The TSA Rule on Liquid Makeup

Pack Makeup with Care Before a Big Adventure

Unless you're a supermodel, you probably feel a little wrinkled and harried by the time you get off a plane. A quick refresher with a few tried-and-true makeup products can help you feel like yourself again—but you're out of luck, if they got tossed in the trash back at the TSA screening area. Liquid makeup is subject to stricter rules than powder or solid stuff. Gels and aerosols have to be packed carefully, too. Keep yourself feeling selfie-ready at all times by packing your beauty balms correctly the first time.

The 3-1-1 Rule

All liquid, gels and aerosols in your carry-on must adhere to the TSA's 3-1-1 rule. Under the rule, each passenger must pack these substances into containers that are 3.4 ounces or smaller, and all the containers must fit into one 1-quart resealable plastic bag. The only exceptions to this rule are necessary medications, breast milk, juice and formula for infants and toddlers.

But there are no exceptions for the perfect concealer, so all of your liquid, gel and aerosol makeup must be packed to conform to the 3-1-1 rule.

So What Should I Do With My Makeup?

You can pack anything powdery or solid, like a highlighting palette or lipstick, in a makeup bag or other toiletries bag. Choose a bag with lots of small pockets, to keep your products from moving around too much, and to keep yourself organized.

As for your liquids, gels and aerosols—they all have to go into your 1-quart plastic bag. You may be on the fence about whether certain cosmetics, like mascara and "whipped" foundation, count as liquids, gels or aerosols. In those cases, play it safe and pack them with your other liquids. Any aerosol makeup that you spray on, like finishing sprays or airbrush foundation, must also go in this bag.

You may want to individually pack makeup containers into small plastic bags before putting them all into the 1-quart bag. That way, if one leaks or breaks, the mess will be contained, and you might even be able to salvage some of that pricey product.

If you're a makeup minimalist, or if you're not planning to bring many other liquid, gel or aerosol products, you may be able to fit all your usual products into a 1-quart bag with room to spare. If not, think about streamlining your choices. Bring a BB cream instead of separate foundation and moisturizer, and select a rosy lip and cheek stain to take the place of individual liquid blush and lip gloss. Your beauty supply store may also sell mini versions of your favorite products.


Checking a bag? Consider packing all your liquid, gel and aerosol makeup in there. Checked bags don't have to adhere to the 3-1-1 rule, so you can pack all the full-sized cosmetics you like. Stash a few basics, like mascara and concealer, in your carry-on in case your checked bags go AWOL.

What Else Should I Know?

Your 1-quart bag has to be screened separately from the rest of your carry-on bags, unless you're a TSA PreCheck member. Pack it near the top of your carry-on bag so you can remove it quickly at the security checkpoint.

When you're repacking it, wrap something soft around the bag and nestle it into the middle of your carry-on, to protect the containers from getting jostled and potentially broken—many makeup containers are glass and prone to leaking, so even if you've packed everything carefully, you should still take care to protect these products from harm.

Don't forget that most perfume, hair products, nail polish and body lotion also count as liquids, as well.

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