Why Does Eyeliner Give Me a Headache? [Answered]

Have you noticed that putting on makeup in the mornings is giving you a headache? Can you get a headache from an eyeliner? This is the question we answer in this article.

Why Does Eyeliner Give Me a Headache

The eyeliner is causing your headaches because of what’s in it, rather than the application process. It may be something that’s never happened before and all of a sudden you’re getting headaches during or right after you apply the eyeliner. 

You’d be surprised at some of the things we are allergic to. Some of those allergies don’t even exist until you get older. Take milk, for example. 

Many people don’t develop lactose intolerance until they reach middle age, having never had an issue with it before. 

It’s something that can sneak up on you but it can also be something that you have simply never encountered before. 

Some chemical combination in the eyeliner that your body is rejecting wholesale. It doesn’t mean that you’re allergic to all eyeliners, just this one, for now. 

How Does the Skin React to Makeup?

It’s not the act of applying the eyeliner that’s causing the headaches, even though that might be the immediate conclusion to draw, as it takes a level of concentration, even if applying eyeliner has become second nature.

Scientific studies have been conducted over the decades but it has never been a specific makeup application, but more of the overall nature of applying makeup and the chemical effects of the makeup. 

There are several things going on when you apply makeup:

  • Our skin is far more absorbent than you realize
  • There are a number of sketchy chemicals in makeup, such as formaldehyde
  • Existing or developing allergic reactions
  • The smell of the makeup
  • Covering up your pores

No matter how much TV and internet adverts claim that their makeup doesn’t cover pores, it does. 

Advertisements of Jennifer Anniston applying makeup that was already applied pre-production and to a face that has undergone hundreds of thousands of dollars in cosmetic surgery aren’t going to change that fact. 

Your skin breathes every bit as much as your lungs. It is the largest organ in the human body and its rate of absorption is incredible. 

The skin is so absorbent that it will suck in 64% of the contaminants from whatever you put on it. 

In fact, the face is one of the most absorbent surfaces of all, only losing out to the underarm and groin. 

That means that whatever chemicals are present in the makeup will end up in your bloodstream. Or, at the very least, 64% of it will. 

That includes clogging up your pores. 

If you have developed allergies over time, or you are trying out a new eyeliner, it stands to reason that whatever your skin is absorbing is something that your body is reacting to in a negative way. 

How do These Chemicals Cause Headaches?

How do These Chemicals Cause Headaches

It’s a circulatory problem and there are multiple steps involved. The harmful chemicals in makeup—specifically eyeliner—don’t travel directly to the brain, inflaming everything in their path and creating a major headache. 

  1. You apply your eyeliner
  2. Within moments, the harmful chemicals are absorbed into the skin
  3. These chemicals travel to the capillaries, then the veins, and finally, the arteries
  4. From the arteries, they are carried down and into your organs
  5. Once in your organs, harmful chemicals cause damage, small at first, and larger over time
  6. The organ damage causes headaches as your brain pumps more blood and oxygen to those areas
  7. The extra blood and oxygen increases blood pressure

So headaches aren’t the only problem going on. Your body will heal the damage caused by the chemicals over time and the liver will heal itself. 

However, like smoking, long-term damage is a distinct possibility. 

If there is something in the eyeliner that you are allergic to, that something will soon be coursing through your entire body via your blood supply. 

If that sounds terrible, it’s because it kind of is. The last thing that you want is to have an allergen infiltrating your bloodstream. 

All you can do, at this point, is let your body work it out in its own way. 

Potential Allergens in Eyeliner

The most prevalent chemical in makeup and one that is known to cause headaches and allergic reactions is formaldehyde

Worse yet, formaldehyde isn’t always labeled on the bottle. It often goes under the name of other chemicals that end up being converted into formaldehyde once they’re in the body. 

Parabens are another preservative found in eyeliner and it’s something that has become more prevalent, in terms of the public consciousness, in recent years. 

There are four chemicals that fall under the parabens umbrella.

  • Propyl
  • Ethyl
  • Butylparabens
  • Methyle
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid

Like so many other chemicals and preservatives found in foods and cosmetics, parabens are becoming more and more inextricably intertwined with cancers, hormone dysfunctions, and birth defects. 

Once in the body, they disrupt the carefully balanced hormones in your system.

Propylene Glycol is primarily used in antifreeze, along with, you guessed it, makeup. That also includes eyeliner. 

Propylene Glycol is unique amongst the other preservatives. First, it is a petroleum-based chemical and second, it is unaltered from its original state. 

That means you are getting the exact same Propylene Glycol that you are getting in antifreeze, as it isn’t altered to accommodate cosmetic usage. 

The chemicals mentioned above are altered so that they are safer for human use and consumption and that’s simply not the case with Propylene Glycol. 

There is no purpose for Propylene Glycol in cosmetics outside of its industrial use, which is to keep your makeup from freezing or melting. 


Fragrances are another major factor when it comes to allergic reactions. 

Although you may not think that it would have an effect on you, since you’re applying it to your eyes, after all, and not to your nose, you can still smell the stuff. 

Even a brief whiff of it may be enough to trigger a small allergic reaction, followed by a headache. 

Fragrances are in the top five of materials that cause allergic reactions and there are a lot of fragrances when it comes to makeup and other cosmetic supplies. 

Dealing with Headaches Caused by Eyeliner

Dealing with Headaches Caused by Eyeliner

Dealing with a headache is an afterthought and does very little to solve the problem. 

The true solution is found through research and going after only the products that are the most healthy and safe for human use and consumption. 

For one, you’ll want to stick with hypoallergenic makeup or, at the very least, with hypoallergenic eyeliner, such as Physician’s Formula Ultra-Black, Ilia Clean Liquid Liner, or Honest Beauty Vibeliner. 

Of course, there are hundreds of options out there, and almost every, major cosmetics retailer is going to have an extensive line of hypoallergenic products. 

You also want to keep an eye out for Parabens and Paba-free eyeliners and cosmetics. 

It’s a little more difficult to find the eyeliner you want without para-aminobenzoic acid since it is such an industry-wide success in blocking UV radiation. 

Sephora sells a line of parabens-free eyeliners, as well as most other retailers, so it isn’t hard to find. 

Since consumers underwent a worldwide awakening on the dangers of parabens, retailers have adjusted quickly by manufacturing massive stocks of parabens-free cosmetics. 

It may be a little more difficult to find exactly what you are looking for and it might also be a process of elimination, as you work to discover what the exact chemical is that’s bothering you. 

But if you start with something that has none of it, you can work some ingredients back in until you hit the jackpot. 


Now that you know that the vast majority of headaches are coming from your specific choice of eyeliner, you can focus on the chemicals that you should eliminate from the product.

In fact, once you zero in on the exact chemical that’s causing your problem, you should redo your entire makeup bag based on that information.