Is Your Body Lotion Explosive? (Hint: No)

body lotion is it explosive
Does applying body lotion turn you into a bomb?

The idiots at No More Dirty Looks have just come up with a blog post that manages to outdo even their normal low standards for common sense, let alone scientific accuracy.

Apparently a ‘friend’ was going through an airport security check and the x-ray machine revealed red areas on her body that indicated that she had smeared herself with explosives.  On examination, it was revealed that the source of the explosives was the body lotion she had applied in her hotel room.

Now there is so much wrong with this story it hardly feels fair to criticise.  It is just too easy.  In fact it feels more like you should be contacting the health authorities to get the author some kind of support for chronic gullibility.  But let’s have go.

a.  If body lotion contained explosives, wouldn’t the factories that make it explode?

b. Why would terrorists go to the trouble of obtaining illicit explosives if they could just raid the health and beauty counter at their local supermarket?

c. How does an x-ray machine detect explosives?

I think this is how urban myths start. Because the most amazing thing is, if you look at the comments on the original post you will see that some people actually believe it!  

Words fail me.


It turns out that it is technically feasible to detect levels of nitrate low enough to pick up the sorts of levels that might rarely be used in cosmetics.  It also turns out that some of this equipment has indeed been deployed.  I doubt that they have the settings turned to such a low level though or they would be stopping nearly everyone.

Postscript the following day.

Words may have failed me, but they have hardly failed the commentators on this article many of whom express outright derision.  But the author’s pathetic attempts at self-justification form the comedy highlight.

[hana-code-insert name=’General Interest’ /]

5 thoughts on “Is Your Body Lotion Explosive? (Hint: No)”

  1. In fairness, (b) does happen because some explosives require peroxide or something sold for the hair. You’re not supposed to buy all your stock from one shop, that’s what gets the criminals caught on TV.
    The excellent Breaking Bad shows you what else you can do with beauty supplies.

  2. I guess, like all urban myths there’s an element of truth. Certainly the x-ray machine can’t test show nitrates but the swabbing for explosive can pick it up at some level.

    Now as suggested elsewhere Mg(NO3)2 is in Kathon CG (I’ve got in my head the figure of 7% but I can only find the total Mg salts at 23% so let’s use that figure as a worst case. Kathon is used at say around 0.05% in a leave on product that means there is less 10ppm Mg(NO3)2 in your moisturiser, which is the limit for Nitrates in drinking water!

    So to avoid setting off the detector looks like it’s best not to shower just before you get on a plane, and certainly stay away from any cured meats.

    1. Thanks Rob. I think your numbers aren’t far out. A scanner for nitrate levels on the skin would be a neat thing to have for airport security. I am not sure how you would do one – I suppose a variation of NMR might be conceivable.

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