TSA Rules: Outsmart Security with Non-Liquid Alternatives to Ordinary Toiletries

Before the TSA ban on liquids on planes, I never thought much about the tiny bottles of lotion or old tubes of lip gloss buried in the bottom of my purse. I didn’t think twice about taking my full-sized toiletries in my carry-on bag. I happily bought perfume at the Duty Free shop during international layovers. Then, after the TSA ban took effect, I just started packing all my liquids into my checked bag. But these days, when nearly every airline is charging for even one checked bag, more and more travelers are trying to travel with only carry-on luggage – so how can you achieve carry-on-only utopia while still bringing the necessary toiletries to keep yourself well-groomed on your trip? After all, there’s only so much you can squeeze into one of those quart-sized plastic bags…

The answer is simple – use these non-liquid alternatives to your liquid toiletries.

Shampoo & Conditioner

This is not a cookie. It's shampoo.

This is not a cookie. It’s shampoo.

Even if you’re packing small travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, they take up space in one of those little plastic bags. Getting them out of the liquid category entirely frees up space in that bag, and has the added bonus of not being a potential leaky risk. There are a few companies making solid hair care products, so you have some options here. Perhaps the best-known company offering these kinds of products is LUSH. Most of the LUSH solid shampoos come in disc shapes that look more like pastel-hued cookies than soap (and with fun names like Squeaky Green, Godiva, and Jumping Juniper who can resist?), but I wouldn’t recommend eating these. The LUSH folks even make a reusable tin you can use to store and carry your solid shampoo in style.

Other makers of solid shampoos include SylvieL, Arcadia Aromatics, Carmel Soaps, and Tval Skincare. LUSH only makes one solid conditioner, but you’re still not terribly limited for choice in the conditioner department. All the companies listed in the shampoo category also make solid conditioners, too.

Using these products can take some getting used to, but the choices are expanding rapidly to include different formulas of shampoo and conditioner for different types of hair – so get a few to try before you travel to find out which ones work best for you. If you can find a store selling these solid shampoos and conditioners (rather than buying them online), you can usually buy whatever quantity you want and pay based on weight rather than being forced to buy a pre-packaged large bar. This can be a great way to sample a few different kinds before you settle on the perfect one for you.

And if even the idea of a little bar of shampoo-soap is too much for your pack-light sensibilities, then consider this Dissolving Paper Shampoo. Your hair may not thank you for it, but you can always treat yourself to a deep conditioning appointment at the salon when you get home.

Lotion

A lotion bar good enough to kiss.

Again, this is not for eating. It’s lotion.

I don’t know about you, but I always get a bad case of dry skin when I spend the day in airports, and on airplanes. Even when I was allowed to carry a small tube of lotion in my purse without declaring it, it was a hassle to use in-flight because it would inevitably squirt out the top of the tube in a geyser-like stream that was impossible to stop. And there are only so many times my husband will tolerate taking "the extra" lotion when it smells like lavender. So even without the TSA liquid ban I’d be a convert to solid lotion bars for travel days. In fact, I routinely give these as gifts to my traveling girlfriends. They are, in my eyes, the bee’s knees.

And speaking of bees, beeswax is one of the key ingredients in many of the solid lotions you’ll find. What makes it work is the heat of your hands, so by rubbing the lotion bar between your hands for a minute or so you’ll rub off a bit of the moisturizer which you can then rub into your skin. They probably won’t produce enough moisturizer to provide long-term relief for someone with seriously dry skin, but I’ve found them to be more than adequate for a travel day.

LUSH comes to the rescue in this category as well, with an assortment of Body Butters and Massage Bars that will get you around the liquid rule with ease. And once again, there’s a cute LUSH tin to carry your goodies in (and refill when you’ve used them up). If you’re looking for something you can use anywhere, go for the LUSH Massage Bars – the Body Butters are meant to be used in the shower and then rinsed off.

Perfume & Cologne

Perfume in a tin? Yes, indeed.

Okay, you’re using deoderant and you’re bathing regularly, so do you really need to worry about carrying perfume with you when you travel? In a word, no. Of course you don’t need to carry perfume or cologne. But don’t let the TSA’s liquid ban be the thing that stops you if you want to bring along a scent! Now, you can sometimes get tiny vials of the perfumes and colognes you know and love so that you’ll be traveling with your favorites – but what is travel if not an opportunity to be someone else for awhile? And what better way to do that than to put on another fragrance that you only wear when you travel?

Most of these little solid fragrances come in tins like the solid lotion or a small makeup compact, and the scent options are almost endless. LUSH has, as you have probably come to expect, some solid perfumes with fun names like "American Cream" and "Karma" – but my favorite is "Honey I Washed the Kids." And although not many companies may be crowding the store shelves with solid shampoos, LUSH has plenty of competition in the solid perfume category, such as these solid perfumes on Etsy and this selection from Klean Bath and Body.

Toothpaste

I'll pass on the tooth powder.

I admit that this one seems just gross enough that I’m still content to devote a small part of my quart-sized TSA-approved bag to a small tube of regular toothpaste, but I know that some of you are die-hards who are planning to brag at the hostel about how you traveled with only a carry-on bag and you didn’t bring any liquids – so for you, I present tooth powder. Far from being a new-fangled thing designed to skirt TSA rules, tooth powder is a throw-back to the way our forefathers used to clean their teeth. So with this non-liquid you get to be retro, too, which is an added bonus.

If you’re like me and you really appreciate the progress that’s been made in the area of dental care since the days of tooth powder, then find the sample/travel size section in your local drugstore and grab a tube or two of the mini-toothpastes available there. But what if you’ve got sensitive teeth and the usual drugstore samples won’t do? Then do what I do – every time you visit the dentist, ask for one or two extra mini-tubes of the Sensodyne they usually hand out at the end of each cleaning. This is just one more reason to see your dentist regularly, and make nice with the dental assistant. It pays in the end, really.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen in a stick.

I know, I know – you’re headed out on vacation with the sole purpose of lying on a beach somewhere when it’s the middle of winter back home, so you can flaunt your new tan around the office upon your return. Really, I understand. And I also know that finding a non-liquid alternative to sunscreen is a challenge. But I also once worked at the American Cancer Society, so I don’t accept either of those as good enough excuses to skip the sunscreen altogether.

The easiest option in the sun block department is to pick up whatever you need at your destination – but if you’re not sure what will be available, then you’ll want to bring something from home. Sun cream doesn’t usually come in travel-sized containers, but if you’re planning ahead you can transfer what you need to a TSA-approved 3-oz container. But how long will that amount last? To make sure you have a supply of sunscreen that won’t run out before the end of your trip, there are actually a couple of solid sunscreen options you can buy beforehand and take with you. One is by Mission Product, and the other is by KINeSYS – both are geared toward athletes, so they’re not in frilly or pretty packages and they don’t come with yummy scents. They will, however, protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Incidentally, KINeSYS also produces a sunscreen travel kit, complete with 1-oz bottles of several of their different products – including the solid Sun Protection Stick – already packaged in their very own plastic baggie!

Shaving Cream

Solid shaving soap.

If you’re so hard core that you’re trying to get away with practically no liquids in your carry-on-only voyage, chances are good that you’re also one of those travelers who shuns electrical appliances at all costs as well. Why fuss over adapters and converters when you can just go back to the old analog way of doing things instead? My hair straightener and I may disagree with your ways, but we understand where you’re coming from. We get why you’re leaving the electric shaver at home and going old-school with a razor. But to go with that razor, you’ll need some non-liquid version of your old shaving cream.

Like tooth powder, a bar of solid shaving soap isn’t so much a new way to avoid the TSA’s wrath as it is a look back in time. My father used to have a bar of shaving soap in a dish behind the sink, along with a big bristly brush to apply it to his face. Nowadays, you don’t need to bring a shaving brush with you on your trip, but you will need a bar of shaving soap. You can stick with the retro thing and go with something as delightfully-named as Colonel Ichabod Conk’s World Famous Glycerine Shave Soap, or you can carry on the international theme with shaving soap from Pre de Provence. Or, if you want to jump into the 21st century instead, you can try these Dissolving Paper Shaving Sheets that magically turn into shaving cream when water hits them. The choice is yours.

Or, heck – just grow a beard.

A Few Last Anti-Liquid Notes

TSA-approved baggie.

Of course, even if you’ve managed to substitute just about every liquid in your bag with one of these solids, you’re still likely to have something that can’t be swapped – contact lens solution, prescription acne cream, or a tiny bottle of your favorite perfume – but what’s left should be able to fit into one of those quart-sized plastic zip-top bag with ease.

And as a weird aside, it’s worth noting that both snow globes and gel shoe inserts (like those Dr. Scholls things) aren’t allowed on the plane unless they’re in a checked bag. Gel that’s incorporated into the sole of a shoe (and not removeable) is fine, but gel inserts and snow globes are going to be confiscated by the TSA if you try to take them through security. Now you know.

For the latest on what the TSA will and won’t allow through airport security, be sure to check out the official TSA website and the TSA list of prohibited items.


About the Author

BootsnAll writer Jessica Spiegel has pretty much gotten to the point where she hates airline travel, but if her next trip gives her a reason to buy a few new solid beauty products then maybe that’s not so bad. Jessica and her collection of lotion bars are dreaming of their next jaunt to Italy, and writing the Italy Travel Guide in the meantime.

original photo at the bottom by djbones on Flickr

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Older comments on TSA Rules: Outsmart Security with Non-Liquid Alternatives to Ordinary Toiletries

Ian Rose
22 January 2009

Yeah, having used tooth powder before, I’m not likely to go back to it unless absolutely forced.

Kitchen Gadget Girl
22 January 2009

this is a great list – my sister travels all the time for work, I think I might put together a little care package for her….