Swimming with a new tattoo is an absolute no-no because there’s a higher chance of getting germs and bacteria, leading to mild to severe infection, fading tattoo, and delayed healing.

However, if you have to (or must) get into the water for some reason, you can follow some tips or precautions (like bandaging) to prevent water on your tattoo.

Let’s read on to know how to waterproof a tattoo for swimming with the best possible precautions and aftercare.

This article also covers the importance of waiting with a new tattoo, when it’s normal to swim, and what to do if you already swam.

Why You Shouldn’t Swim with a New Tattoo?

A new tattoo is basically an open wound, and it needs time and care to heal.

Whether you’re in a pool, lake, or ocean, submerging a tattoo in water could potentially get harmful chemicals, bacteria, and other substances into the healing tattoo, leading to infection, discoloration, and prolonged healing.

Even showering or bathing too long can delay healing and cause unwanted situations like bleeding, scabbing, redness, and pain, which you actually don’t want after a painful tattoo session.

Can’t avoid water? Let’s head over to the next section to learn how to waterproof and take care of a tattoo.

How to Waterproof a Tattoo for Swimming?

How to Waterproof a Tattoo for Swimming?

If you have to get into the water with fresh ink, the following actions may help protect your tattoo and promote safe healing. 

Apply a Waterproof Bandage

One of the best things you can do before swimming is to put a waterproof bandage on your tattooed area.

A waterproof bandage (like Saniderm) is very effective in protecting the tattoo while you’re in the water. This bandage comes in different size sheets and rolls, so you can purchase accordingly.

When wearing the bandage, make sure that it completely covers your tattoo.

Leave Water as Soon as Possible

Done with the swimming? Leave the water as soon as possible.

Staying too long in the water with fresh tattoos may weaken the adhesive of the bandage, which allows bacteria and other substances to enter the bandage, putting you at higher risk for infection and delaying recovery.

Uncover and Clean the Tattoo

After leaving the water, you should immediately remove the waterproofing bandage, gently clean the tattoo with lukewarm water and a neutral soap, and pat dry with a soft clean towel.

You must avoid getting any soaps or shampoos on the tattooed area that contain fragrances or colors. And after cleaning and drying the tattoo, you can (and should) apply a fragrance-free moisturizer. 

Keep It Open to Breath

Ensure to keep your new tattoo uncovered (after cleaning and moisturizing), so it can easily get contacted with oxygen which is essential for healing.

However, wearing loose clothes may also help you achieve this situation.

Follow a Proper Aftercare

After getting a tattoo, doing proper aftercare is key to safe and quicker healing.

You should continue your aftercare for at least a few weeks after getting a tattoo. Your aftercare may include cleaning the tattoo 2-3 times per day, moisturizing, not swimming or bathing too long, and avoiding intense exercises before it heals.

What If Water Gets Under the Saniderm?

Although Saniderm is pretty effective in protecting tattoos from water, swimming or showering too long may weaken the bandage, and some water may get under the Saniderm.

If you notice any water under the Saniderm or your bandage when you’re swimming, you should get out of the water and remove the bandage right away.

Leakage in your bandage means the seal has broken. There’s a higher risk of getting bacteria and unwanted contaminants trapped under the bandage, leading to mild to severe infection, skin irritation, and may mess up the tattoo.

After removing the bandage, you should clean and dry the tattoo (as discussed above) and moisturize it.

However, as tattoo aftercare regulations, it’s advisable to avoid submerging your freshly tattooed skin in water like baths, lakes, pools, hot tubs, or oceans for at least a few weeks. (1)

Does Vaseline Protect Tattoos from Water?

No. It’s completely NOT recommended to use Vaseline while trying to protect a new tattoo from water.

And also, after getting a tattoo, you shouldn’t add Vaseline to your aftercare for at least the first couple of weeks, as it is a heavy moisturizer that can resist airflow to your tattoo and delay healing.

However, you can use Vaseline after a few weeks on healed tattoos before stepping into the water. As Vaseline is nonporous, you can apply it to your tattoo before showering so that it can protect the area from getting sprayed with water.

As Vaseline has watertight properties, it can be a good option if you’re going to swim with a healed tattoo or want to moisturize the dry skin around the tattoo.

If you want to protect your tattoo from water, bandaging/dressing it instead of applying Vaseline is a far better option. And after leaving the water, apply a thin layer of healing ointment to your new tattoo for quicker healing. 

How Long Before You can Swim with a New Tattoo?

The tattoo healing time may vary on the size of your tattoo and where you’re getting it. Small tattoos usually take 2-3 weeks to heal, while the larger ones may need a little longer to completely heal.

After getting a tattoo, following proper aftercare is essential for safe and quicker healing. And it’s highly recommended not to expose a fresh tattoo directly to the water and sun, at least for the first few weeks. 

A bandage may help you protect the tattoo, but it’s better to stay away from swimming with a new tattoo.

However, you can swim when you notice the second layer of skin has built up over your tattoo, and there’s no longer any redness, itching, or peeling. 

Why It’s Important to Wait

Here’re some of the top reasons to wait until swimming after a tattoo:

Infection

A new tattoo is essentially an open wound. Exposing it to water could have a higher risk of getting bacteria and harmful chemicals into the healing tattoo, leading to severe infection, faded ink, and delayed healing.

However, if you have to swim, it’s wise to choose a swimming pool water and/or bandage it to lower the risk of getting infected.

Skin Irritation

After swimming with a fresh tattoo, another common reaction you may notice is skin irritation, which most likely leads to an unpleasant feeling.

This happens because when your tattoo gets contacted with chlorine and other chemicals in the water, they trigger inflammation, which can further cause stinging, rash, discomfort, and even the ink might get out of the skin.

Damage Tattoo

Swimming pool or ocean water is too harsh on a new tattoo, and soaking it in this chlorine and salted water can cause fading and discoloration the of tattoo in the long term.

In must situations, using a waterproof bandage (like Saniderm) before swimming can help you protect ink, prevent infections, and heal correctly.  

What If You Already Swam

Hmm… already went swimming with a new tattoo? Okay, don’t panic!

Although swimming with a healing tattoo has a higher risk of getting a severe infection, bleeding, and/or scabbing, they are rare cases.

In this situation, you should observe your body if there are any signs of trouble or feel uneasiness. If you notice any symptoms continue to increase, you should immediately see a healthcare professional.

If you’ve swum with a tattoo, make sure to gently clean the tattoo with mild soap and lukewarm water and pat it dry with a clean paper towel, followed by a good moisturizer afterward.

You should leave your tattoo uncovered so it can breathe properly for speedy healing.

How to Tell if Your Tattoo has Fully Healed?

Telling if your tattoo has fully healed can be tricky because there isn’t any assured method to know that.

Most tattoo artist says it typically takes 2-4 weeks to heal the outer surface of the tattooed skin. However, the deeper layer of the skin may take up to 6 months to fully heal. (2)

The complete healing process may also vary on the size and location of your art, your aftercare, and your lifestyle.

You can consider your tattoo fully healed, or at least the outer part of the skin has healed, if you no longer see any redness, itching, scabbing, or flaking on your tattoo. 

You can also visit and ask your tattoo artist so they can check it for you. 

Conclusion

Wearing a waterproof bandage before swimming and taking care properly after getting out of water can help your tattoo prevent infections and heal properly.

However, it’s better to avoid swimming when the tattoo is healing unless you have a must situation.

So I think now we’ve known how to properly waterproof a tattoo for swimming.

If any questions are left answered, and you want to ask, drop them in the comment section below. I will definitely help you out.

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