Update: TSA NOT Allowing Full-Size Sunscreen In Carry-Ons

Filed Under: Security/TSA

Update: Unfortunately the TSA has now clarified that sunscreen in larger quantities isn’t allowed through screening checkpoints. Per a statement from the TSA:

“Our website incorrectly reported that sunscreen containers larger than 3.4 oz. were allowed in carry-on bags if medically necessary. That error has been corrected. Sunscreen in carry-on bags must be 3.4 oz. or less. Larger quantities should be placed in checked baggage.”

Below you can find the full original story (which, again, isn’t correct — my apologies).

Here’s a fantastic change that’s going to save me both money and hassle.

Take sunscreen through TSA checkpoints

As most of you are probably aware, you’re generally limited to taking liquids of no more than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) through TSA checkpoints. There are some exceptions, like medically necessary items.

Well, for those who use sunscreen, there’s some excellent news — as of April 7, 2021, you can take full size sunscreen (SPF products) through TSA checkpoints.

In other words, you can take sunscreen bottles of more than 3.4 ounces through security, you just have to “declare” them to a TSA agent when you’re at the checkpoint (or I suppose you can try not declaring them, and see if the TSA catches it).

You can now take full-size sunscreen through TSA checkpoints

Why is sunscreen now allowed through TSA checkpoints?

The reason for this change is that sunscreen has been added to the TSA’s list of medically-approved liquids, gels, and aerosols, that can be brought through checkpoints, which otherwise includes things like contact solution, hand sanitizer, and medication.

This came after the Department of Dermatology at Brown University challenged the TSA on sunscreen, arguing that sunscreen is needed to protect against skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with roughly 9,500 people being diagnosed with it every single day in the United States alone. Research suggests that increasing sunscreen use by 5% every year for 10 years would lead to a 10% reduction in melanoma in the United States, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The average adult requires 1.4 ounces of sunscreen per application, and reapplication is recommended every two hours. In other words, following that recommendation, you’d meet your 3.4 ounce allotment after just two applications for one person.

I’m thrilled about this change

A decade ago this change would have meant nothing to me. Fortunately Ford has taught me a few things in the years we’ve been together, and one of those is the importance of sunscreen.

As a kid I was always encouraged to go outside without sunscreen to “get Vitamin D,” because it was apparently good for me. I don’t know if it’s generational or what, but I’m happy to have learned the mistake in my ways.

Ford wears sunscreen every single day (even just going about daily activities), and I’ve started to do that most days as well. While that seemed like a bizarre concept in the past, skin cancer is one of the most easily preventable kinds of cancer, so there’s no reason not to take precautions.

Personally I’m happy about this change, because as you’d expect, when we go on beach vacations we collectively use dozens of ounces of sunscreen, even though we don’t ever lay out in the sun. There’s always the tradeoff between checking a bag just for sunscreen and spending a long time waiting at the baggage belt, and buying overpriced sunscreen at the destination.

While this is an awesome change, my one point of frustration is that this only applies at TSA checkpoints, and not elsewhere in the world. So for example, if you’re traveling to the Maldives and connecting at a Gulf carrier hub, you still won’t be able to take sunscreen through checkpoints there.

So this is great for domestic trips, or for trips where you’re flying nonstop from the US to your final destination. But it’s less useful for international trips, where it would typically be the most valuable (given that some resorts in the Maldives price sunscreen as if it’s Cristal).

This is of limited use for international travel

Bottom line

You can now take full-size bottles of sunscreen through TSA checkpoints, which is awesome news. This comes as sunscreen is being categorized as a medically necessary product.

Skin cancer is so common yet so preventable, and hopefully this change helps protect people when traveling.

For that matter, can we just get rid of the liquids ban altogether? Water is also necessary to sustain life, yet that’s banned at checkpoints…

Anyone else excited about this new sunscreen exception at TSA checkpoints?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I get the convenience but I am concerned. How long will it take for a group of non peace lovers to collectively bring a dangerous substance on board for terroristic reasons. Will the bottle be swiped or chemically tested every time?

  2. How timely… im thinking through packing for a trip and sunscreen was the item making me debate checked vs carry on. This is long overdue.

  3. The US has put forward so many rules that it demanded be enforced internationally. Then it rescinds those rules at home, but no one else ever seems to get the memo on that and keep enforcing policies that never should have existed in the first place.

  4. LHR are currently installing new 3D scanners too so no more having to remove fluids ( and an end of liquid amounts)laptops and shoes. They hope to have them fully operational by the time travel is back up.

  5. Can confirm. Was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my face at 35. Never really took it seriously before then, even living in Florida & being as pasty white complected as they come.

    Not wanting to have another chunk carved out of my face anytime soon, I wear sunscreen every. single. day. It literally takes seconds to apply, and an added bonus is that my skin isn’t nearly as dry as it used to be!

    This is a very welcome change, as my frugality would always force me to seek out a local equivalent of Walmart wherever my travels took me (I simply refuse to pay $10 for a small bottle of sunscreen at a hotel that will literally last me less than a day).

  6. This is not entirely a positive development for US travelers. As a result of this exemption, the US will no longer be considered in compliance with ICAO regulations and US origin travelers may have to undergo additional screening at foreign transit points where they are currently exempt.

  7. @Ben – can you point to the source for this article? As of April 11, 2021, the TSA website is still saying this, which is kind of ambiguous.

    Carry On Bags: Yes (Less than 3.4oz/100 ml allowed)
    Checked Bags: Yes
    TSA allows larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

  8. And it won’t be confusing that no other country e.g. Mexico allowes it. “But but but I was allowed to carry it coming here, why can’t you allow me to carry it back? “

  9. An alternative is to ship the product to your destination, put it in a checked bag, purchase product at your destination.

    Who is Ford?

  10. Don’t forget that many countries don’t have the same SS that the US has, I’m talking about the natural, mineral sun screen. The last thing I want is to buy a chemical and harsh sunscreen that hurts the environment and my body.

  11. @ Manfred — Ford is my husband. As I said in the post, of course you can check your bag, but often buying sunscreen at your destination is significantly more expensive, and often having sunscreen shipped to a hotel isn’t practical.

  12. @ Sean M — That’s an interesting point, and something I hadn’t thought about. I’m curious, though, the TSA previously had exceptions, but has remained ICAO compliant, no? For example, other countries don’t necessarily have a hand sanitizer exception, but the US does.

  13. I don’t understand this measure at all. If liquids above 100ml are considered dangerous due to whatever reason, how are they going to make sure that there’s nothing dangerous in these sunscreen bottles? Will they open them? If they don’t take any extra measures aside from asking the customer to declare it, doesn’t it prove that this liquids restrictions is utterly useless and unnecessary?

  14. @ Bruce — Well, there’s no real logic, the whole thing is security theater. It’s the same reason that people without Pre-Check can leave their shoes on and keep their laptops in their bags, while others have to take them out.

  15. Yeah… this is not true. Go to TSA.gov then click on menue “Travel” > “What can I bring”, type “Sunscreen” in the search there. It specifically says sunscreen is to be 3.4 or less.

    Please place it in your checked bag or purchase at your destination. It will save time for all the travelers behind you having to wait while your bag is checked. God forbid wait for you to explain that you read this exemption in a non government website.

  16. @ Zukini — Indeed, you’re right, the TSA’s website doesn’t seem to have been updated yet. Let me try to get an official update on this.

  17. Thanks for this article! Another news for me reading this is that they allow contact lenses solution in carry on?? I always end up buying the travel sized ones which is a true pain in the butt, but didn’t know it qualified as an exception and that you could bring a bigger size. Because now that would be a game changer for me!

  18. I wear an oil-free daily sunscreen as I have a widespread family history of skin cancers (we’re largely an amalgam of pasty WASPs and Germans). It sounds like you and Ford have a line-item in your budget for it, though. 😉

  19. Just bringing some datapoints…
    1) I fly often and usually carry on only, I have had fullsize sunscreen on before and its 50/50 if TSA mentions it. I do wonder if the times I got it through it the amount left in the bottle appeared to be around 3.4oz or less (I’m not sure).
    2) I have pre-check, on my last three RTs, I have brought hair gel, cologne & toothpaste all under 3.4oz but in my toiletry bag, not in a zip top bag, on all 6 flights, TSA has never stopped me

  20. While this is a positive change, looks like the basis for it is because 3.4 ounces might now be enough for one trip. But that’s based on a single bottle, I don’t get that logic when there was never anything stopping someone from taking multiple legal size bottles rather than one!

  21. @Ben – like most things, it depends on the interpretation and politics involved. Many countries consider the TSA non-compliant to begin with because of the truck sized hole in policy exempting employees and flight crews from the liquid policy. The UK in particular has a huge issue with the TSA on this issue. So it will depend on whether the receiving country believes that the TSA maintains “equivalent” standards to their domestic screening agency. The likelihood is that those who accepted the crew member liquid policy will accept this too, and those who didn’t probably won’t accept this either.

    Many countries have issued exemptions for hand sanitizer and other sanitary items so that is less critical.

  22. Vitamin D3 (produced by sunlight on skin) is a requirement for a healthy life.

    400 – 1000 IU for adults under 50 and up to 2000 IU for over 50.

    Here are the factors that affect how much Vitamin D is absorbed through the skin:

    “9 things that can undermine your vitamin D level

    The latitude where you live
    The air pollution where you live. …
    Your use of sunscreen — in theory. …
    The color of your skin. …
    The temperature of your skin. …
    Your weight. …
    Your age. …
    The health of your gut.”

    There is definitely a balancing act between excessive sun screen and vitamin D absorption.

    Living in Florida you may have enough vitamin D getting through the sun screen.

    Living in Canada the recommendation is that vitamin D supplements are needed every day of the year even when the sun is shining. (this is a bit silly for most of Canada).

  23. Hi folks, as has been raised, it’s also good to use environmentally friendly sunscreen in general, and especially in sensitive/endangered marine sites like the Great Barrier Reef, or any reef system.

    Found a link to some recommended sunscreens good for both you and the oceans:


    It may not be comprehensive, but it’s a starting point, and a reminder to look for similar products no matter where you live in the world.

    And this is coincidental timing for me, as I just flew to a sunny destination on Friday, but purposely left the sunscreen behind because I didn’t want to check my bag (!).

  24. I’ve always just brought multiple of the travel sized creams and that usually covered me. The annoying part was carrying multiple bottles instead of one larger one. Better than shelling out for a bottle at a resort, which as you mention they charge an arm and a leg for (not just Maldives, literally anywhere). This is good news but all of the comments here so far are very valid and it will be interesting to see how it’s addressed.

    @TheJagMan I don’t think I’ve ever put liquids (travel sized) into zip lock bags and I’ve also never been stopped. I’m pre-check too but I’ve always just assumed it was because they were clearly travel sized? Who knows with TSA…

  25. @TheJagMan
    To the best of my understanding the TSA rules concern the volume of the container, not the actual contents. There are actual reasons for this.

  26. next thing to abolish: the imperial system. USA, please get with the rest of the world and get rid of OuNcEs and use ML like everyone else pls 🙂

  27. As a survivor of melanoma in my 40s – and I never lie on the beach – this is great news, as I wear my sunscreen religiously.

  28. This is great news for me. I’ve had several moles removed over the years, which alone has had me concerned I was higher risk for skin cancer. Now, add in the fact that my mother has had several biopsies in the past year and a few have been found to be cancerous, and I’m even more aware of needing to use sunscreen.

    Now that I’m moving to Florida and plan on spending a lot more time on the golf course, I’ll be wearing more sunscreen. When I fly down to SoFla every now and then on the weekends though, it will be nice to be able to just throw a bottle of sunscreen in my carry on and not have to worry about checking it or buying it at the destination.

  29. Someone needs to tell TSA at MCO. My daughter and I flew out of MCO on April 8 and she accidentally put a brand new bottle of Sunscreen in her carry on. TSA inspected her bag and wouldn’t let her carry it on so we had to throw it out. Another example of a useless government agency.

  30. Shows how silly the LAG rule is. When will TSA approve bringing shampoo, shower gel, beauty products and soft cheese for my emotional support peacock?

  31. @Peter, I put my liquids into bags more to prevent them from spilling and ruining my clothes more than the TSA.

  32. Nope, not at DFW. April 12, 2021, and just went through security. Took the sunscreen out and he said “what’s this?” I said, “sunscreen, it was just approved to take more than 3.4oz.” He shook his head and said no. This is posted on so many websites, but be prepared to get it taken away. I’m not sure if TSA has not informed their employees or this is just not true.

  33. Article is false. FAKE NEWS!

    LAS TSA supervisors rejected and asked me to show them proof thay was NOT media or blogger. They said they been briefed on this.

    They referred me to https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/sunscreen
    which clearly says 3.4oz

    The TSA website had a small change that simply re emphasises some medically necessary items can still be brought

    I WAS given the option to declare as medically necessary but they tried to convince me not to. They warned of a long item-by-item complete unpack and check of all our carry on items which they would need to touch, plus a very thorough pat down search. All while 2 officers stood 2 inches from me.

    In the end, my “contactless” TSA Pre experience took 10 minutes extra while the rest of our group took under a minute.

    Also thought I would mention we have tried to get a prescription for OTC sunscreen, but only two types are approved which if I recall correculy are more of a solution with an additional medication, only prescribed for certain conditions.

  34. I work for TSA and this is a false statement. Sunscreen is not medically exempt because it is not medically necessary on a flight. Medically exempt liquids are ONLY for what is required during a flight. There is not sun on your plane. So therefore, if you want your sunscreen, check it in

  35. STUPID, Unless the Sunscreen is Hawaii Compliant ( Reef Friendly, Coral Safe) which It will NOT be. It is going to destroy our Oceans.
    American thoughtlessness working overtime again.
    STUPIDITY rules again.

  36. In the last 2 wks i’ve passed through MUC, CDG, AMS, NBO and MBA and went through with my 500ml bottle of water without anyone batting an eyelid. From what i’ve heard from friends’ observations, airports aren’t that strict when it comes to liquids anymore.

  37. @Rebecca, so it is better to kill people with cancer? That is STUPID! 99% of people wearing sunscreen including me never go near an ocean or coral reef. You do realize you can be impacted by UV rays just driving around in your car. Get off your environmental high horse and learn a little about the harmful impact of the sun’s rays on humans. You are the thoughtless one here.

  38. It’s been 14 years since the plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board airliners was spoilt. It’s time to relax / lift the ban. Most people are now bringing highly flammable liquids and gels on board anyway, alongside highly flammable and volatile metals tightly packed in individual containers.

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