@AskTSA Travel Tips In Over 140 Characters: Hair Pat-downs

Thursday, April 21, 2016
Hair image

The first reaction many have when having their hair patted down during screening is to wonder what could be hiding in their hair. The second reaction possibly is “why me?”

We regularly receive tweets such as the one below and wanted to help clarify why and when hair is patted down.

TSA Tweet: Is it still a custom of yours to pat and check blacck women's hair after they have been screened?

To answer this question, yes, it is still TSA procedure to pat-down anyone’s hair when needed, no matter their race or gender. These approved methods may include visual inspection, swabbing for explosives or a pat-down.

There has been some disinformation out there stating that TSA no longer pats down hair. This is inaccurate. TSA has provided more oversight of the procedure to ensure there’s no profiling, but hair pat-downs are still conducted if one of the following applies:

  • The hair area alarms for a potential explosive
  • An individual’s hair looks like it could contain a prohibited item or is styled in a way an officer cannot visually clear it

You’d be surprised what can be hidden in hair. The most notable things we’re looking for in hair are explosives and improvised explosives device components. Any explosive amount could cause injury.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a travel tip. Using non-metallic hair pins or accessories may reduce the likelihood of having your hair patted down.


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If you’re scratching your head and wondering what @AskTSA is, it’s a small team of TSA professionals from various agency offices who answer TSA related questions from the traveling public that are sent via Twitter. You can read more about the program in this recent USA Today article.

If you have any TSA related travel questions, please send a tweet to our @AskTSA team. They’re available to answer your questions, 8 a.m.- 10 p.m., Eastern Time, weekdays; 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., weekends/holidays. Travelers may also reach out to the TSA Contact Center. The Contact Center (TCC) hours are Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.,Eastern Time; weekends and federal holidays, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Eastern Time. The TCC can be reached at 866-289-9673. Passengers can also reach out to the TSA Contact Center with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns.

Follow @TSA on Twitter and Instagram!

Bob Burns
TSA Social Media Team

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