The temptation of showing off a new tattoo is obvious, but we have to proceed with caution.
A new tattoo is essentially an open wound, and exposing it to water can potentially become irritated and infected, resulting in delayed healing and faded color.
And after such a painful session, waiting to swim with fresh ink is extremely important to enhance our tattoo’s longevity and overall quality.
Let’s learn exactly how long after a tattoo you can swim and why it’s important to wait. We’ll also know the technics to waterproof a tattoo for swimming and what to do if you have already gone in the water.
How Long After a Tattoo Can You Swim?
Before we figure out when you can swim after getting a tattoo, we first need to know exactly how long a tattoo takes to heal.
Typically, a tattoo heals within 2-4 weeks as long as you’re following the correct aftercare routine. However, this may also vary on the size and location of the tattoo and your healing capacity.
But is that time enough to get into the water?
Saltwater and chlorine are harsh on a fresh tattoo, especially when swimming because it requires lots of body movement and stretching. At the same time, the water may get into your tattoo, leading to infection and fading as your tattoo heals.
After getting a small tattoo, you can swim within 2-4 weeks as it usually heals quicker with proper aftercare. But for a larger one, it is advisable to wait for 4-6 weeks before getting into the water.
However, if there is any infection, scabby, or redness on your tattoo even after one to two weeks, you should consult a doctor right away.
What Happens If You Swim with a New Tattoo?
Until your tattoo is fully healed or a new layer of skin has grown up over your tattoo, it’s vulnerable to submerging in water.
Let’s check out why it’s so important to wait swimming with a new tattoo until it healed.
Exposure to Bacteria
Whether you’re in a pool, lake, or ocean, the water is sterile and has a risk of getting bacteria into the skin.
Also, submerging your tattoo in the water could potentially get harmful chemicals (such as chlorine), bacteria, and other substances into the healing tattoo, resulting in mild to severe infection, leading to fading or discoloration of your tattoo.
However, in the chlorinated water of a swimming pool, the risk of getting infected might be lower than in the lake or ocean water.
Skin Irritation and Discomfort
Another common problem that will arise after swimming with a fresh tattoo is skin irritation which may contribute to an uncomfortable feeling.
A new tattoo is essentially a raw and open wound, and exposing it to chlorine and other chemicals present in the water can trigger inflammation, which can cause stinging and pain.
The result would be unwanted itchy rash, discomfort, and even the ink might get out of the skin.
Tattoo Fading and Discoloration
After getting a nice colorful tattoo, this is what we don’t want — fading or discoloration.
Chlorine and saltwater are too harsh, especially on a fresh tattoo, and soaking your tattoo in this type of water can cause fading and discoloration in the long term.
Also, swimming can create itchiness, flaking, and scabbing, especially when your tattoo is healing, leading to leaching ink and making the color less vibrant.
However, if you’re an athlete, preparing for a competition, or have to swim with a new tattoo for some reason, the following strategy can help protect your fresh ink.
How to Waterproof a Tattoo for Swimming
If you have to expose your tattoo to water for some reason or you’re not sure if it’s fully healed, the safest thing you can put on before diving in the water is a waterproof bandage to protect fresh ink.
A waterproof bandage (like Saniderm) is very effective in protecting your tattoo while you submerge it. They come in different size sheets and rolls, so you can purchase them accordingly.
Make sure you apply a bandage that completely covers your tattoo. And immediately after getting out of the water, dry your body, remove the dressing, gently wash the tattoo with mild soap and lukewarm water, then pat it dry with a clean paper towel.
Remember, you should use a bandage only before getting into the water, not anymore, because keeping a healing tattoo covered will prevent the oxygen flow, leading to infection and prolonged recovery.
You can read more tattoo waterproofing tips and technics to better protect your tattoo from water.
How to Know If Your Tattoo has Fully Healed
Although there isn’t any assured method to tell if your tattoo has completely healed, you can rely on the studies and artists’ opinions.
Most tattoo artists consider it usually takes 2-4 weeks to heal the skin’s outer surface. But the deeper layer can take up to 6 months to complete the healing process. (1)
However, this may vary in the size and location of your art. Your aftercare and lifestyle may also influence the healing time.
You can consider your tattoo fully healed once you no longer notice any redness, itching, scabbing, or peeling on your tattoo. You can also visit your artist so they can check it for you by sewing.
What If You Went Swimming with a New Tattoo
Okay… done it? Don’t panic. Although there’s a higher risk of getting severe infections, scabbing, or bleeding, they aren’t so common.
Leave the water as soon as possible, and then clean your tattoo with lukewarm water and fragrance-free soap, gently pat it dry, and apply a good healing ointment.
At that time, you should be actively observing for any signs of trouble.
After getting a tattoo, some redness, peeling, scabbing, and itching are normal for the first few days.
But if these things continue even after a week and worsen and you notice signs like bubbling, rash, redness, severe pain and itching, bleeding, fever, or chills, you should immediately see a doctor.
A tattoo is like an open wound, and exposing it to water may lead to infection and delay healing. So you should give at least a few weeks to heal the outer layer of the tattoo.
But in must situations, using a waterproof bandage may protect your fresh ink effectively. Make sure to pat it dry and follow your aftercare routine immediately after leaving the water.
So… we’re done with “how long after a tattoo can you swim.”
If you’ve any questions regarding the new tattoo and swimming, drop them in the comment section below. I will be glad to help you out.
How long after a tattoo can you shower?
Generally, you can shower after 2-4 hours of getting a new tattoo. But should be extra cautious when showering — it’s better to avoid direct water to the fresh ink.
Make sure to gently clean your tattoo with lukewarm water and neutral soap.
Does Vaseline protect tattoos from water?
As Vaseline is nonporous (watertight), using it on the tattoo before taking a shower can help you protect your fresh ink from the water.
However, a waterproof bandage (like Saniderm) can be more effective in protecting tattoos than Vaseline.
You can use Vaseline on your healed tattoo after at least a month or two if the surrounding skin of the tattoo is dehydrated.
Ensure you shouldn’t include it in your aftercare during healing. That may stop airflow to the tattoo, which may cause infection and further delay your healing process.
How long after a tattoo can you take a bath?
After getting a tattoo, you should wait 4-6 weeks before taking a bath, especially longer ones, so your fresh ink can get at least some time for healing.
However, you can take a bath before the tattoo heals, only if you’ve tattooed somewhere on your body that’s completely away from getting wet.
If you notice signs like redness, itchy, or flake on the tattoo, you shouldn’t submerge your tattoo. In such situations, consult your doctor.