Why do Sharpies give me a Headache?

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Have you ever experienced a headache after using a Sharpie marker? If so, you are not alone. Many people have reported experiencing headaches and other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and even breathing difficulties after using Sharpie markers. In this article, we will explore why Sharpies can give you a headache and what you can do to minimize your exposure to the chemicals that may be responsible for these symptoms.

Why do Sharpies give me a Headache?

The Chemical Composition of Sharpie Markers:

Sharpie markers are permanent markers that are used for a variety of purposes, from labeling and drawing to crafts and artwork. They are made up of a mixture of chemicals that allow the ink to be permanent and resistant to fading or smudging. The primary components of Sharpie markers are solvents, dyes, and resins.


Solvents are chemicals that are used to dissolve other substances and help them spread evenly. In Sharpie markers, the solvents used are typically alcohols such as ethanol and isopropanol. These solvents are volatile, which means that they evaporate quickly and can be inhaled easily.

When you use a Sharpie marker, the solvents evaporate into the air, creating a fine mist that you can breathe in. Inhaling these solvents can irritate your respiratory system, leading to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In some cases, inhaling solvents can even cause chemical pneumonia, a condition that can be life-threatening.


Dyes are the components of Sharpie markers that give them their distinctive colors. The dyes used in Sharpie markers are typically derived from petroleum, and they can be quite potent. These dyes can also be volatile, which means that they can evaporate into the air and be inhaled.

When you use a Sharpie marker, the dyes can be absorbed into your skin, and they can also be inhaled if you are using the marker in a poorly ventilated area. Inhaling the dyes can irritate your respiratory system and cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea.


Resins are the components of Sharpie markers that help the ink adhere to the surface you are writing on. They are typically made up of polymers such as acrylics or vinyls. These resins are not volatile, which means that they are less likely to be inhaled than the solvents or dyes.

However, resins can still cause skin irritation if you come into contact with them. If you have sensitive skin, you may experience symptoms such as itching, redness, and swelling if you use a Sharpie marker for an extended period.

How to Minimize Your Exposure to Sharpie Chemicals?

If you are experiencing headaches or other symptoms after using Sharpie markers, there are several things you can do to minimize your exposure to the chemicals that may be causing these symptoms.

Use in a Well-Ventilated Area:

One of the best ways to minimize your exposure to Sharpie chemicals is to use the markers in a well-ventilated area. Open windows or use a fan to help circulate the air in the room. If possible, use the markers outside or in an area with good ventilation.

Wear Protective Gear:

If you are using Sharpie markers for an extended period, consider wearing protective gear such as gloves and a mask. This can help reduce your exposure to the chemicals in the markers and minimize the risk of skin or respiratory irritation.

Use Water-Based Markers:

If you are particularly sensitive to the chemicals in Sharpie markers, consider using water-based markers instead. These markers are less likely to cause respiratory or skin irritation, and they are often available in a wide range of colors.


Sharpie markers can be a useful tool fora variety of purposes, but they can also be a source of headaches and other symptoms for some people. Understanding the chemical composition of Sharpie markers and how they can affect your health is the first step in minimizing your exposure to these chemicals. By using Sharpie markers in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective gear, and considering water-based alternatives, you can continue to use these markers while minimizing the risk of adverse health effects. Remember to always use caution when handling chemicals, and if you experience persistent symptoms after using Sharpie markers, consult a healthcare professional for further advice.

Why do Sharpies give me a Headache?
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