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  • Ivan Bristow

Flying off on your holidays? Be careful of what you apply on your skin!

For most of us our holidays involve an airport and all its processes and procedures we must go through before we are allowed to board the plane. For those who use moisturisers, a short communication in the German dermatology journal (JDDG) reports how a simple moisturiser can flag up as a security alert when passing through security.

A forthcoming paper by Greis et al., (1), highlights what is not a unique case. A member of aircrew applied a glycerine containing emollient on her hands shortly before going through security and subsequently triggered a false positive on the security device which detects traces of explosives. Glycerine is commonly used in moisturising creams but, of course, is an ingredient in the manufacture of nitro-glycerine – an explosive. Depending on the type of tests run by the security staff false positives have been reported. Other products used in cosmetics have also been reported to cause similar effects much to the traveller and security staffs concern!

As the authors point out a false positive test is only possible using the explosive swabs that are randomly used at airports on baggage and hands and is not an issue with full body scanners. If a person has applied an emollient containing glycerine to their hands prior to security checks, they can use an isopropyl alcohol hand wash or gel to remove it.


1. Greis C, Lautenschlager S, Borelli S. Eczema treatment or explosives? Glycerin in moisturizers can trigger alarm in airports. JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft (e-print ahead of publication) LINK


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