The one thing you should never steal from your hotel room

There are no hard rules on what you can steal from your hotel room. A lot of it rests on common sense. Robes? You’ll be charged. Pillows? Charged. Some items you likely won’t get a bill for but you’ll lose karma points, like Do Not Disturb signs, batteries from the remote and lightbulbs from lamps (yes, people steal these).

A gray area is the hotel bath products provided in bathrooms, which are generally travel-sized toiletries that include shampoo, conditioner, body wash and often lotion. I’ve noticed it’s a large topic of debate on whether or not you can steal these, so let me clarify loud and clear: These are free for you to take.

I’ve read forums where people write they “stole” bath products from their hotel room, so I think it’s often assumed you can’t take them. Let me reiterate: they are completely free, therefore, you are not “stealing.” After you check out, housekeeping will replace or refill the bath products (or “bath amenities” or “toiletries”) available in your bathroom.

While bath amenities are free for guests, you might reconsider taking them home with you. 

Hotel bath products can damage your skin

The bath products may look and smell nice and even appear more expensive than what you use at home, but these products are generally full of chemicals and synthetic ingredients, primarily sulfates, fragrance and parabens. These chemicals can wreck your hair and skin.

Sulfates are essentially detergents, meaning they can leave your skin or hair significantly dry, especially if there’s a high concentration (and there usually is when it comes to in-room bath products). You’ll find them in the form of sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. 

When you see “fragrance” in a product, it is a synthetic, engineered chemical “scent” (as opposed to a natural, essential oil). A fragrance “can be an irritating, leading to redness, itchy skin and sometimes hives,” says Dr. Diane Madfes, a dermatologist for Garnier. A fragrance is cheaper to add in a product over an essential oil, so you’ll find it more often in mass-produced in-room toiletries. In general, when using a skincare or hair product, it’s always better to go fragrance free.

Parabens are chemical preservatives that can irritate your skin, dry out your skin and may potentially lead to health problems. The latter is of significant debate, though there have been studies showing they alter hormone mechanisms in our body. When I was a beauty and grooming writer for 6 years, I rarely recommended products with parabens. Even if it does not cause health problems, it is still not great for your skin (it’s why you see a lot of brands tout being “paraben free”).

Read the label

In-room bath products at hotels are made in high, mass-produced quantity, and hotels often buy them as cheap as possible. Further, a designer label is meant to impress you, but those are the worst. They’re chockfull of ingredients you don’t want to put on your skin.

To paint you a picture, think of the bar of soap that sells for $1 at your drug store. Now, look at the bar of soap that sells for $6. Which product do you think has better quality ingredients? Unless you’re staying at an extremely high-end hotel, like Aman, which makes it’s own in-house spa products (all organic), you’re not going to find high-quality bath products in your hotel room. And, trust me: I’ve stayed in over 600 hotels

Let’s take a look at the shower gel from Aqua Di Parma, a high-end beauty brand from Italy with bath products found in many luxury hotels. The packaging is great, and it looks harmless, until you read what’s actually in it. 

Aqua di Parma hotel bath amenities

First, you’ll notice the first ingredients are things you can’t even pronounce. One thing I learned from a chemist friend is that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it is definitely not good for you. 

When you read labels, you should know the ingredients at the top of the list are the most prominent. There is more of that in the product than what’s listed at the end. Potency goes in descending order.

Reading this label from top to bottom, Aqua Di Parma shower gel comprises ingredients that are *all* chemicals bad for your skin. Other than water, there is no redemptive ingredient here, like natural extracts or oils. Notice how fragrance and a sulfate are the top int eh list, then castor oil (yikes) and other chemicals.

Aqua di Parma hotel shower gel

Salvatore Ferragamo, a famous fashion label, also offers bath products in luxury hotels. Take a look at the body lotion. Other than water, almost every single ingredient is practically a harsh chemical, so you’d be basically rubbing chemicals on your body if you use this. 

Salvatore Ferragamo hotel amenity

Let’s take a look at “Santal 33” by Le Labo, a popular perfume-maker that also does bath products for hotels. Notice how tiny the font is for these ingredients. You can hardly read it, as if they’re trying to hide something. 

Thankfully, there are some good ingredients here, like grape seed oil (moisturizing agent) and jojoba seed extract (calming agent), but there are only 4 ingredients out of 30 that are OK to use, and they’re somewhere in the middle of the list, so they’re minimally involved.

It’s fine if you use these bath products once or twice, but you don’t want to use them on a regular basis since they’ll likely work against your skin. This is why I encourage you not to take (or “steal”) these products. Leave them at the hotel. 

BYO bath products instead

I recommend bringing your own products when you travel. Always look for paraben-free, sulfate-free and fragrance-free when you’re choosing a skincare product. Not all of your favorite products will be completely idea, and it’s OK, as long as inferior ingredients are listed at the very bottom of the list.

Also, it’s OK if you don’t go full organic with your skincare products. There are many brands that mix science with nature, and that’s fine, but always read the label of ingredients before you use a product just to be on the safe side. 

I like Beauty Counter. The brand has travel-size kits for both men and women (face wash, moisturizer, body wash, shampoos, etc), and the website offers a comprehensive ingredient list, so you know exactly what goes in their products. 

Beauty Counter travel kit

Mychelle is another brand I love that delivers TSA-approved products and has no sulfates, parabens or fragrance. 

The future of in-room toiletries is promising

Luckily, hotels are starting to get rid of these little toiletry bottles and replacing them with wall-mounted, refillable dispensers to take initiative on the use of plastic and its detriment to the environment.


It’s the same way hotels like Intercontinental are getting rid of plastic straws. In fact, Intercontinental plans to ban travel-sized bathroom amenities out of its 5,600 hotels by 2021, according to Mental Floss. 

That said, you may not even come across this conundrum of stealing in-room bath products in the near future. And with the health and wellness craze that’s been infiltrated in our culture, these chemical-laden products may be going obsolete too. For now, leave them in your room, and bring your own better products.  

As for stealing other items from your hotel room? That’s up to you. Just remember: the hotel has your credit card on file!

What are some things you think you can steal from your hotel room? Let us know in comments below.

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