According to this article on No More Dirty Looks, certain brands of skin lotion can be read as explosives by Airport detectors. Sounds like an urban legend, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look….
Do cosmetics contain “explosive” ingredients?
Cosmetics themselves are not explosive. As a recent post on Colin’s Beauty Pages points out, if they were we’d have warehouses of cosmetics blowing up all the time. But, ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used to make illicit explosives, is used in a few cosmetics as a buffering agent.
Is there enough nitrate to be detectable?
Buffering agents and salts to control pH are typically used at a few tenths of a percent. If you rubbed lotion on your arm that contained 0.1% of a nitrate, the amount nitrate deposited would be above the detection threshold of devices like the EN5000 Tabletop Detector, made by Scintrex Trace Corp, which can detect nitrates down to the nanogram and picogram level.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
We agree with Colin that it’s ridiculous that your skin lotion could be explosive. But it seems plausible that some lotions could trigger a false positive on airport detectors.
Has anyone ever had this problem while going through airport security? Leave a comment and share your experience.