Which Beauty Products Can You Bring in Your Carry-On Bag When You Travel?

Glossier beauty travel kit of moisturizer, cleanser, lip balm, toothbrush, and toothpaste in green tin


The thought of jetting off to somewhere new is normally pretty exciting—it's always great to get a break from the day-to-day and go on a fun adventure. However, there's one part of the travel equation that can cause a ton of stress before you even step foot on an airplane: figuring out which cosmetics are allowed in your carry-on bags. If you're packing for an upcoming trip, you may be wondering: Can you bring nail polish on a plane, which makeup and skincare products count as liquids, and how should you organize it all to ensure smooth travels? Luckily, we have all the answers for you ahead.

If you’re traveling by air any time soon, remember that you can’t just throw any beauty and skincare products in your carry-on. Trust us: This could end up being a very costly mistake if you happen to pack incorrectly and any of your expensive products get confiscated. To avoid this—and any other trouble while going through security—you’ll need to follow a series of regulations set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). We've interpreted their rules to help you understand what it means for your favorite products. Keep reading for all you need to know about packing your travel beauty essentials.

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Does the 3-1-1 rule ring a bell? This is the TSA’s rule for packing liquids in your carry-on luggage. This rule has been around for more than 15 years now, so it probably isn’t the first time you’re hearing about it. But it’s always good to have a bit of a refresher, so here we go:

The 3-1-1 rule basically states that all liquids must be in a container that is 3.4 ounces or smaller, and all of your carry-on liquids must fit in one clear, quart-sized bag. This rule applies to all sorts of everyday items, like sunscreen, makeup, lotion, and shampoo. If you have liquid, gel, or cream skincare products you need to pack, it’s important to consider this rule before hitting the airport.

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When packing liquid makeup products, you'll want to stick to the liquid limits we previously mentioned. You're free to pack items like mascara, brow gel, and concealer in your carry-on, as long as they're smaller than 3.4 ounces and packed in a clear, quart-sized bag.

You might assume you're in the clear to pack whatever solid makeup products you want, but this isn't always the case. Keep in mind that any powder or powder-like substances that are larger than 12 ounces need to go in a separate bin when you go through X-ray screening. Most powder makeup products are smaller than 12 ounces, though, so don't stress this one too much.

Curious about lipstick and chapstick? TSA regulations allow you to pack both in your carry-on or checked baggage.

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Nail Polish

Because of its small size, nail polish is pretty easy to pack for your travels. Any nail polish that’s 3.4 ounces (or 100 ml) or smaller is allowed in your carry on. Most nail polish is smaller than this, so you don’t need to think twice before tossing your favorite color in your bag. But no matter how bored you get in-flight, it's probably best not to apply any nail polish on the plane. Turbulence might leave your hands looking like an art project, but more importantly, the scent can be irritating to the people seated around you in such a tight space.

If you want to pack nail polish in your checked baggage, don't plan on bringing your entire collection. Regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) limit you to 70 ounces or less of medicinal and toiletry items, which includes things like hairspray, hand sanitizer, nail polish remover, and nail polish.

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When packing your shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, and other liquid hair products, stick to small bottles that are 3.4 ounces or less, and remember that the TSA wants you to toss them all in one clear, quart-sized bag.

Sick of packing shampoo and conditioner? An upcoming trip could be a good time to try a solid shampoo or conditioner bar.

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Body Care

Make sure your lotions, creams, and other liquid body products are each 3.4 ounces or smaller and packed in a clear, quart-sized container. If you like to pack wet wipes or makeup wipes to freshen up during your travels, you're free to bring these in your carry-on or checked luggage.

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Perfume is permitted in carry-on luggage as long as the container is 3.4 ounces or smaller. To eliminate any confusion when packing or potential problems when going through security, consider buying a travel-sized bottle of your favorite scent that you use solely when traveling.

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If you're traveling with medication, it's important to store it in your carry-on rather than your checked bag. This is so you still have your medication on hand if your checked bag is lost or delayed. This travel hack has potential to save you from a massive headache in the long run.

If you use any liquid medical products—like a prescription cream, shampoo, contact lens solution, or medication, you can pack these products even if they're larger than 3.4 ounces. However, it's important to let TSA know about these products in your bag. Here's what the TSA says about this: "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."

Keeping up with your usual beauty routine while traveling is totally possible as long as you keep the 3-1-1 rule in mind as you pack your carry-on bag. This means you want to make sure all your liquid, gel, cream, and aerosol products are in containers smaller than 3.4 ounces. Pop all these items in the same clear, quart-sized bag, toss it in your carry-on, and you should be good to go.

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