Beauty lovers know that the most challenging part of traveling with just one suitcase is putting together your skincare arsenal. And while you can decant your moisturizer and conditioner into compact, TSA-friendly containers, it’s important to know that there’s one thing you should never do, when assignment: your sunscreen.
That’s because the new container can cause the sunscreen to degrade, making it less effective, explains Michelle Wong, PhD, a cosmetic chemist in Sydney, Australia. And since SPF’s purpose is to protect your skin, the last thing you want to do is reduce its effectiveness—which, yes, can happen during a short weekend trip. For example, “a cosmetic scientist Ava Perkins tested several mineral sunscreens and found that it only took a few days for some samples to harden, so changes can happen fairly quickly.” , Dr. Wong said.
Learn about three different reasons why it’s taboo to put sunscreen in a travel box, and browse through a few travel-friendly (and Amazon Prime-eligible!)
Why you should never skimp on your sunscreen
1. It can react with container
“A lot of the ingredients in sunscreen are good solvents, so they can often react with the plastic or seep into the plastic,” says Dr. Wong. “This means that what’s left in the sunscreen will be different and the way it spreads on the skin will change. So you may not get the same level of protection as before.”
2. It does not have good protection from sunlight and air
“Your sunscreen container may be designed to protect your sunscreen from air and light, so the new container may not work as well,” says Dr. Wong. “Light can break down some ingredients or cause emulsion to separate, which means sunscreen may not provide as good protection as it should.”
3. You are likely to contaminate the sunscreen
Taking out a dusty container and splashing some hot water is not enough to prepare a travel case with SPF. That’s because any bacteria present can potentially reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen. “As well as potential reactions and changes in the composition of the sunscreen, putting your sunscreen in a travel container can create bacteria that can contaminate the sunscreen.”
5 travel-friendly sunscreen options
EltaMD, UV Stick Face and Body Sunscreen, SPF 50+ — $35.00
IMO, the best travel skin care options are stick formulations. They’re completely solid, meaning they’re measured in ounces, not fluid ounces, so they don’t count toward your liquid quota. This bar by EltaMD is a mineral sunscreen for face and body with over SPF 50 protection.
Coola Organic, Refreshing Water Stick Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50 — $30.00
If you prefer a chemical formula to a mineral formula, then this cream from Coola is perfect. It offers SPF 50 protection with a fully transparent and moisturizing finish. It’s enriched with hyaluronic acid and coconut water so it’s cool and slick, feels great on hot skin caused by the sun. Plus, it has a proprietary blend of antioxidants and plant-based actives that help protect your skin from blue light.
Kinfield, Cloud Cover Mineral Body Sunscreen with Broad-Spectrum SPF 35 — $36.00
If you want a traditional lotion, then this lotion from Kinfield is perfect. At TSA-approved 3.4 fl oz, you’ll have a jar of stretch-safe, water-resistant mineral sunscreen with SPF 35. As a mineral sunscreen, it has A little white when applied but rubs into skin to become almost invisible. It also has moisturizing glycerin and soothing aloe.
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