So, you just got a new tattoo? Whether it’s a first one or a hundredth one, it makes complete sense why you want to show it off to everyone around you.
And the perfect way to do so is at the beach or right next to the pool since almost everything comes off when we sunbathe, and even the most secretive tattoos will be on display.
However, before you rush to pack your beach bag and change into your swimsuit, think twice – I have bad news for you.
It turns out that fresh tattoos have many enemies, and the three biggest ones are the sun, the beach, and the pool.
So, the question is – how long after a tattoo can you swim?
In this article, I have prepared a complete guide to get you through the period from getting the tattoo to showing it off at the beach (and yes, there is a waiting period!), as well as answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding tattoos, sun, and water.
How Long After a Tattoo Can You Swim?
Since tattoos are permanent, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
While some sources suggest that it’s safe to swim after two weeks, your tattoo will heal only after four to six weeks, which is when swimming will be safe.
Once four to six weeks have passed, and your tattoo shows no signs of flaking, scabbing, or healing epidermis, it means it has healed.
Can I Get My New Tattoo Wet?
Yes, you can. While you can still shower with your new tattoo, you must avoid pools, seas, oceans, and lakes – no public bodies of water.
It is also very important to be extra gentle with the tattooed area while showering, especially if the area is covered with protective film or in the process of healing and pealing.
Why Can’t I Get My New Tattoo Wet?
As I have previously mentioned, you technically can get your tattoo wet, as long as it’s in your shower or bathtub.
You should be staying clear of all the bodies of water aside from that, especially ones commonly visited by other people.
The trick is to think of the tattoo as an open wound. You can (carefully) clean an open wound with clear water (from your tap), but you would never put dirty, chlorine-filled water from the public pool, right?
This is the same logic we are following here.
Some of the reasons why you should not submerge your open wound (read: tattoo) into the water include:
- Water can enter the wound when the tattoo is submerged for longer, causing distortion, ink loss, or scar tissue. All of these occurrences will make your tattoo appear less than perfect, and I am sure you want to avoid that with your brand-new, fresh tattoo.
- Bodies of water, no matter how pure and protected in nature, are still full of unregulated bacteria, which can enter the body through the tattoo, causing a mild to very serious infection to the area.
- Salt in saltwater can be very dehydrating, and exposing the tattoo to saltwater for longer periods of time will prolong the process of healing and lead to irritation or inflammation.
- Chlorine in pools can cause irritations and even burns to open wounds such as a new, fancy tattoo.
- There are some rare (and very scary-sounding) flesh-eating bacteria that can be found in water. Sepsis is a flesh-eating bacteria (yes, you read that right, flesh-eating!) that can enter your body through the open wound of the tattoo. If this happens, you will have much bigger issues than an imperfect tattoo!
All things considered, any contact between your new tattoo and water should be quick and for cleaning, not recreation.
However, before any contact happens, make sure that the water is clean. Don’t let it anywhere near your new tattoo if you would not drink it.
Can You Shower With a New Tattoo?
Yes, you can absolutely shower with your new tattoo! It is ridiculous to expect people to neglect their hygiene once they get new ink.
You should definitely still be showering, applying lotion, applying deodorant, and so on. Don’t worry about your tattoo too much while showering; there are safe ways to shower with a new tattoo.
Make sure not to rub the area, and make sure not to put any soap on the area, whether you have the protective seal or not.
If the shower area touches your inked area, do not panic! It’s okay! This is the only form of water safe for your tattoo.
Can You Take a Bath With a New Tattoo?
This one might sound contradictory, but you should avoid bathing if you just got a new tattoo.
The water you are using is clean, yes, and it’s not a public place; that is correct too, but bathing is just sitting in your own germs and grime.
Most of us bathe in warm water, which is the perfect breeding ground for endless kinds of bacteria and viruses.
While they are harmless if they stay on the surface of your skin, which they normally do, these bacteria and viruses can enter your body through your tattoo, causing a serious infection.
Of course, cold baths are no exception, and you should avoid hot tubs, too, since they allow for sharing bathwater with others.
If you must take a bath and just got a new tattoo, try to keep that area out of the water at all times if you can find a comfortable position (for example, if the tattoo is on your hand, don’t submerge that hand in water).
Can You Swim in the Sea With a New Tattoo?
No, it would be best if you did not swim in the ocean or the sea with a new tattoo. The dangers of submersion still apply, and you have the added risk of irritation or dehydration due to the salt content.
In addition, outdoor bodies of water may have microscopic bacteria that could result in even more terrifying and dangerous infections from entering your bloodstream via your open wound – your new tattoo.
If you want to get a tattoo to commemorate a vacation or holiday, consider booking your session near the end of the trip so you don’t risk the temptation of swimming with it.
Many of us are tattoo collectors, and we like to get tattoos at the places we travel to in order to commemorate a vacation or the visited place. While this is a beautiful tradition for many, it can be problematic when it comes to swimming and sunbathing with new ink.
If you like to travel and collect tattoos worldwide, schedule the appointment close to the end of your time there to avoid having to stay in the shadow and not blissfully swim in the warm waters.
Can You Swim in Pools After Getting a New Tattoo?
The answer to this one is – No.
Getting a new tattoo and swimming in the pool should not mix. It does not matter if the pool is your, your friend’s, or public; if you recently got a new tattoo, you should not be swimming in it.
Swimming pools will harbor many microscopic bacteria that could infect your new tattoo, regardless of the chlorine content.
There are also several chemicals that are used to keep pools clean, which may irritate the new tattoo.
You Already Went Swimming With a New Tattoo, What Now?
You may be reading this article because you already took a dip and then remembered that your fresh new tattoo might be an issue. If that is the case, don’t worry too much; there is no reason to panic immediately.
There is a chance you will be completely fine. However, there is also a chance you won’t. This is the time to be very careful and observant and watch your new tattoos and some potential changes, which will be signs of an issue.
If you notice any of the following skin changes, make sure to speak to a healthcare professional right away:
- Excessive bleeding from the tattooed area
- Rashes or blisters
- Chills or high fever, skin that feels hot to the touch
- Excessive redness or swelling (after a week of getting a tattoo)
- The tattoo is more tender or painful than the day before
- Tattoo bubbling (tiny bubbles of air under the ink)
- A bright red outline around the tattoo
- Pus coming out of your tattoo, potentially smelly
There are some commonly asked questions regarding swimming with a new tattoo, and I am here to answer them all.
How can I waterproof a tattoo for swimming?
You should avoid swimming with your tattoo for 4-6 weeks at least; I have already covered that. However, if you must swim with a new tattoo, a waterproof dressing will be your best friend.
While you can try waterproof bandages, heavy layers of Vaseline, or plastic press n’ seal wrap, you should know that there is no way to waterproof a tattoo fully.
What if you accidentally wet a new tattoo?
Wetting your new tattoo for a moment is not an issue; submerging it in water is the issue. If your tattooed area makes contact with salt or chlorinated water, make sure to wash the tattoo with an antibacterial soap and warm running water.
How do I know my tattoo is healed?
If you notice that the texture of the tattooed skin is the same as on other areas of the body, you stop noticing peeling and scabs, and you notice that the tattoo has a clear appearance without clouding and fading, it means that your tattoo is completely healed. The best way to go about confirming is to consult your tattoo artists.
- Burkemper NM. Contact dermatitis, patch testing, and allergen avoidance. Mo Med. 2015;112(4):296-300.
Fitness and exercise enthusiast.