to’s, but I would love to be able to eventually have migraine relief enough to shop and explore the beauty stores.

Do you have a similar experience with difficulty buying makeup or other products like soap or cleaners? Let’s discuss in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • AZReynolds
    12 months ago

    In a word (or two)…Mary Kay! They come to your house. Seriously consider it! They are trained and at the forefront. I used to sell before my perfume sensitivity got so bad. Other words, the customers smelled too good and they gave ME migraines. But I had a client fighting cancer and she’d lost all her hair. She needed me to teach her how to draw on eyebrows. Well I never needed to do that because my eyebrows are very well defined. But I learned just for her, and taught her, and she looked good! Her hair eventually grew back, but her eyebrows never did.

  • glassmind
    12 months ago

    @Kyky Knight, I totally understand!

    It’s such a treat to sit, relax and be pampered. Be it at a makeup,counter in Macy’s or at a Spa getting a pedicure. Those places are often migraine sufferer adverse.

    There are spas that use natural and organic products including makeup for sale. Perhaps there is one in your area. You might find groupons for free or reduced cost initial consultations.

    Another idea might be to see if there are any budding makeup artists in your area. You could do one on one consultations for free and they get to build thier resumes!

    Personally, I usually just buy products at stores with generous return policies. Rarely have I been able to have beauty services and treatmemts outside of my own home.

    I do have one local store that I have developed a relationship with the folks who work there and they are very accommodating. I’ve only ended up in there once with a migraine. But the staff spoke softly and slowly, picked out choices for me (I was wearing amber glasses so all the colors were off) and it is a store with a 100% return policy.

    It might take quite a bit of bravery, but here’s another idea. Do pick a store (or two) whose products you usually like (with a good return policy) and is the least migraine offensive for you, find a manager, explain your concerns and get that personal relationship going! Then when you want to experiment, go with your dark lenses and a nose plug (like swimmers use). You can wear the nose plug the whole time essentially and close your eyes whenever the glasses are off. (Earplugs or earphones with soothing music may make the other stimuli more tolerable also) Maybe then you could make it through a consultation?

    I have seen people with various, obvious physical needs be accommodated at a makeup counter. Surely, there’s got to be a way for you to enjoy these services, too.

    I wish you the best.

  • ftwrkngmom
    12 months ago

    I can totally relate. I also have issues using some beauty/face products because of their scent. I actually have a bigger problem buying body wash. Sometimes they smell fine in the bottle, but I can’t handle the scent once it is on me. I have actually used the same shampoo and conditioner for the past 20 years mostly because of the scent- so thankful it is still available.

  • DizzyLady
    12 months ago

    Sorry you have this problem…it’s important to have things you can do for fun! Are there still in-home beauty consultants that let you try products? I have been working overseas for years, but Mary Kay, Avon, etc, used to be options. I hope you can find a good solution.

  • poppymom
    12 months ago

    So agree! Dressing rooms can be a real problem too! WAY too much lighting.

  • Sophie Tramel
    12 months ago

    Have you considered going to Walgreens, or a similar drug store? You won’t get the outrageously expensive brands of Sephora, but they have a good selection, don’t have all the strong scents, and they also have a money-back guarantee on their cosmetics, so you can take them home and play with them in a more controlled environment.

  • loueez
    12 months ago

    Migraines do not allow us to function as “normal” shoppers. If we could afford personal consultants to bring samples of what we would like to try that would suffice. As a suggestion, spas and beauty salons offer in house cosmetics and a personal consultant.

  • Anne
    12 months ago

    OMG – great article! Yes – I have absolutely thought about this. I put on new lip gloss the other day and noticed the distinct smell and taste. My first thought was – this smells nice – and my second thought was – will this cause a migraine? Any new smell or taste or even mascara that gets in my eyes can trigger a migraine. I run through the cosmetic counters at department stores because the sweet, unnatural smells of perfume and cosmetics are so overwhelming.

  • Poll