Packing everything you need for your business trip or vacation into a single carry-on bag speeds you along at your destination. You’ll avoid extra fees for checked bags and won’t have to worry about lost luggage during your flight. But Transportation Security Administration rules about what items you can legally bring on board the plane makes packing your bag tricky. Pay attention to the rules for toiletries and you won’t risk losing your items when you go through security.

Liquids and Gels

According to the TSA website, you may only carry on liquids and gels that are in 3.4-ounce containers or smaller. Liquids include toiletries such as shampoo, after-shave, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, conditioner, hand or body lotion, mouthwash and liquid makeup. Toiletries often found in gel form include toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm or lipstick. Transfer liquids and gels to smaller containers if the original package contains more than 3.4 ounces, or purchase special travel sizes or travel-sized containers. You may be able find these sizes of carry-on liquids in the duty-free areas of airports. You can’t take a large toothpaste tube with only a little left in it, or half a large bottle of shampoo. Additionally, all your bottles of liquids and gels must fit in a single 1-quart plastic bag.


TSA rules say liquid foundation, liquid eye liner, mascara, lip balm, cream blush, lip stick and any other makeup in liquid or gel form has to meet the 3.4-ounce container limit and must fit in a 1-quart plastic bag or zip-top bag. Powdered or pressed makeup, baby powder, talcum powder and other toiletries that aren’t in a liquid or gel form are not prohibited items and aren’t regulated during the screening process. Pack them in your carry on baggage as you wish.


Aerosol toiletries such as hairspray or mousse are exempt from the TSA's ban on aerosol products in carry-on and checked baggage. The TSA notes that passengers can bring such products on a plane in "limited quantities," but an exact number is undefined. Travelers are probably safe with a couple of cans, but a suitcase full of hairspray will catch the TSA's attention. Be mindful when packing and try to limit the amount of aerosols.


Disposable razors and their cartridges are the only types of razors permitted in your carry-on luggage. Sharp objects and razor-type blades, such as box cutters, utility knives, and safety razor blades, are only allowed in checked luggage. You may also carry nail clippers and nail scissors with blades shorter than 4 inches. Don’t pack knives, large scissors, lighters, or pepper spray in your carry-on item or personal item. If you need batteries for a toothbrush, razor or other item, these are allowed in your carry-on luggage. You also cannot bring aerosols like hairspray through airport security in your carry on because they are flammable; you need to bring any aerosols in checked baggage.

Decoding the 3-1-1 Rule

The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule caps the size of any liquids, gels, creams, pastes or aerosols that you have in your carry-on luggage at just over 3 ounces: 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters for each container, to be exact. You can take as many of those small bottles as will fit into a 1-quart-sized bag, although you should be able to zip the plastic bag closed – so don’t cram it completely full.

Allowable Toiletries

If you’re into removing nose hair with dynamite, sorry; you’re out of luck. But any reasonable toiletries can go on the plane with you as long as they follow the 3-1-1 rule. These include aerosols like hairspray, deodorant lip gloss, mascara and mousse; shampoo and conditioner; shower gel or body wash; toothpaste; and miscellaneous cosmetics, creams and moisturizers. A helpful tip is to buy TSA approved 3.4 ounce containers to put your liquids in, or simply travel-sized containers of your favorite products. to avoid hassle or additional screenings.Additionally, there are some carry on liquids, like breast milk, baby food and baby formula, that do not need to comply with the 3-1-1 rule. You might have to go through a brief screening process at the security checkpoint, but you should be fine.

Medically Necessary Extras

The TSA also allows you to take reasonable quantities of liquid medication, prescription medication, gels and aerosols – which includes contact lenses and contact lens solution – through separately from your quart-size baggie, but you must declare those items to the security officers when you go through the security screening checkpoint.Unsurprisingly, plenty of traveler anecdotes are out there about variable handling of this rule. If any of your toiletries in your personal item really are medically necessary in a quantity that won’t fit in your “3-1-1” quart-size baggie, you can smooth the way by keeping them in their original packing and bringing a copy of your prescription or a doctor’s note of medical necessity. Some travelers also print out a copy of the TSA’s own policy to show as proof – just in case.

Consider Hard Toiletries

If you want to pack more than a quart-size baggie’s worth of toiletries in your carry-on, consider subscribing to hard – that is, non-liquid – toiletries. Deodorant bars, bar shampoo and bars of soap instead of body wash are all perfectly fine to make it through the airport security x-ray and widely available on Amazon. You can even pack tooth powder instead of toothpaste, and if your skin isn’t too finicky, you can substitute lotion bars for a liquid moisturizing lotion. Otherwise, you might just have to settle for getting some checked baggage.

Packing Tips

Each traveler is allowed one 1-quart plastic bag for liquids and gels. You must remove this bag from your carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint for screening. Pack the bag where it’s easy to get to. If you’re traveling with liquid medications in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces, syringes or supplemental oxygen, you should remove these items from your luggage at the security checkpoint and allow the TSA agents or TSA officers to inspect them.If you’ve been dreaming of toting a suitcase full of hand sanitizer, sunscreen, body wash and toothpaste on your next vacation, you’re in luck: You can pack as many full-size toiletries into your checked bags as you want. But if you’re packing toiletries in your carry-on bag, you must abide by the Transportation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, which limits the amount of liquids, gels, creams, pastes and aerosols that you can carry onto the flight with you.If you’re even in doubt about whether or not you can bring something make sure to check the TSA website ( beforehand for a comprehensive list of TSA rules, travel tips and prohibited items. Flammable liquids, lighters, pepper spray or any other kind of weapons are strictly prohibited in your carry-on baggage around the globe.


Always bring important items like your prescription medications, breast milk, or baby food in your carry on bag so you have easy access to them in the overhead bins. Follow the liquids rule and keep them in quart-sized bags. Especially during long international flights this is important.