Why You Shouldn’t Swim With a New Tattoo
Until your tattoo is completely healed(i.e. after a new layer of skin is growing over it), is it vulnerable (read: prone to infection)? “Water from a pool, lake, or ocean is not sterile and can risk getting microbes such as bacteria into the skin. In addition, if you allow chemicals (such as chlorine in a pool) or other substances in the water into the healing skin, it could ultimately affect the color and cosmetic result of the tattoo such as increased fading or discoloration,” Fenton explains. Fenton.
Forte agrees: “Depending on the skin type, size of the tattoo, and location on the body, the salt and/or chemicals in a pool can do a number on the skin and your incredible new art.” Forte says this can cause irritation, discomfort, inflammation, or even the ink getting removed from the skin.
How Long Before You Can Swim With a New Tattoo?
According to King, waiting until your tattoo has completely healed before swimming is best. “This time will vary depending on the body location of the tattoo and size and how diligent the aftercare is,” she elaborates. “Most tattoos heal within two to six weeks, but some may take longer. Wait until all redness, itching, scabbing, and flaking have resolved.”
Forte suggests thinking of the tattoo of a brand new one as a fresh wound that requires some time for healing and not being exposed to the elements. This includes shielding it from sun, bacteria, chemicals, pollution, and water, especially when it involves swimming. “Both saltwater and chlorine are harsh on new tattoos, especially if you had a lot of work done,” the expert states. While you can speed up the process with a lotion for healing pat, patience is your most potent ally.
How to Cover Your Tattoo While Swimming
In an ideal scenario, one could avoid swimming throughout the healing process (FYI, it could take a long time). But there are specific steps to take if you find yourself in the swimming pool.
- Apply a bandage that is waterproof to cover the ink submerged. “If it isn’t possible to wait until the tattoo is fully healed before swimming, then use a waterproof dressing such as Saniderm and limit the amount of time in the water and with the dressing on as much as possible,” King suggests.
- Keep the area tattooed and dried after swimming. “Immediately after swimming, dry the skin, remove the bandage, and gently wash the area with soap and water. You should resume your normal wound care after patting it dry,” Fenton advises.
- Make sure you take care of your tattoo after swimming. “It’s advised to keep your fresh tattoo from being submerged. Showers are fine and recommended to keep you and your new work clean. However, dry off the tattoo before applying aftercare products like salve or ointment. Trapped moisture can negatively affect the healing tattoo,” He states.
- Beware of applying sunscreen. According to King, sunscreen is not recommended in the healing phase. “During this time, protect the tattoo from sun exposure with protective clothing or a bandage,” King advises. “Once the skin has fully healed, use sunscreen daily because UV radiation can lead to tattoo pigment fading. The right sunscreen is the sunscreen you will wear regularly. I prefer non-comedogenic moisturizing formulations with mineral sunscreen ingredients. Moisturizing ingredients like squalane will help to support the skin barrier.”
The Final Takeaway
In the end, if you can stay out of the water for a full three months following the tattoo, you’re doing yourself as well as your tattoo a considerable service. But it will only be 100% feasible sometimes, so try your best. “Most people spend a lot on tattoos, so it’s wise to take care of them and do your homework on self-care,” advises Forte. “Freshwater is fine to splash or wash off with, but if you can, avoid pools and the ocean as long as you can.”