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Can You Bring Makeup on a Plane?

So you’re going on a trip for the first time in a while, and whether it’s for business or vacation, knowing what you can and can’t bring on the plane can seem like a bit of a mystery. With different rules for carry-on and checked bags, it can be complicated. Different types of makeup, powdered or liquid, have different guidelines. But when you know the rules, and ensure what’s in your makeup bag before you get on the plane follows them, traveling by plane doesn’t have to be a headache.

Avoid the Hassle: Determine What You Actually Need.

Good travelers know to only packing light is the way to go—only bring the essentials. If you check your bags, you’ll be limited on how much weight you can pack. If you carry your bags, you won’t pay extra for added weight, but your back and neck will certainly notice every additional ounce. Before you start packing, figure out what you really need. Consider your plans and itinerary. If you’re going on a business trip without a lot of time for nightlife, you may not need a full makeup box with bolder colors. Going to a beach? Why worry about a lot of daytime makeup when you’ll be out in the sun?

Pack a good moisturizer and sunscreen. You probably only need one set of eyeshadow colors, something neutral that will go with all of your outfits. Look for travel-size options of your translucent powder, foundation, and mascara. You can even find smaller options for your sunscreen. Don’t forget that mascara is a liquid. If it’s not under the 3.4-ounce rule, it needs to be checked. Opt for one lipstick color for day and one for night. Score some samples at the makeup counter if you want more variety.

Pack neatly to get through the TSA screening process smoother. When your carry-on is organized, you can place the correct items in the bins and then get them back on the other side without as much fuss. Spend some time getting ready to go through TSA to save time at the airport.

What Are the TSA’s Rules?


TSA is the agency that is responsible for the security of the traveling public. It’s the organization that determines what can go on airplanes and what can’t. Passenger screening is part of TSA’s approach to security to prevent problems while flying. When you take your carry-on through security, you should know what to expect when it comes to makeup.

The most general rule for makeup and toiletries is the 3-1-1 liquids rule. In your carry-on bag, you can have 3.4-ounce (100 ml) containers of liquid products that fit into a 1-gallon Ziploc bag. Any item over 3.4 ounces should go into your checked bag. Hairspray, makeup, mascara, nail polish remover, perfume, and other liquid makeup items can go through security, provided the container is under 3.4 ounces.

Powdered makeup items are a little more complicated. If the substance is in a container greater than 12 ounces (350 ml), it will need to go in a separate box during screening. The container may need to be opened and checked. TSA recommends that these items go into your checked bag, rather than carry on.

Checked Bags vs. Carry On

Checked bags have a lot less scrutiny than carry-on bags. You can put larger bottles of makeup and perfume into your checked bag to get them through airport security. According to TSA’s website, it screens over 1.4 million checked bags daily. Most bags are simply screened, without being physically searched. You can carry many more items in your checked bag that you cannot place in carry-on luggage. However, most airlines do charge for checked bags.

TSA checks carry-ons much more carefully. Liquids, gels, and aerosols have special instructions (see the 3-1-1 liquids rule.) Electronics are thoroughly inspected, but this does not include toiletry items, such as hair dryers or electric toothbrushes. Check the TSA website for specific prohibited items that might be in your makeup bag.

Makeup Items That Won’t Hold You up at Airport Security


If you’re like most people, your makeup bag not only has makeup products, it also has an assortment of other items, such as nail clippers, tweezers, and even a nail file. Here’s what you should know about some specific items:

  • Tweezers – are permitted in your carry-on. TSA recommends that sharp objects be wrapped to prevent injury to TSA agents.
  • Perfume – this makeup item falls under the liquids rule. The one exception is any perfume you buy in duty-free shops. Keep the perfume in its original packaging with the receipt. Don’t wear heavy fragrances when you’re traveling. Some people are sensitive to smells. It’s just good manners to think about others on the plane.
  • Nail Clippers – nail clippers are allowed on the plane. Nail scissors need to be less than four inches long.
  • Razors – disposable razors and cartridges can go in your carry-on, but if you use safety razor blades, you’ll need to put them in your checked luggage.
  • Deodorant – sprays and gels must conform to the liquids rule, but stick deodorants don’t have restrictions.
  • Soap/shampoo/conditioner – liquid soap is subject to the liquids rule. Bar soap does not have limitations. Shampoo and conditioner must be in 3.4-ounce or smaller bottles.
  • Pressed blushes or eyeshadows – allowed in your carry-on without restrictions.
    Chapstick, lipstick, and gel lip balms – chapstick and lipstick aren’t subject to the liquids rule. Gels are considered liquid. It needs to be placed in your Ziploc bag.
  • Nail polish – as long as the bottle is not 3.4-ounces or greater, you can bring it on the plane. You can also bring a small bottle of nail polish remover. It’s advisable not to use it on the plane because you could make other travelers sick from the smell.

Final Thoughts on Bringing Makeup on an Airplane

Although TSA has guidelines on what items can be brought on a plane, you should note that their website clearly states, “the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.” Check the TSA website for any product that you’re unsure about or for new rules. The last thing you want is to see your valuable makeup be placed in the bin by TSA right before your vacation. You can use the Facebook/AskTSA page for specific questions.

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