Ammonium lactate, 12% cream is a formulation of 12% lactic acid neutralized with ammonium hydroxide. Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxypropionic acid. It is a normal constituent of tissues and blood. The alpha-hydroxy acids (and their salts) are felt to act as humectants when applied to the skin. This property may influence hydration of the stratum corneum. This combination is considered harmless, however when nitrate is added to ammonia, the combination can be explosive, becoming the target of TSA scrutiny.

Patient counseling can help alleviate concerns for patients travelling with this medicine; alerting the TSA before travel so that approved labels can be obtained can also help reduce discomfort and stress. In addition, patients may want to arrange to have their prescription filled in their destination city rather than travelling with it. The authors conclude by stating that “clarification of the differences between related chemical agents is key for maximum security efficiency during transportation.”


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1. Allison Zarbo, MD; Ouathek Ouerfelli, PhD; Mark Klang, PhD; Mario E. Lacouture, MD. Increased Airport Scrutiny by the Transportation Security Administration of a Patient-Passenger Carrying Ammonium Lactate–Containing Moisturizer. Jama Dermatology. 2016, DOI: 10.1001.