Travel Tips

No, You Can’t Bring Full-Size Sunscreen in Your Carry-On—But Here’s Why the TSA Should Allow It

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Getty Images / Virojt Changyencham
Several outlets prematurely applauded the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in recent days for updating its policy to allow full-size sunscreens in carry-on luggage as “medically necessary liquids.” However, in a statement provided to Well+Good, the TSA confirmed that its website “incorrectly reported” the change, prompting the news reports, and that the error has been corrected.

“Sunscreen in carry-on bags must be 3.4 [fl.] oz or less,” says a TSA spokesperson. “Larger quantities should be placed in checked baggage.”

Tiffany J. Libby, MD, director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Brown University, and Julia A. Siegel, MD, a third-year dermatology resident at the Warren Alpert Medical School, have put pressure on the TSA to designate sunscreen as a medically necessary liquid, which would allow travelers to take full-size bottles in their carry-ons.  In October 2020, the pair published a proposal in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology to increase the TSA sunscreen size limit.

A bottle containing 3.4 fluid ounces of sunscreen may be enough to get you through the weekend, but its typically more expensive per ounce than larger bottles. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours—and even more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming, so you’re likely to go through quite a lot of it on longer trips.

While you wait for the TSA to allow for more reasonably sized sunscreen bottles in carry-on luggage, pick up a (3.4 ounces or less) bottle of one of the best sunscreens, according to dermatologists.

TSA-friendly sunscreens you can bring in your carry-on

1. Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, $55

Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, tsa sunscreen size

In an episode of Dear Derm on Well+Good’s YouTube channel, board-certified dermatologist Adeline Kikam, DO, says one of her favorite sunscreens for people with deep skin tones comes from Isdin. It doesn’t leave behind the white cast that’s common with other mineral sunscreens. “When you first put it on it’s going to have that tint that we don’t like, that kind of whiteish tint, but don’t give up on it yet—you just need to rub it a little bit more,” says Dr. Kikam. “It’s very smooth, it’s very light, it’s very moisturizing. I love it. It also has antioxidants so you’re not only protecting your skin from UV radiation, but you’re also repairing the damage that has already occurred.”

Shop now: Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, $55

Learn about sun care for skin of color here: 

2. Supergoop Play Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 50 with Vitamin C, $15

Supergoop Play Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 50 with Vitamin C

Supergoop’s body mist sunscreen is one of the best aerosol options out there. It’s SPF 50, a spray-on formula so it’s easy to apply, and it also includes vitamin C. This antioxidant boost means you’re getting protection from the sun and also environmental pollutants that can lead to free radical damage.

Shop now: Supergoop Play Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 50 with Vitamin C, $15

3. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $11

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, tsa sunscreen size

This value-size mineral sunscreen from Neutrogena provides broad-spectrum SPF 50. It’s water-resistant for 80 minutes, meaning you should reapply every 80 minutes if you’re spending time in the water.

Shop now: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $11

4. Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, $14

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Made with chemical sun blockers like avobenzone, this SPF 50 sunscreen is great for those looking for mineral-free sunscreen. Though they’re not as strong as physical blockers like zinc oxide, they’re still effective and provide ample protection.

Shop now: Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, $14

5. EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Tube, $26


EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Tube, tsa sunscreen size

 

Despite containing zinc oxide, this SPF 30 sunscreen from EltaMD is transparent and will disappear into your skin. This is especially for those with deeper skin tones who are looking to avoid the white tint that comes from mineral sunscreens.

Shop now: EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Tube, $26

6. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60, $22

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60

This SPF 60 chemical sunscreen quickly melts into your skin leaving behind a smooth, velvety finish. Like all La Roche-Posay products, this sunscreen is free of common allergens like fragrance, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin.

Shop now: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60, $22

7. Coola Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 50, $18

Coola Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 50, tsa sunscreen size

Lightweight and fragrance-free, this SPF 50 Coola sunscreen offers great protection. It’s made with reef-safe ingredients meaning you can go for a swim without worrying about harming coral ecosystems.

Shop now: Coola Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 50, $18

8. MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB, $30

MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB

If you hate the greasy feeling that some sunscreens leave behind, try this SPF 50 formula from MDSolarSciences. It’s lightweight and dries down to an invisible matte finish.

Shop now: MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB, $30

Learn more about the best type of sunscreen to use for your skin:

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