Are you worried your hair extensions will set off scanners or metal detectors at airport security? I know I am. This is why I decided to research it so that I can be prepared, or at least know what to expect before my next journey through the dreaded TSA while wearing hair extensions. Here’s what I found.
Hair extensions will not set off metal detectors in airport security if they don’t have metal in them. These extensions include those that attach with keratin, weave, glue, or tape. That said, hair extensions that do have metal clips or bobby pins may set off metal detectors and scanners. In either case, the worst that could happen is a quick pat-down from a female TSA officer.
So there is no need to worry!
That being said, keep reading. There are some things that you can do to make your airport security experience A LOT easier.
Will I Ever Be Asked To Remove My Hair Extensions In the Airport Security?
The thought of this is extremely embarrassing, and fortunately for us, it’s highly unlikely. Most TSA agents won’t go to this extreme. The usual routine is a quick pat-down on your head from a TSA officer that’s wearing a pair of gloves.
However in some cases, if they have strong reasons to believe you’re hiding something in your hair extensions, they do have the right to request this.
If they do ask you to remove your hair extensions, here are 5 tips that will make the process go as smoothly as possible:
- Don’t put up a fuss. Remember they are only doing their jobs by trying to keep the airport safe. Putting up a fight will only make a scene and delay the process further.
- Ask for a private room. TSA agents are kind and understanding. They know this might be embarrassing so ask them to take you to a private room.
- Request a companion. You have the right to bring someone you know with you if you feel uncomfortable.
- Ask for a fresh pair of gloves. TSA officers might pat down a few hundred people in a single day. If you’re worried about germs, you have the right to ask them to put on a fresh pair of gloves.
- Make sure that you have all your travel documents on hand. This is just to increase efficiency in case you are asked to produce them.
If you don’t want to risk it. Here are some tips that cover how you can still travel with hair extensions, without the risk of unwanted attention.
3 Easy Tips on How to Avoid Getting “Pat-Down” Because of Your Hair Extensions
If you are not the biggest fan of having security officials man-handle your locks in front of strangers, you may be wondering what precautions you can take to avoid this. Read on for some of my best tips.
TIP 01. Avoid hair extensions that contain metal clips and metal accessories
Hairpieces that contain accessories have a higher chance of being detected if they contain large amounts of metal. And yes, that includes those bobby pins that so easily get lost in your hair.
If you want to reduce the risk of setting off metal detectors, you’re going to want to avoid these items.
- Metal clips/clip-in extensions
- Metal Ties
- Bobby pins
- Metal micro-beads
If you feel like you have to use hair accessories, try these as alternatives…
- Plastic hair clips. Try to use plastic hair clips instead. Or use hair extensions that attach with glue, weave or tape.
- Ties. I found these awesome “no metal” hair ties online that are a great alternative. Check them out here.
- Bobby pin. Here are some plastic bobby pins that you can pick up from Target.
- Plastic Wraps.
- Plastic micro-beads.
Even though you are reducing the risk of metal detectors going off, it’s worth mentioning that scanners look for anomalies, and not just metal. So following the above advice might not work for a scanner.
If you’re adamant that you want zero risks of any airport security equipment going off, then read my next tip.
FREQUENT TRAVELLER TIP: When traveling I’ve found it’s best to keep my hairstyle as simple as possible to avoid any delays. This means I don’t use any accessories apart from a hairband or two. It makes life a lot easier. As soon as you step off the plane you can wear your extensions proudly, and worry-free!
TIP 02. Remove ‘removable hair extensions’ and hair accessories.
If you have removable hair extensions, don’t wear them through security. Store them in your carry on bag to protect them. Here are the best ways to store your hair extensions in your bag.
- Try a Ziplock bag.
- Shoeboxes work pretty well too.
- Original packaging
Just make sure you store them in something rigid so that they don’t get tangled during the journey.
TIP 03. Avoid outlandish large hairstyles.
Airport security officials are trained to keep an eye out for hairstyles that are overly large or thick, as this may raise suspicions of hiding something. So keep it as simple as possible.
“Larger, thicker hairstyles and certain configurations of hairstyles can conceal just about everything.’’TSA Blog
If You Do Get Pat Down, Here’s What To Expect;
If you are going to endeavor heading through airport security with metal clips in your hair, you need to be prepared for the chance that you may be pulled aside for a “pat-down.” Remember, if this does happen, it is important that you remain calm. Here’s what you can expect to make the process seem a little less daunting.
Here’s what to expect during the initial screening process:
- Screening process with metal detectors: A qualified member of airport security will utilize a handheld metal detector to locate where the metal is on your being. If it is located in your head region, they will likely request a pat-down of your hair. At this point, it may be a good idea to quietly mention that you do have hair extensions so as to not draw attention from the public. Chances are, they will quickly pat your head and let you be on your way.
- Screening process with AIT machines: This machine is known as a millimeter-wave scanner and searches for both metal and non-metal objects. This machine is able to identify where on your body the object of concern is located—again, this will most likely result in a quick check and you will be free to go.
- You are randomly selected for a patdown: This can happen to anybody, however, there are certain factors that make you more eligible for a patdown which will be discussed later in this article.
Here’s what to expect during a full pat-down:
- You will be pulled aside while an officer of the same gender begins the inspection—if you at any point feel uncomfortable, it is within your rights to request to speak to a supervisor.
- The inspector will most likely pat your hair down lightly to feel for anything unusual—they are professionals, therefore they are trained to feel quickly what’s right from wrong, so this won’t take long at all.
- Be sure to tell the officer of any concerns you may have before the inspection.
- Don’t hesitate to ask the officer to use a new pair of gloves in the name of hygiene.
FREQUENT TRAVELLER TIP: Always arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before domestic flights, and 3 hours before international flights to avoid delays. Especially if you have a lot of hand luggage, hair accessories, and hair extensions. This is just to be on the safe side.
A final note. It is important that you realize that you can get called aside for inspection at any given time, whether you have extensions in or not. In fact, weaves, afros, turbans and alike can all prompt for an inspection.
This may seem discriminatory, but the officers have to check what the machines cannot. The key takeaway is to remain cool, calm and collected, and knowing your rights should you be asked to do something you know doesn’t feel right. Now that you know all the facts, fly safe and all the best!