How Much Sunscreen You Can Keep In Your Carry-On, According To The TSA

People were excited earlier in April when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) changed its rules on the website to add sunscreen to the list of liquids that could be deemed medically necessary. That would mean sunscreen could be packed in carry-on bags in larger sizes than the current restrictions for other liquids when flying. However, the celebrations were premature, and later on in the same week, the TSA corrected their statement and warned travelers that sunscreen still needs to be in containers less than 3.4 fluid ounces if being carried onto an aircraft. 

"Our website incorrectly reported that sunscreen containers larger than 3.4 ounces were allowed in carry-on bags, if medically necessary," the new statement reads. "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 3-1-1 rule refers to the TSA rule that states that travelers "may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters." Passengers are also required to have these liquids in a one-quart container.

Why does it matter if you can carry on sunscreen?

The reason people thought that the TSA had changed their stance on sunscreen was largely due to the dermatology department of Brown University challenging the administration, saying that sunscreen is a medical necessity to protect against skin cancer (via Simple Flying). This makes sense, considering an estimated 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer on a daily basis in the U.S. (via One Mile at a Time).

Being able to carry on sunscreen would have been a major benefit to domestic travelers heading to sunny spots for short (or simply well-packed) trips and vacations. Wearing sunscreen is a preventative measure that protects against certain skin cancers. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that wearing properly applied sunscreen on a regular basis can decrease your risk of skin cancer by 40%. But properly applied sunscreen means using a fair amount — roughly one ounce to cover your body — for protection from the sun's rays. That means a TSA-approved container of sunscreen in your carry-on will only be enough for three applications.

Sadly, this means you'll still have to check a bag if you want to bring your sunscreen on board with you. Or, you can always pack your carry-on with a small bottle and plan to buy more within a day or two of landing.