Today, tattoos are widely viewed as hip, fun and stylish, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t come with maintenance commitments and even a few sacrifices.
Now that you’ve got your new tattoo, you might feel like you’re ready for a long day at the pool or a nice, relaxing bath? Not so fast. Bathing or swimming too quickly with a new tattoo can cause harm to your new piece of art!
How soon can you get into water after getting a new tattoo?
New tattoos are essentially open wounds. As with any other wound, it is imperative to do all you can to avoid getting any type of infection. Tattoo infections can cause serious, lasting health problems, as well as create permanent flaws in your new artwork.
In 2017, a 31 year old man died less than a week after getting a new tattoo on his calf because it became infected after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Within a couple of days of his swim, he began to experience chills and leg pains. The following day he was admitted to the hospital and within just a few hours, he had passed away.
If you enjoy swimming, it is highly recommended that you avoid getting a new tattoo during the summer months.
If you do decide to get a tattoo during prime swimming months, it is recommended to stay out of the water for about four weeks. (This exact time frame can vary slightly for each person, depending on individual healing processes.)
Once your tattoo’s scabs have fallen off, the tattoo has stopped peeling, and it has a smooth appearance, you should be able to hit the beach or whatever body of water you want. If, however, you are not 100% sure that your healing process is complete, it is best to contact your tattoo artist. He or she can look at your tattoo and answer any questions you have regarding healing.
What happens if you get into water too soon?
As previously mentioned, it is best to wait around a month before submerging your new tattoo into water. But, did you know that different types of water can pose different kinds of threats to you and your unhealed tattoo? Check out a few dangers below!
Oceans: Ocean water creates a huge threat to a new tattoo and even to your health. The ocean is host to millions of different kinds of bacteria, which can be harmful to your unhealed tattoo.
Certain kinds of oceanic bacteria, such as flesh-eating bacteria, can even be fatal if it enters through an open wound
such as a tattoo. It is best to totally avoid the risks of ocean water while your body completes its healing process.
If, for some reason, you were not aware of this risk of infection and have already been exposed to bacteria from an environment such as the ocean, it is important to carefully watch for signs of infection on and around your new tattoo.
Be on the lookout for swelling, redness, and/or any kind of discharge. If you do notice any of these signs, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.
Baths: A nice, warm bath often sounds lovely at the end of a long workday, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, even though it might sound tempting, it is best to totally avoid baths while your new tattoo is healing.
Although bathing seems to be a very “clean” thing to do, germs can still get into your open wound in the tub. Just because the germs are your own germs (or a family member’s), doesn’t mean they can’t be harmful to your healing process. It is best to avoid baths for around four weeks.
Showers: We must clean ourselves at some point, so it is impossible to avoid water fully while a tattoo is healing. While some tattoo artists do recommend waiting around 24 hours to shower, it is generally considered safe to take a shower after that point.
It is, however, recommended to “take care of business” and get out of the shower in a timely manner. Prolonged exposure to water, even fresh shower water, is still not recommended.
Also, make sure when you do shower, to use a soap that is recommended by your tattoo artist and follow any other special directions he or she has given you. There is a product that you can pick up that is a transparent waterproof bandage for showering.
The key thing to remember here, is that this is to be used only for showering. It is not intended to be used for swimming or any other fully submerged water activities. You can find this bandage on Amazon by clicking here.
Pools: It is best to avoid swimming in a pool for around four weeks. If you enter a chlorinated pool too quickly during the tattoo healing process, a few different things can happen.
The chlorine can cause your tattoo to get dried out or irritated, which can prolong the healing process. This irritation can even lead to the development of rashes or other skin disorders.
Not only that, the water can cause fresh ink to fade, creating a patchy look once your tattoo is fully healed. No one wants a flawed tattoo, so it is best to stick it out until your healing process is complete.
Hot tubs: Most hot tubs are heavily chlorinated, so they should be avoided during the first few weeks after receiving a new tattoo.
As mentioned, chlorine can cause irritation and/or rashes to develop on your unhealed artwork. If, by some chance, the hot tub is not chlorinated, you now run the risk of obtaining an infection through your open wound.
Germs thrive in warm, unchlorinated environments, and this can be very dangerous to your health and the vibrancy of your piece. Make sure to avoid all hot tubs until your tattoo is healed.
Lakes/Rivers: Lakes and rivers are prime breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Fish and animal excrement, along with any other unsanitary substances, make it impossible to stay clean when swimming in a lake or river.
This can be very hazardous to anyone with an open wound. Since we know that new tattoos are open wounds, it makes sense that it is vital to avoid this type of water when your tattoo is healing.
Does Vaseline protect tattoos in water?
It is not a good idea to use Vaseline or a petroleum-based product to cover your tattoo while swimming. Vaseline traps moisture into your skin which can also trap bacteria.
Some tattoo artists do recommend applying a small amount during short showers (to be removed immediately afterwards), but this is not really necessary.
It is best to avoid these types of products while your artwork is healing. (Your tattoo may need moisture while healing, but it is important to use a breathable moisturizer that your artist recommends.)
Can a new tattoo be waterproofed in order to swim?
Ideally, you should not attempt to “waterproof” your new tattoo so you can swim before healing is complete.
If you feel that you absolutely must go swimming or submerge your tattoo, you can try to wrap it tightly with a waterproof bandage.
Some people recommend plastic. Make sure to secure the material with waterproof medical tape.
This will probably not keep out all the water from the pool, but it is better than nothing. Once you leave the pool or other body of water, properly clean your tattoo and allow it to air-dry.
However, as alluded to earlier, it is NOT recommended to try this method. It is best to totally avoid submerging your tattoo for around four weeks, or until your skin has fully healed.
Can I use Tegaderm or Saniderm to cover my tattoo so I can swim?
The question isn’t whether you can use Tegaderm or Saniderm in order to swim before your tattoo is healed, the question is SHOULD you use them in order to swim before your tattoo is healed?
In short, it is best to just avoid swimming or bathing altogether for around four weeks after getting a tattoo.
Many tattoo artists do recommend using Saniderm in the first few days after receiving a tattoo, as it is a reliable, medical-grade product. It is considered a breathable, waterproof, germ-proof barrier for your tattoo.
As with any bandage, it may not protect everything it’s covering 100%. This is important to keep in mind if you’re considering using this product so you can go swimming early.
If you feel that you absolutely must go swimming, you can try this method. If the Tegaderm or Saniderm fails to stay in place, it is best to leave the water, and remove it immediately. Then, wash and dry your tattoo as recommended by your artist.
However, the pros in this situation simply do not outweigh the cons. For the vibrancy of your tattoo and for the sake of avoiding the risk of infection, it is best to stay away from swimming until you’re fully healed.
Ultimately, it is best to avoid all water (except shower water) for at least four weeks after receiving a new tattoo. The old saying, “Better safe than sorry,” can ultimately be applied here. Best of luck to you as you complete your tattoo-healing journey!
Additional Related Questions
How long after a tattoo can you swim in chlorine? – Yes, chlorine does help to kill germs and bacteria, but even chlorinated water poses a risk to those with a new tattoo. Give your tattoo the full time needed before getting into the water.
How to cover a tattoo to go swimming? – There is no product available on the market that will guarantee that you can successfully cover a tattoo in order to go swimming.