It’s not uncommon to get pretty dehydrated when traveling.
It could be because you have limited water intake or because you are traveling into dry environments like the cabin of a plane or perhaps to a low humidity destination like the desert.
Either way, you likely will want to travel with some lotion to keep your skin in good condition.
But is it possible to bring lotion on a plane and are there any risks of things happening like the bottle exploding?
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at traveling with lotion and give some insight into how TSA deals with it.
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Can you bring lotion on the plane?
Yes, you can bring lotion on a plane.
If you plan on bringing lotion in your carry-on, you need to abide by the TSA liquids rule. Also, whether you are bringing lotion in your carry-on or checked bag you should take steps to prevent spills in the event your bottles of lotion explode.
Keep reading below for some tips and insight into how to avoid exploding lotion and how to keep the passengers nearby happy!
Important: Getting through airport security with lotion
Before we get into taking lotion bottles through airport security, we should mention something very important about wearing lotion when traveling to the airport.
It’s a good idea to not apply any lotion before you head to the airport. In fact, if you can, try to wait until after you get through airport security to apply lotion on the day of your travel.
The reason for this is that lots of lotions contain glycerin which is one of the chemicals that can set off the alarms whenever you get “swabbed.”
What does it mean to get swabbed?
One way that TSA agents try to keep passengers safe is by detecting whether or not passengers have come into contact with explosive materials. And one of the ways that they do this is by taking samples from the hands of passengers as well as their luggage contents.
If that sample contains traces of explosives, then the passenger will likely be subject to questioning and perhaps even a much more invasive search. That invasive search could involve a pat down and more swabbing which could take an extra 20 minutes or longer.
When going through airport security, you don’t always get swabbed but if you applied lotion containing glycerin on the day of your travels, there is a chance you would test positive if you got swabbed!
You can read more about what it’s like to get swabbed at the airport here.
If you’re curious about what type of brands may contain glycerin, here are some examples:
- Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Body Lotion
- Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar
- Raw + Rare Vegetable Glycerin
- Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
- Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment
- Paula’s Choice Water-Infusing Electrolyte Moisturizer
- Glossier Soothing Face Mist
- Exuviance Targeted Lip Filler
- Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Serum
- Fenty Skin Hydra’Reset Intensive Recovery Hand Mask
- Hanni Shave Pillow
- La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Eye Cream
Just note that this is not an exhaustive list.
Bringing lotion as a carry-on (TSA liquids rule)
TSA allows you to bring liquids like lotion on board as long as they are contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL) and all of those containers can fit comfortably inside of one clear quart sized bag.
You will need to remove this bag from your carry-on bag when going through the security checkpoint unless you have TSA Pre-Check.
This procedure for dealing with your liquids is known as the TSA Liquids 3-1-1 Rule
Something super important to know about lotions is that the focus on the 3.4 ounces is on the size of the container and NOT the amount of liquid inside the container.
It’s really easy to find travel bottles of lotion under 3.4 ounces so it shouldn’t be a problem to get a container of lotion that can go with you.
Also, if you’d like you can pour your own lotion into a 3.4 ounce travel container.
One exception I should mention is that if you have medically necessary lotion, that container can be larger than 3.4 ounces due to the medical exception.
It will help if you can bring your prescription or if the prescription is attached to the bottle (although prescriptions are not always necessary to show for TSA).
Sometimes you can still get resistance from TSA with oversized liquids so if it’s possible to just pour some of that prescribed lotion into a smaller container, that might make your life a lot easier when getting through security.
Flying with lotion in the cabin (applying it mid-flight)
If you bring bottled lotion with you on the plane — whether that be hand cream, face lotion, or any other type — you need to be extremely careful about applying that lotion during a flight.
Brad once had a passenger next to him open a bottle of lotion and it actually exploded all over the passengers in his row!
So there are a couple of things you can do to avoid this.
First, while you are still on the ground you can open up the lid of the container and then squeeze the sides so that you let out a lot of air.
Keep the sides of the bottle squeezed as you close it so that the bottle looks a bit “deformed.”
As you increase in altitude and the cabin pressure increases, the air inside the bottle will have room to expand, reducing the odds of an explosion.
The next thing you can do is to use a small bag (probably the same bag you use for your liquids) to cover the lid of that lotion bottle while you open it. You can also place the bottle in the bag down below your seat when you do this.
This way, if you did cause an explosion it would be contained and you would not have to deal with the consequences of shooting lotion all over a bunch of strangers.
Another bit of advice is to try to avoid applying lotion with strong scents on planes.
When on a plane, lots of passengers don’t care for strong smells from things like perfume, lotion, etc. If you can, try to find lotion that has no scent as that is the most considerate option.
This story below kind of contradicts the advice above but it’s kind of funny and worth sharing.
Back to the story about Brad getting lotion spilled on him….
He was flying in a packed economy cabin on that flight and someone had been passing gas very bad for hours whenever the lotion was spilled on him.
That lotion actually did have a strong fragrance and so Brad was actually thankful that the lotion had been spilled on him so that he didn’t have to deal with the bad odor!
So I guess there is a welcomed circumstance for some strong scented lotions.
Bringing lotion in your checked baggage
Bringing lotion in your checked baggage is much easier to do. Your bottle will not be subject to the 3.4 ounces rule so you could bring a much larger container of lotion.
It would still be a good idea to bag or better yet double bag your lotion bottle so that if it leaks or explodes, all of the mess will be contained. You can also utilize the trick mentioned above about letting air out of the bottle.
And finally, consider putting the bagged lotion bottle into a separate compartment in your checked baggage so that it won’t leak into all of your clothes if the bag barrier was broken.
You can definitely bring lotion on a plane but you need to abide by the liquids rule if you are taking it as a carry-on.
Furthermore, you should take precautions to avoid your lotion exploding on the plane by squeezing the air out of the bottle and by bagging the container up.
Be extra mindful when applying lotion in a flight so that you avoid your bottle exploding and you don’t force passengers to deal with strong scents.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.