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Why Wearing Lotion to The Airport Can Ruin Your Trip

Who knew moisturizing your skin could cause so much trouble?

Two years ago, I was running late for a flight out of Las Vegas. Luckily, the TSA lines were short. I put my shoes and belongings in the security bin and walked through the sensor. Next, I was politely asked to step to the side and the TSA agent waved an electronic wand over my hands. I didn’t think much of it until she radioed her supervisor to ask for assistance–that’s when I learned my hands tested positively for explosives.


She asked if I’d handled a gun or gunpowder that day. The answer was no. Not that day or any day. Nevertheless, I was detained. I was taken to a private room where I was subjected to a polite, but thorough, search. It was embarrassing, to say the least. On top of that, I missed my flight.

I’ve since learned that many soaps and lotions containing the ingredient glycerin test positively for explosives and set off airport sensors every day, resulting in embarrassment, inconvenience, and missed flights.

She asked if I’d handled a gun or gunpowder that day. The answer was no. Not that day or any day.

According to a TSA spokesperson these incidents are uncommon, the agency was unable to provide me with any statistics pertaining to how often these false positives occur. So why take any chances? Here are a few easy steps you can take before flying to ensure smooth sailing through the security lines.

Carry Your Own Soap

The demand for personal hygiene doesn’t stop just because you happen to be traveling. If you’re away from home, chances are you’re washing your hands in various public restrooms throughout the day. It may not be possible to verify the ingredients in each soap to ensure there is no glycerin. This means you could be rolling the dice if you wash your hands in a public restroom shortly before boarding a flight.

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Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid accidentally using glycerin-based soap. Simply carry your own small, personal-sized soap bar with verified ingredients when you travel to keep those TSA sensors at bay.

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Rinse Your Hands Well

If you do use soap you’re unsure about, be sure to your hands thoroughly. Leave them under the water for an extra minute to make sure all the soapy residue is rinsed away.

Don’t Use Lotion on Travel Days

Read the ingredient list of your lotion carefully to see if it contains glycerin. If the ingredients aren’t available or you’re not certain, simply avoid wearing it on days you have a plane to catch. Your skin may be a little drier, but at least you’ll catch your plane on time.

Leave Early

TSA professionals work hard and they have an obligation to make sure they take each potential threat seriously.  The safety of many individuals is at stake.

Building time into your schedule in case of an unexpected setback will greatly alleviate your stress should anything occur to slow down your progress to the gate. Arriving at the airport two hours before your plane departs will help make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Fortunately, sensor setoffs are easy to avoid if you follow these tips. Here’s to a fabulous, hassle-free trip!

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