Packing

Can You Pack Aerosol Sunscreen in Checked Luggage?

February 12, 2024

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READING TIME, 5 MINUTES

Middle-aged couple at the beach. You're gearing up for that dream vacation you've been planning for months and are excited about the upcoming air travel. You've got your itinerary sorted, your passport tucked safely away. But wait – what about sunscreen? Can you pack your aerosol sunscreen in your checked luggage?

Sunscreen is essential for sun protection for any traveler venturing into sunny destinations. Of course, you want a hassle-free travel experience. So the question is, “Can you pack aerosol sunscreen in your checked luggage?” The short answer is yes, with some exceptions.

You're not alone in pondering this question. In fact, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), 858 million passengers boarded flights in the United States in 2023. With travel becoming increasingly accessible and popular, it's no wonder questions about essentials like sunscreen and aerosol containers crop up.

So, let’s dive into this question and uncover the facts you need to know.

Why Use Aerosol Sunscreen?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use aerosol sunscreen.

    1. It’s easy to apply. This makes it convenient for places that are difficult to reach, like your back.
    2. It dries quickly. Aerosol sunscreen scores points for people who don’t like the feeling of lotion.
    3. There’s no white residue. Unlike zinc oxide products, you can’t see aerosol sunscreen once it’s been applied.
    4. There’s less mess. Aerosol sprays reduce the likelihood of spills compared to sunscreen lotion.
    5. It's often water-resistant. This makes it a good solution for people who like swimming.

Safety Precautions

If you’re using aerosol spray sunscreen, be sure to use it outdoors. Pay attention to the wind direction so you don’t inhale it, and make sure no one close by does either.

What Are the Regulations Regarding Packing Aerosol Sunscreen?

Aerosol sunscreen is convenient and easy to apply, but are full-size aerosol sunscreens a hassle to pack in your checked luggage? The good news is: not necessarily.

When it comes to packing various types of sunscreens, it's all about navigating the regulations set forth by aviation authorities. You also want to make sure your sunscreen doesn't cause any hiccups during your journey, like leaking and ruining your clothes.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), you can take non-flammable aerosol products, like sunscreens and other aerosol toiletries, such as shaving cream, spray deodorant, and hair spray on the plane.

TSA rules say that each allowed aerosol container in checked luggage must not exceed 18 fluid ounces (approximately 532 milliliters) in capacity. The total quantity per person can’t exceed 70 fluid ounces or 2 liters.

This limitation was put in place to minimize the risk associated with aerosols, particularly safety concerns regarding pressure changes at high altitudes.

You can pack a can of aerosol sunscreen in your carry-on baggage, but only in limited quantities based on the 3-1-1- rule. That means each item must be 3.4 ounces or less. Of course, if you're packing sunscreen in your hand luggage, it needs to fit along with the rest of your items in a 1-quart, clear plastic zip-lock bag so you can get through airport security.

However, even though you think you're complying with the rules, remember that TSA officers have the final say as to what gets onto the plane.

While the FAA allows you to take aerosol sunscreen in your checked baggage, it's worth noting that regulations may vary depending on your destination. Different rules may apply in different countries, and airlines may have their own specific regulations regarding aerosols. It's always wise to double-check before you jet off.

Which Aerosol Sunscreens Can I Take?

In most places, you can take any brand of sunscreen you’d like. However, certain areas, particularly those around the ocean, have restrictions.

A coral reef with fish to illustrate the wildlife that may be lost with chemical sunscreens like those in aerosol sprays.Some sunscreens contain chemicals that, while protecting humans, become toxic to fish and corals, and in 2021, Hawai’i passed the first ban on reef-harming sunscreens.

Since then, Key West in Florida, other Caribbean islands, and some spots in Mexico have also banned chemical sunscreens.

According to the Coral Reef Alliance, the best choices in sunscreen are “biodegradable, mineral-based sunscreens, with non-nano Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide as preferred active ingredients." Their website lists a number of mineral sunscreen brands that offer great options for you to choose from.

Two recommended brands that I like and use are Badger and CeraVe. They don’t come in aerosol form, but I like the way they feel, and I like the fact that I'm protecting the environment.

Why the Fuss?

Why is there such a fuss over aerosols in the first place? Well, flammable liquids and airplanes just don't mix. Aerosols contain compressed gases and liquids under pressure, making them potentially hazardous if they’re subjected to extreme conditions.

Airlines and aviation authorities prioritize passenger safety above all else, hence the need for stringent guidelines regarding aerosols.

Now, just because you can take your sunscreen with you, I don’t want to give you the idea that you can take any kind of aerosol items with you. For example, flammable aerosols like WD-40 or spray paint are too dangerous and are prohibited.

If you have any questions, check the TSA website or the FAA website. Always err on the side of safety.

Options for Aerosol Sunscreen

Showing options for aerosol sunscreens.You might want to consider various options besides packing a can of sunscreen in your checked baggage.

  • Pack a travel-sized can of sunscreen (3.4 oz or less) in your hand luggage if you’re just on a short trip.
  • Choose a different, more environmentally-friendly type of sunscreen like a suntan lotion or a solid stick sunscreen. The advantage of a stick is that it’s not classified as a liquid by TSA, so you can pack it in either your checked luggage or your cabin bag and not be restricted by the 3-1-1 rule.
  • Leave your sunscreen at home and buy some at your destination.
  • Stay out of the sunThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying out of the sun when UV rays are the strongest (usually 10-4) or if the UV index is 3 or greater.
  • Wear clothing that provides protection from UV rays. Check out Coolibar or Columbia.

Conclusion

In conclusion, yes, you can pack aerosol sunscreen in checked luggage, but with a few caveats and considerations. Just remember to check the TSA guidelines, adhere to any additional regulations from your airline or destination, and ensure your sunscreen is packed securely in a zip-top bag to avoid any unwanted surprises.

I’d also encourage you to consider the options above. However, whichever sunscreen you choose, I want to congratulate you on the decision to protect yourself against the sun.

Now off you go! Have a great trip. 🌞🕶️🧴

P.S. Want more travel tips for traveling in the second half of life? Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Coffee & Compass. I've got all sorts of tips for planning your trip, packing, downsizing your toiletries, and much, much more.

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