Whoops TSA was wrong; Full-sized sunscreen not allowed: Everything you need to know about liquid rules

Apr 13, 2021

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When you head for the airport for your next trip, you’ll want to make sure everything is organized properly. You don’t want to run into any hiccups getting through security. One of the most confusing restrictions is the “3-1-1” liquids rule promulgated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Over the weekend the TSA reported it was changing the rules for sunscreens, and it would now be allowed in your carry-on bags and through TSA checkpoints. Apparently, that was a mistake. The TSA now says you are not allowed to bring any sunscreens over 3.4 ounces through security.

The 3-1-1 rule means that you can carry liquids, gels and aerosols — think items such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion — in travel-size containers onto a plane. The caveat is that each container can only hold 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. And the products have to fit in a one-quart, resealable bag. As long as these small items can fit inside the bag, you can take them with you past security.

In short, the 3-1-1 rule is: Each liquid must be in a 3.4-ounce or less container (“3”), all containers must be placed inside one clear quart-sized plastic bag (“1”) and each passenger is only allowed one plastic bag (“1”).

If your liquid items are larger than 3.4 ounces each, you’ll have to leave them in your checked bag.

However, there are a few exceptions. During the pandemic, TSA began relaxing the 3-1-1 rule to allow one container of liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in carry-ons in order to help fight germs and slow the spread of the virus.

The TSA website does say, “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.”

However, that does not include sunscreens still.

There has been a lobbying effort underway spearheaded by the dermatology department at Brown University to get them to lift the ban, but no deal right now.

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There are many liquids you cannot bring with you.

You can bring creamy cheeses, liquid chocolate, liquid coffee, creamy dips and spreads, gravy, honey, hummus, ice cream, jam, jelly, juice, syrup, peanut butter, salad dressing, sauce, salsa, soda, soup and yogurt as long as they are in a container of fewer than 3.4 ounces according to the TSA.

Related: Should you get TSA PreCheck or Clear — or both?

And, yes, you can bring your water bottle with you, even if it weighs more than 3.4 ounces — as long as it’s empty.

When in doubt, consult the TSA’s list of what you can carry through the airport and check with your airline.

Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.

Featured image by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

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