What Dermatologists Really Think About the TSA's Sunscreen Limit

Turns out, the TSA will not allow full-size sunscreen in carry-on bags.

beach bag with spf


Don’t toss your travel-sized sunscreens out just yet. 

On April 7, the Transportation Security Administration quietly changed its policy to include SPF on its list of medically necessary liquids, meaning it would no longer be subject to the 3.4 ounce liquid limit. However, just as skin experts and avid travelers began celebrating the long overdue update, the TSA quickly reversed the decision on April 12, stating that the website change had been made in error.

“Our website incorrectly reported that sunscreen containers larger than 3.4 oz. were allowed in carry-on bags, if medically necessary,” reads a TSA statement. “That error has been corrected. Travelers still need to ensure liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags meet the 3-1-1 requirements and are no larger than 3.4 ounces.”

The policy reversal is a major disappointment for experts in dermatology, who have been pushing for the TSA to update its regulations to be more sun-protection friendly. In a proposal published last October in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, experts from Brown University challenged the TSA’s sunscreen limit, arguing that “barriers to accessing sunscreen may be preventing optimal use, particularly among travelers.”

“We would never deny a person access to any other medication that a physician has deemed medically necessary,” says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology. He argues that if the TSA were to designate sunscreen as a medical necessity, it would force others to recognize SPF as a crucial component of skin cancer prevention. According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and around 4.3 million adults are treated for it each year.

Hartman also notes that permitting full-size sunscreens would allow passengers to be more consistent with their SPF application, especially on vacation when they’re most likely to experience prolonged exposures. “We know that compliance increases with familiarity. When patients are forced to use new products, they can develop allergies or breakouts due to differences in formulation.”

 If anything good has come from this debacle of mixed messages, it’s that SPF is now officially at the top of our minds as we start making our post-vaccination summer plans. Hot Girl Summer 2021 is still on—just keep your travel-sized sunscreens handy.  

 Here are a few of Team Byrdie’s favorite SPF picks under 3.4 ounces to pack in your carry-on. 

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