You finally got the tattoo you wanted but maybe it’s summer and you really need a beach day. You might have heard that you shouldn’t swim with a fresh tattoo. Yes, you heard correctly. It’s best to wait for some time after your new ink to go swimming. Let’s dive into how long after a tattoo you can swim.
How Long After a Tattoo Can You Swim?
The simple answer to that question is when your tattoo is fully healed. The next question you probably have is ‘when is my tattoo considered healed?’
While your tattoo may look healed pretty quickly, it’s not. Healthline says to give your tattoo at least 2-4 weeks to heal. Women’s Health Mag says to wait at least 4 weeks before submerging your tattoo.
The wait may be even longer for some people. Dr. Noelle S. Sherber, MD, told Women’s Health that people who are immune-compromised may have to wait a longer time because their risk of infection is higher.
Dr. Debra Jaliman told Women’s Health that your tattoo is healed when there is no flaking or peeling. When your tattoo is healed, all scabs would have fallen off by then.
Until then, remember to keep up with careful aftercare.
Why is Swimming With a New Tattoo Dangerous?
When we say swimming, we mean swimming in any body of water.
Sherber cautions people about swimming in any type of water. Even if the pool is regularly clean or the seawater looks clear, it’s not a good idea. A fresh tattoo simply should not be submerged in water.
There are several reasons why going swimming with a new tattoo is a terrible idea. Here are some of them.
Dr. Shari Marchbein, M.D. told Women’s Health that a tattoo is an open wound and so it’s predisposed to infections.
If you swim with a tattoo that isn’t healed, you’ll be potentially exposing yourself to bacteria. The bacterial infection can also spread throughout your body and can cause death.
While that’s not common, it has happened.
In 2017, a man with a new tattoo swam in the Gulf of Mexico, picked up a bacterial infection, and died. He went swimming 5 days after getting the tattoo and picked up Vibrio vulnificus. According to Women’s Health, this type of bacteria can be found in ocean water (and raw oysters).
In general, this bacteria doesn’t cause a problem with healthy people. The man had liver disease and that’s believed to be part of the reason he died.
Even if you don’t have liver disease, you can still get your tattoo infected by other bacteria.
Swimming can cause irritation to your tattoo.
According to Sherber, chlorine can cause your tattoo to peel or develop red itchy bumps. Before you consider going into a less chlorinated pool, remember less chlorine can mean more bacteria.
Swimming can make your tattoo less vibrant and take a longer time to heal. According to Healthline, soaking a new tattoo can result in discoloration. In addition to that, it could cause the tattoos to fade.
As Healthline puts it, chlorine and salt water can cause the ink to leach out of your tattoo. Even if that doesn’t happen to you, submerging your tattoo can increase flaking, healing time, and itchiness. In addition to that, swimming could dry out your tattoo.
How to Waterproof a Tattoo for Swimming
Maybe you have to submerge your tattoo for whatever reason. Healthline suggests utilizing saniderm.
Even though people don’t usually leave on Saniderm for more than 24 hours, you can reapply it to waterproof your tattoo. The key is to only use it for the duration of the submersion and remove it right after.
There are some precautions you need to heed before you remove the covering. Healthline says:
- Dry the area around the Saniderm so that water doesn’t end up on your tattoo after removal
- Carefully remove the Saniderm
- Clean the tattoo with warm water and a mild soap afterward
How Long After a Tattoo Can You Go in the Sun?
Maybe you still want to head to the beach or pool with your friends even if you aren’t going swimming.
Josh Egnew, a tattoo artist, told Bustle that people should wait about two weeks before they go to the beach.
Adal Ray, another tattoo artist, told Bustle that they recommend a full month after getting a tattoo before having a beach day.
The water is not the only problem, you have to worry about the sun too.
Byrdie says that you shouldn’t expose your new tattoo to the sun until about a month after. You can protect your tattoo by covering it up when you’re going to be in the sun.
The sun can not only burn your skin but cause scarring and fading.
Sunscreen isn’t recommended for new tattoos. Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD says that fresh tattoos should heal before applying sunscreen. In the meantime, keep them covered.
How long after a tattoo can you swim? Well, to preserve your tattoo and your health, wait until your tattoo heals. You’ll know your tattoo healed when it stops flaking, peeling and all scabs have fallen off. While the time for that to happen will vary between individuals, it’s best to avoid swimming for at least a month.
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