Yes, I'm wasting an Ask on TSA/bodybutter issues!
December 20, 2009 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Will TSA confiscate my two containers of Body Shop body butter? They are Christmas presents for friends back home and I don't want to have to repurchase them once I get to my destination. They are each 6.9 ounces.

I looked on the TSA's website and all they mention is gels or liquids. I know TSA can be fickle (and I'm not here to complain about security measures at all) I'm just wondering if anyone has any experience getting body butter through security in my roller bag.

The butter is pretty thick and not gel like at all. Thanks folks.
posted by timpanogos to Travel & Transportation (32 answers total)
If it's in your carry-on, you definitely run the risk of them confiscating it. Checked baggage: you're okay.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:58 PM on December 20, 2009

If you put them in your checked bags they won't, but they could if they are in your carry on.
posted by samsaunt at 9:59 PM on December 20, 2009

Response by poster: Yes - Certainly the risk is greater in the carry on situation. My question boils down to- is there a specific part of the TSA policy that prohibits lotions?? I could only find gel and liquid and wanted to know if someone had gotten lotion through, or if they even care about lotion. I found stuff from 2005 that mentioned lotion but nothing recent.
posted by timpanogos at 10:00 PM on December 20, 2009

If all you've got is carryon luggage, ship the containers to your destination.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:00 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would either 1) Put the containers in a checked bag, or 2) Mail them to the destination before leaving. Of course, if you do the latter, they might not arrive by Christmas, but this is the safest option.
posted by Lobster Garden at 10:01 PM on December 20, 2009

It's a crapshoot. They might not notice them, but if they do, chances are they will be confiscated (technically, gels can be thick and hard). I'm assuming you are asking because you do not wish to check your baggage -- if the cost of checking a bag is greater than the cost of the body butter, might as well try it.
posted by Behemoth at 10:02 PM on December 20, 2009

I've travelled with this stuff before in my carry-on luggage, pretty sure. That said, doing a little googling, similarly packaged products like pomade sometimes get through and sometimes don't, from what I can tell. If it were me though, I'd try to be on the safe side and check a bag. Or mail it ahead of you priority which might be cheaper. For reference, you can bring a pie through a checkpoint, so I sometimes feel that this sort of thing can be a little arbitrary and you really might want to err on the side of caution if it's going to wreck your trip. Alternately you could repackage the stuff in six smaller containers, but I think this is getting into the "talking crazy" category, but it would work.
posted by jessamyn at 10:02 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think that's one of those things (like potato salad, or pie) that is really, really going to be at the discretion of the individual TSA agent. I have definitely gotten a very small tub of Burt's Bees Hand Salve (which is not quite the same consistency, but I think close) through security many times, but I think it might just be so small it doesn't even register for them. Similarly, chapstick has never been an issue for me, nor has solid deodorant. I think if you do run into a problem, it'll be because these are relatively large containers of a personal grooming product. It won't be due to the consistency, it'll just be because the tubs look weird on the xray, and so they'll want to look in your bag, and they'll see that it's essentially lotion, and then the judgment call occurs and you hope for the best.

Nthing check it if you can. You can't just take these back and buy them where you're going? You mention re-buying as an undesirable option, but jeez, so much easier to just buy it there...
posted by crinklebat at 10:04 PM on December 20, 2009

Best answer: I wouldn't bet that your average TSA agent would draw a distinction between a gel and a body butter. You never know how strict or observant a person is going to be on duty when you go through, but I'd say if it's at all possible for you to return the ones it sounds like you've already bought, and buy the same thing at your destination end, that would be a safer route to go.
posted by lakeroon at 10:06 PM on December 20, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, I can see the point now. It is arbitrary and not worth the risk. I was hoping it would be arbitrary enough to lean on the "yeahhhh probs" side but it's really not. I would be thirty five dollars annoyed if they got confiscated

Thanks for the suggestions to mail them. I'm headed out West and worry it won't get there by Christmas. What crinkle said: I'll just have to rebuy them out there and return the ones I have here.

ps: The pie thing just kills me!
posted by timpanogos at 10:08 PM on December 20, 2009

This clearly mentions lotions.
posted by Raymond Marble at 10:16 PM on December 20, 2009

My sister had some body lotion, which she had gotten for someone as a gift, confiscated. So it definitely happens.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 PM on December 20, 2009

I've been through the same airport twice, and each time they confiscated every single one of my bathing products. Even when the bottle was nearly empty. Just check it. (In my case she offered me to check it before throwing the stuff out but I didn't have enough money.)
posted by biochemist at 10:31 PM on December 20, 2009

I had to throw out a tub of delicious not-really-gel-like hummus before entering the boarding zone of a particular airport. Not by TSA, but I can see them doing the same.
posted by beerbajay at 10:50 PM on December 20, 2009

My mom just got back from a business trip Friday where the TSA wouldn't let her bring sealed jars of jam onto the plane. She had to go back and check the bag (while her coworker sailed through with a 20 oz. bottle of soda, so there you go). If they get huffy about jam I imagine lotion will be a red flag as well.
posted by lilac girl at 10:53 PM on December 20, 2009

If you mail them tomorrow I think there's a great chance they will get there. I've had cards and parcels cross the country super fast the last few days. You also could UPS them, expensive but they'd get there for sure.

Based on my previous experience I think the chance the TSA will take them is about 99%. When they say "gels" etc, they basically mean anything that isn't solid.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:11 PM on December 20, 2009

The TSA once confiscated a pair of empanadas from me on the grounds that their bean filling was a gel. I have never again made assumptions that they would see things "reasonably" since that incident.

If you're in doubt, check it. Body butter is certainly more gel-like than frijoles refritos.
posted by iktomi at 11:12 PM on December 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

Yeah, they challenged my bean empanada because of the consistency too! I was starving so I stood there eating it. And a tiny yogurt. You really don't want to bring those onto the plane if you can't afford to lose them, sorry.
posted by barnone at 11:33 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

The rule I was given when they confiscated my peanut butter a few months ago was that if you could spread it, they would take it.

Apparently if I had spread my peanut butter on my tortillas ahead of time, it would have been safe. Once the peanut butter had been deemed potentially explosive, however, sandwich assembly was not allowed.

Live and learn. Don't bring it in your carry-on. Checked should be fine.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:08 AM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a jar of American Crew Pomade confiscated. It was something like 3.X ounces, and the cutoff was 3.(smallerX). It had just a slight bit left; I had taken it expecting to run out and not have to pack it home.

They can take them according to current guidelines. Will they? Don't know--stuff like that gets through sometimes too, and I imagine it's more likely to pass through if you don't pack it in the obvious toiletry clear bag. But why gamble?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:49 AM on December 21, 2009

Body butter can go where all the other gels, liquids, liquid eyeliner, lotions, mascara (they got me on that one last year, damnit) and toothpaste can go: in your checked luggage.

Yes, they are that thorough, and when harried, during the holidays, they can be kind of snappish, too.
posted by squasha at 1:02 AM on December 21, 2009

If you mail them Priority today they'll probably get there Thursday.
posted by 6550 at 5:01 AM on December 21, 2009

Response by poster: The bean empanada anecdotes are cracking me up. For two answers! What are the odds?
posted by timpanogos at 5:46 AM on December 21, 2009

I once had one of those Tide stain remover pens confiscated from my carry-on. I would check them or rebuy.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2009

Same thing with the peanut butter. I've had it taken on at least two trips. And it's funny, because when they moved my bag to search it by hand, the TSA agent asked me if I had any "body butter" in the bag. No, it was peanut butter, no snack for me. So, at least one TSA agent in BOS would take body butter if he found it!
posted by teragram at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2009

phatkitten writes "I've forgotten -- multiple times -- to properly pack a mini-sized Body Shop body butter"

The mini sizes are only 1.75 oz and so are fine Assuming it's not flammable. Which leads to the tactic I'd use: buy several of the smaller tubs up to the one gallon limit. Costs more but you don't have to worry about the containers going missing in your checked bag. You could mix up the fragrances to compensate for the increased cost.
posted by Mitheral at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2009

I am really surprised by all these answers. I bring my contact solution, face wash, and mascara through security all the time and have never once been confronted about it. I try and take smaller bottles when I go, but sometimes I just bring whatever. I guess my experiences are out of the norm then.
posted by afterdark at 8:03 AM on December 21, 2009

The TSA has confiscated body butter from me, which I had completely forgotten about, in exactly the size you are asking about. It's not just the amount of product in the container, but also the size of the container as well. I wouldn't take the chance.
posted by Zophi at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got hassled for having my liquids in a ziploc baggie that was slightly larger than the size permitted. I'd gotten through my airport in Austin with no problem, and only got hassled on my flight out of Boston. They really hassled me, though, and were kind of jerks about it. I wouldn't chance it if you don't want it to get confiscated. I would mail it to yourself or check it.
posted by ishotjr at 8:42 AM on December 21, 2009

I just flew and took a whole mess of small liquid-filled containers including eyedrops, lotion, lip balm, etc in my carry-on. They were free-floating, not in any kind of ziploc baggie. I also managed to get on the plane without once showing photo ID, though, so that airport certainly wasn't interested in security measures.
posted by thewestinggame at 12:09 PM on December 21, 2009

My sunscreen was confiscated. That definitely falls into "lotion" territory.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on December 21, 2009

What airport are you flying out of? When I fly out of New Orleans (MSY) they don't even bother to look at my quart-sized plastic bag. Not so much at bigger airports.

One thing might be to check and see if the airport you're flying out of has a Body Shop in it, and just buy the items there.
posted by radioamy at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2009

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