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TSA Travel Tips: Hair Products and Pat-Downs - What to Know and What to Expect

Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Hair Pat-down

“I’ve never had a bad hair day,” said no one ever! Whether you style your hair curly or straight, wear weave or extensions, or wear your hair up or down, everyone has had those days where your hair will not fall into place as you hoped. Imagine traveling through the security checkpoint on your best hair day of any season, and having to go through additional screening of your hair. It can’t be my hair that caused the alarm? Could it?  Here are few tips and tricks you should know before you head out to the airport.

Know TSA’s Liquids Rule

We all have those “can’t leave home without them” necessities to include our go-to hair products. The good news is you CAN carry them on, but with a few stipulations. Liquids, including, gels, creams and aerosols are allowed in your carry-on bag, but only if they adhere to TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule. Whether you buy the travel size or save a few coins and place what you already have in a reusable travel size container, each container must be 3.4 ounces or less, stored in a 1-quart size bag, and 1 zip-top bag is allowed per person. You’ll have to place your liquids bag in a bin for screening, so for your convenience pack them in a place that’s easy to get to.

Hair products in 3-1-1 baggie

You can skip that step entirely by packing your liquids in your checked bag. Since there are no limits on the size or amount of liquids in your checked bag, your favorite full size shampoo and conditioner can fly, but let’s be honest, who wants to risk any messy spillage?

Remember these tips before you fly

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before you arrive at the airport. Hair accessories such as bobby pins, metal clips, ties, wraps, and even bows may cause an alarm. This may also include clip-on extensions, wigs, toppers, and certain hair styles such as braids or a hair bun. To avoid any potential delays, it’s best to keep it simple while going through security. You can always style your hair to your liking after you’ve gone through screening and right before you board your flight.

What to expect during screening

You may be screened by a walk-through metal detector, an advanced imaging technology machine and/or a pat-down. If by chance your head region sets off an alarm during screening, then you will get a pat-down conducted by an officer of the same gender as your present yourself. Before the start of a pat-down, the officer will walk you through the process, which includes an officer using their hands to conduct a physical inspection of your hair to ensure that no prohibited items are being concealed. Reminder, communication is key!

  • DO be sure to tell the TSA officer of any sensitivities or concerns you may have before the inspection.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the officer to use a new pair of gloves.
  • DO remember that you can always request to speak with a supervisor or request a private screening accompanied by a companion of your choice.

Have additional questions or concerns? We have a team ready to answer your questions @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on ET on weekends. You may also email the TSA Contact Center or call (866) 289-9673. Representatives are available 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 pm. ET, weekends are 9 to 7p.m. ET.

For any additional questions on what you can bring through the security checkpoint, see TSA.gov and use the What can I bring? feature.

TSA Social Media

Comments

Submitted by Renee on

most of the time I carry small amounts of cosmetics and just go to a walmart to purchase travel size of whatever I need, to Avoid the hassle with TSA

Submitted by Kelly on

What could possibly be in someone's hair to cause a physical inspection?

Submitted by West Cooper on

Kelly sez - "What could possibly be in someone's hair to cause a physical inspection?"

Depending upon the hairstyle, quite a bit. larger, thicker hairstyles, in certain configurations can conceal just about anything you can imagine, guns, knives - literally, they are only limited by physics and creativity.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Paranoia reigns at DHS/TSA:

"Potential insider threats within the aviation industry include a wide variety of individuals involved with the aircraft and passenger, including, but not limited to, the following categories:”

• Airline employees;
• Concession and restaurant employees;
• Cleaning and catering crews;
• Construction and maintenance crews;
• Law enforcement, military and/or security personnel;
• Taxi cab, shuttle bus and/or other transportation specialists;
• Current and/or former TSA employees;
• Current and/or former contract government employees; and
• Air Traffic Controllers"

https://www.biometricupdate.com/201809/strange-occurrences-highlight-ins...

Submitted by This Is Rank No... on

Nothing in this post actually explains what is supposed to happen in a TSA pat-down, and it does not address the frequently asked, frequently ignored question posted on this blog: How is a traveler supposed to be able to tell the difference between a TSA pat-down and a sexual assault? Where, exactly, is the line, and what should a traveler whose pat-down becomes a sexual assault -- assuming there's a difference to begin with -- do?

Should this blog's utter unwillingness to address this legitimate question about invasive physical searches be taken as confirmation that TSA's pat-downs are, in fact, sexual assaults?

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

I thought the big fancy scanners were supposed to eliminate this kind of thing. Are you now saying this equipment is ineffective and/or inadequate?

Submitted by Jack on

You wrote:
Since there are no limits on the size or amount of liquids in your checked bag,

Please note the FAA prohibitions of flammable toiletries over 16 fl oz, flammable non-toiletries and some alcoholic beverages will be removed by the airlines.

Submitted by Anne Pikolas on

I know, really!

Submitted by Giddalti on

Explosives. Detonators. Wiring to complete an explosive device beyond the security check point. A terrorist seeks the trickiest way to get an explosive device on a plane. These searches are for everyone's safety. You have no idea what forms an explosive can possibly be in (powder, plastic, putty the size of a fingertip and more). The government wouldn't waste time and money on this project if there weren't a reason. When you go to the airport, if you don't want a pat down, wear simple clothes, simple hairstyle and follow the directions. Don't wear sparkly clothing, too loose-fitting or bulky clothing, a lot of pins and hairpieces in your hair.

Submitted by Giddalti on

Just put them in a checked suitcase and you don't have to worry about it. That's the easiest way to travel on planes.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Susan sez - "

Paranoia reigns at DHS/TSA:

"Potential insider threats within the aviation industry include a wide variety of individuals involved with the aircraft and passenger, including, but not limited to, the following categories:”

• Airline employees;
• Concession and restaurant employees;
• Cleaning and catering crews;
• Construction and maintenance crews;
• Law enforcement, military and/or security personnel;
• Taxi cab, shuttle bus and/or other transportation specialists;
• Current and/or former TSA employees;
• Current and/or former contract government employees; and
• Air Traffic Controllers"

Just for context, I will provide a little bit more from the article, TSA is asking for the folks that work at the airports to be more aware of their surroundings, and to keep an eye out for suspicioous behaviors and misuse of equipment, as well as violations of access control procedures:

"The DNI report said indicators of insider threats include the following – most, in not all of which, can be detected by a variety of specialized biometrics-based security detection systems:

• Displays of nervous or secretive behavior; sweating; lack of eye contact;
• Apparent monitoring of access points;
• Body language/movement consistent with “photo panning” with a hidden camera;
• Avoidance of security cameras;
• Misusing credentials;
• Misusing cyber systems;
• Conducting unauthorized searches; and
• Allows access badge sharing and “piggy backing” at security gates and doors."

The article comes after 2 people that were actual insider threats, pulled off two fairly high profile incidents in a short period of time, resulting in 2 deaths (their own). One was a ramp worker that stole a commercial plane and crashed on an island, the other was a private pilot that stole a private jet, and flew it into his home after a domestic violence situation. Both incidents had no known nexus to terrorism, but they do illustrate that awareness of things happening at the airports is a good thing - which is what TSA was aiming for with the briefing. There are also some enhancements being made for the vetting process, in order to try and possibly head off any future events.

SSSS sez - "I thought the big fancy scanners were supposed to eliminate this kind of thing. Are you now saying this equipment is ineffective and/or inadequate?"

If the AIT alarms on hair that could possibly conceal dangerous item(s), it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do - identify possible threats for closer scrutiny. This is resolved with the pat-down process.

Jack sez - "Please note the FAA prohibitions of flammable toiletries over 16 fl oz, flammable non-toiletries and some alcoholic beverages will be removed by the airlines."

Jack, thanks for the reminder on these regs!

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Now, Now, West on

"If the AIT alarms on hair that could possibly conceal dangerous item(s), it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do - identify possible threats for closer scrutiny. This is resolved with the pat-down process."

The fact of the matter is that your fancy body scanners have never found a single dangerous item and therefore have a false positive rate of 100%, which we know from your years of "police blotter" blog posts. Since the fancy body scanners have never alarmed on a dangerous item, it makes no sense for you to pretend that those alarms are cause to grope people's hair or bodies.

Submitted by Jeff on

What hogwash, these TSA people are trying to save my life, your negativity is offensive. It takes just a modicum of common sense in these matters, something you utterly lack. You are playing off political sensationalism in your post, they need to find hidden tools of mayhem and that requires hands on effort. Be prepared, make it easy on yourself and the TSA folks, and quit with your pessimism.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"• Displays of nervous or secretive behavior; sweating; lack of eye contact;
• Apparent monitoring of access points;
• Body language/movement consistent with “photo panning” with a hidden camera;"

Voodoo that the GAO concluded years ago is useless but DHS/TSA, being as arrogant as they are, refuses to heed good advice and forego the voodoo.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Now, Now - " The fact of the matter is that your fancy body scanners have never found a single dangerous item and therefore have a false positive rate of 100%, which we know from your years of "police blotter" blog posts. Since the fancy body scanners have never alarmed on a dangerous item, it makes no sense for you to pretend that those alarms are cause to grope people's hair or bodies."

Sigh. A quick look will reveal that just last year the AIT resulted in the discovery of a firearm. We consistently find items with the AIT, some of them dangerous, some of them not. The majority of items found with the AIT are not dangerous, however, we find dangerous items from time to time. Not all of these items discovered generate a report, sometimes someone just forgot an item, sometimes it is a different case - which usually results in us writing about it here.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by West Cooper on

Susan sez - "Voodoo that the GAO concluded years ago is useless but DHS/TSA, being as arrogant as they are, refuses to heed good advice and forego the voodoo."

Actually, those are common sense methods of observation, employed by military, intelligence, law enforcement and smart folks everywhere.

If you have someone acting nervous, it makes sense to go talk to them, see if they need help, or if they are up to no good. Never assume either way, but it is a good reason to start a conversation with someone for both security and customer service reasons.

In a security area, if police or security personnel see someone observing access points consistently over a period of time - taking notes and or keeping up with what is going in/out of the access point, video recording those activities is also a good person to go speak to. They may simply be interested in what is going on, or they may be game planning for something nefarious - again, you never assume either way, you are simply speaking to the person to see if they need help, if there is something you can give them information on, or if they have bad plans.

Photo panning is a great way to make a memory of a place that is intriguing or beautiful. I have done it in the past at places like the beach, the mountains, even the NYC skyline. Photo panning with a hidden camera is the same thing, but with an element of suspicion. There is no prohibition against photography in public, and the equipment used for covert filming is not nearly as good in terms of image quality (for the most part, there are always exceptions), or equipment availability. Any time someone is acting outside of the norm, it is a chance to offer them help and socialize, the other side of those conversations is to let someone that has nefarious intent know that they are being noticed.

As outlined a bit above, this is a twofold positive. If we approach them consistently, someone that is nervous can get help, we can  break the ice and have someone socialize with them a bit to help ease their concerns, give directions, etc. If the individual has nefarious intent, it gives us the chance to act as a deterrent, or at least create more of a challenge for them. Many of the behavioral analysis programs and studies are based upon common sense observations, and interactions.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Now, Now, West on

"A quick look will reveal that just last year the AIT resulted in the discovery of a firearm. "

A firearm made of metal, which a WTMD would have detected a whole lot more simply. So your batting average is still zero.

And, really, that's it? Nearly a decade of these things, millions of innocent people groped and molested over false alarms, and you say one item that a WTMD would have found justifies it? Tell us, were any charges filed? Was the person with the firearm a terrorist? Oh, right: You don't collect data that would reveal how bad your agency is at its job.

Pathetic.

Submitted by Jean on

To now now now west : Could it be that the scanners are “preventive” in nature? That being the case, then they are doing an excellent job of keeping people from attempting to smuggle dangerous items through the screening process!

Submitted by Jean on

To now now west : Could it be that the scanners are “preventive” in nature? That being the case, then they are doing an excellent job of keeping people from attempting to smuggle dangerous items through the screening process!

Submitted by The "Original" RB on

Submitted by West Cooper on Tue, 2018-10-09 13:22
Kelly sez - "What could possibly be in someone's hair to cause a physical inspection?"

Depending upon the hairstyle, quite a bit. larger, thicker hairstyles, in certain configurations can conceal just about anything you can imagine, guns, knives - literally, they are only limited by physics and creativity.

TSA Blog Team

*************************

Has TSA ever found WEI in anyones hair? Travelers are not prisoners and shouldn't be treated as such!

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Submitted by Jeff on Wed, 2018-10-10 13:54
....these TSA people are trying to save my life,

What hogwash.

The TDS is even less effective than this Magic Tiger Repelling Rock and the rock wouldn't cost right billion dollars a year.

And your blindly accepting the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the TEA is offensive.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

West, nobody reads past the second sentence of your screeds.

One gun in 2017 at LAX, , and one knife, also in 2017, found at DEN, both of which would have been found by MMW instead of gropings, at far less expense to the taxpayer while at the same time removing the possibility of an attack on the hordes of people waiting to go through TSA checkpoints.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

"..Photo panning with a hidden camera is the same thing, but with an element of suspicion."

OK. But is it illegal in an airport? Because if it isn't illegal then why do you feel justified in confronting anyone at all?

Submitted by West Cooper on

Rb sez - "Has TSA ever found WEI in anyones hair? Travelers are not prisoners and shouldn't be treated as such!"

Yes.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Prove It on

You were quick with a link about the metal firearm that any wtmd would have caught, but not here. Funny, that.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Submitted by West Cooper on Sun, 2018-10-14 08:59
Rb sez - "Has TSA ever found WEI in anyones hair? Travelers are not prisoners and shouldn't be treated as such!"

Yes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Then how come you never advertised it? That seems like something that would be something to crow about in support of the big expensive toys you use.

Submitted by The "Original" RB on

Submitted by West Cooper on Sun, 2018-10-14 08:59
Rb sez - "Has TSA ever found WEI in anyones hair? Travelers are not prisoners and shouldn't be treated as such!"

Yes.

TSA Blog Team
................
What was found, a hair pin?

Submitted by Traveler on

i went though manchester-boston airport quick but the tsa personal there were rude and would not answer my questions

Submitted by Former Tsa on

those big fancy machines are useless

Submitted by Good Point! on

It just might be the case that West Cooper is a thoroughly dishonest liar.

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

Submitted by Traveler on Mon, 2018-10-15 04:02
i went though manchester-boston airport quick but the tsa personal there were rude and would not answer my questions

..................................

Nothing unusual, you met the typical TSA screener found at all TSA serviced airports.

TSA workers are only legends in their own minds.

Submitted by The Original "RB" on

Submitted by Good Point! on Mon, 2018-10-15 10:25
It just might be the case that West Cooper is a thoroughly dishonest liar.
..........................................
Well West works for TSA. That is certainly a black mark on credibility.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Good point sez - "It just might be the case that West Cooper is a thoroughly dishonest liar."

Yet again with personal attacks, and a completely unsupported position. I will ask again - point out where on here that I have lied... I will wait.

SSSS sez - "Then how come you never advertised it? That seems like something that would be something to crow about in support of the big expensive toys you use."

The only answer I can give you is that not all items reported make it into the weekly updates. There are tons of items found that are not listed in these updates - some of them do not have reporting requirements (such as a pocket knife, or a box cutter or credit card knives), so that removes many of those from any updates here.

RB sez - "What was found, a hair pin?"

Actually we have had a few tactical spikes, and one knife inside of a hair clasp (that one was years ago when they first put our AIT machine in) here locally.

RB also sez - "Well West works for TSA. That is certainly a black mark on credibility."

Again personal attacks... My kingdom for a roll eyes emoji.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Submitted by West Cooper on Thu, 2018-10-18 09:04
Good point sez - "It just might be the case that West Cooper is a thoroughly dishonest liar."

Yet again with personal attacks, and a completely unsupported position. I will ask again - point out where on here that I have lied... I will wait.

SSSS sez - "Then how come you never advertised it? That seems like something that would be something to crow about in support of the big expensive toys you use."

The only answer I can give you is that not all items reported make it into the weekly updates. There are tons of items found that are not listed in these updates - some of them do not have reporting requirements (such as a pocket knife, or a box cutter or credit card knives), so that removes many of those from any updates here.

RB sez - "What was found, a hair pin?"

Actually we have had a few tactical spikes, and one knife inside of a hair clasp (that one was years ago when they first put our AIT machine in) here locally.

RB also sez - "Well West works for TSA. That is certainly a black mark on credibility."

Again personal attacks... My kingdom for a roll eyes emoji.

TSA Blog Team

.............................

Whoever actually runs this blog has allowed personal attacks on posters to this blog, so fair is fair.

Submitted by Hardly A Person... on

You're the one who claims hair pat-downs have found WEI without any sort of supporting evidence. (Tactical spike" doesn't come up with a whole lot of results when you google it, btw. Try harder next time.)

You've also been ducking straightforward questions about the difference between pat-downs and sexual assaults for months. An honest person would simply answer the question.

Submitted by West Cooper on

Hardly sez - "You're the one who claims hair pat-downs have found WEI without any sort of supporting evidence. (Tactical spike" doesn't come up with a whole lot of results when you google it, btw. Try harder next time.)"

Try this link, or maybe you would recognize a different term better, try kubaton. I have personally been involved in this happening 3 times over the years. I was also present when we found a plastic kitty self defense item. You ever been knucked with one of those things? They hurt!
 

Hardly also sez - "You've also been ducking straightforward questions about the difference between pat-downs and sexual assaults for months. An honest person would simply answer the question."

This person did answer it way back when it was first posed to me, and I will give the same answer now:

If a passenger feels that they recieved a pat-down that was not performed according to the correct procedures, they can ask to speak to a supervisor on scene, and file a complaint with the individual supervisor of that location. If they choose not to do that, or they do that and feel they did not get satisfaction, then they can file an official complaint with TSAs contact page. If they choose not to do either of those things, another option that could possibly yield a favorable result is to contact their local/nationally elected Officials, and petition for them to hear the individuals side and follow up with TSA.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

Submitted by West Cooper on Thu, 2018-10-18 09:04

SSSS sez - "Then how come you never advertised it? That seems like something that would be something to crow about in support of the big expensive toys you use."

The only answer I can give you is that not all items reported make it into the weekly updates.

~~~~~~~~~~

So the nudie scanners are very high on the list of things that the make the public hate the TSA and knowing that fact you chose to skip the reporting of things found with them? Not only do you guys truly suck at security, you guys suck even harder at doing PR for your organization.

Submitted by Nonresponsive, West on

Nothing in there explains how a TSA pat-down differs from sexual assault.

People who give non-responses to simple questions are not honest, West -- that's just one reason for your reputation for dishonesty and evasion.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Which is all true, this is why employees get screened as well. There are several other layers of security and screening other thsn what's done at the checkpoint.