What toiletries can you bring in your carry-on bag?

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It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare — you’re late for a flight and stuck behind someone who packed a full-sized bottle of shampoo, and who knows what else, into their carry-on, prompting TSA to take apart every single thing in their bag. No one wants to be the person holding up the whole line. The good news is that by understanding exactly what toiletries you can and cannot bring in your carry-on bag, you can pack smarter and move through those lines without disruption. 

TSA carry-on regulations

Keeping the current TSA carry-on regulations in mind when packing can not only help you have an easier experience when you are at the airport, but also help you avoid watching the TSA agent throw away that expensive bottle of perfume you forgot to put in your checked bag. There are a few important principles to keep in mind when you are putting together the items in your carry-on. 

  • You can bring a quart-sized bag of liquid, gels, creams, pastes, and aerosols on to the plane with you. 
  • These must be in travel-sized containers (no more than 3.4 oz or 100 mL). 
  • Place these items in a clear bag that can easily be removed from your carry-on during the screening process (this is not required, but strongly recommended).
  • You might be subject to additional screening if any of these items triggers an alarm. 

There are two exceptions when it comes to liquids — both medications and infant or children’s nourishments (for example, breast milk and juice) are permitted in larger quantities, and it is helpful to notify the TSA that you are carrying these before the screening begins. 

Toiletries you can bring in your carry-on

Whether you’re packing for a business trip, a weekend getaway, or a longer adventure, taking a single carry-on can help save you money on extra baggage fees and can save you time checking a bag before your flight and waiting for it to show up after you land. One of the keys to packing a carry-on is understanding which (and how many) liquids, gels, makeup, and other toiletries are permitted on the plane with you. 

There are a lot of seemingly strange items that you can pack in your carry-on (antlers and artificial skeleton bones, for example), but what toiletries can you actually take on to the plane with you? TSA has an entire list of the items are allowed and prohibited, so it’s helpful to check before you go. Frequently packed toiletries that are permitted in your carry-on include: 

  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Facial wipes 
  • Bobby pins
  • Curling iron
  • Bug repellant 
  • Shaving cream
  • Makeup remover
  • Shampoo 
  • Conditioner 
  • Body lotion
  • Body wash or liquid soap

Here are some common questions and answers around packing toiletries in your carry-on:

  • Can I bring a razor with me? This is a good question with a surprising answer. Yes, you actually can bring a disposable razor for shaving with you in your carry on. All other razor blades are strictly prohibited. 
  • What about nail clippers? You are permitted to bring nail clippers and nail scissors with you, just make sure that if there is a blade attached, it is less than four inches long. 
  • Is lotion considered a liquid? Yes, it is. All lotions must be in containers sized 3.4 oz or less. The same goes for toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, etc. 
  • I’ve got about 2 oz of shampoo left in a 12 oz bottle, can I bring that? Sadly, you cannot. You’ll need to transfer this to a travel-sized bottle (3.4 oz or smaller). 
  • Can I bring batteries for my razor or electric toothbrush? Yep! You sure can. 
  • Is powdered makeup regulated by TSA? While all gel and liquid makeup (like foundation, mascara, lipstick, etc) are limited 3.4 oz, powered makeup is not. So you can pack these items in your carry-on without worrying about size. 

Tips for packing your carry-on

Packing a carry-on is always a delicate balance. On one hand, you might be attempting to keep things simple and avoid checking a bag altogether. In this case, there’s no back up for you to divert those toiletries into a different bag if you get to the airport and find out they aren’t permitted in your carry-on. And even if you are checking a larger bag, it’s nice to have some toiletries with you, especially if you’re taking a longer flight and want to brush your teeth and wash your face before putting on your eye mask and taking an Ambien. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are packing your carry-on: 

  • Buy travel-sized bottles for shampoo, lotion, conditioner, and any other liquids you plan to bring on your trip. Then fill these from your regular-sized bottles. You’ll save money (by purchasing reusable bottles and filling them with products you already own) and ensure that you’re well within the carry-on limits. 
  • Pack all of your toiletries in a quart sized Ziploc bag (or any other durable, clear quart sized bag) so that they are all together. This will help you avoid looking for that rouge travel sized toothpaste at the bottom of your bag that is causing all of the scanners to go off. 
  • Put your toiletries at the top of your carry-on bag so that you can easily access them once you get to the TSA screening. This helps speed up the process and avoids causing delays in line. 

Bottom line

Packing for a trip can seem daunting, especially when you are attempting to skip checking a bag and instead opting for just a carry-on. When putting together items in your carry-on, packing toiletries remains one of the greatest mysteries. To avoid holding up the TSA line and potentially watching as the TSA agent tosses your favorite shampoo in the trash, plan ahead and make sure that the toiletries you are bringing with you meet the TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage.

Erin Lizzo is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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