Time-domain near-infrared spectroscopy (TD-NIRS) offers the ability to measure the absolute baseline optical properties of a tissue. Specifically, for brain imaging, the robust assessment of cerebral blood volume and oxygenation based on measurement of cerebral hemoglobin concentrations is essential for reliable cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. In adult heads, these baseline measurements are complicated by the presence of thick extra-cerebral tissue (scalp, skull, CSF). A simple semi-infinite homogeneous model of the head has proven to have limited use because of the large errors it introduces in the recovered brain absorption. Analytical solutions for layered media have shown improved performance on Monte-Carlo simulated data and layered phantom experiments, but their validity on real adult head data has never been demonstrated. With the advance of fast Monte Carlo approaches based on GPU computation, numerical methods to solve the radiative transfer equation become viable alternatives to analytical solutions of the diffusion equation. Monte Carlo approaches provide the additional advantage to be adaptable to any geometry, in particular more realistic head models. The goals of the present study were twofold: (1) to implement a fast and flexible Monte Carlo-based fitting routine to retrieve the brain optical properties; (2) to characterize the performances of this fitting method on realistic adult head data. We generated time-resolved data at various locations over the head, and fitted them with different models of light propagation: the homogeneous analytical model, and Monte Carlo simulations for three head models: a two-layer slab, the true subject’s anatomy, and that of a generic atlas head. We found that the homogeneous model introduced a median 20 to 25% error on the recovered brain absorption, with large variations over the range of true optical properties. The two-layer slab model only improved moderately the results over the homogeneous one. On the other hand, using a generic atlas head registered to the subject’s head surface decreased the error by a factor of 2. When the information is available, using the true subject anatomy offers the best performance.