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I Just Got a New Tattoo—When Can I Go Swimming and Get It Wet?

Author:

As a self-proclaimed tattoo commentator and writer, I rely on my personal experience and time working in a tattoo studio.

Vampire and skull tattoo

Vampire and skull tattoo

Taking care of your new piece of body art is crucial. One part of post-tattoo care is to avoid swimming or soaking your new tattoo in water for up to four weeks, depending on your healing rate. During the weeks immediately after a new tattoo is inked, it is like an open wound that needs to heal and seal itself.

Can I Go Swimming With My New Tattoo?

No. Don't go swimming or immerse your new tattoo in water until every bit of scab and dry skin has fallen off. This can take as long as four weeks.

There is a big difference between getting your tattoo wet during a normal shower and entirely submerging or soaking your fresh wound in still water. Definitely avoid lakes, hot tubs, and swimming pools, especially those with chlorine and other chemicals which could be painful and damaging to an open wound.

Dot tattoo. Fly and moth tattoo

Dot tattoo. Fly and moth tattoo

When Can My New Tattoo Get Wet?

You can get your tattoo wet in the following circumstances:

  • While you are washing your tattoo.
  • During your normal showering routine.
  • In the accidental case that your tattoo is rained on or splashed.

Make sure to use clean water to wash and let the water run over the tattoo gently. Let your tattoo air dry. Do not use a towel because any lint particles left in the wound can potentially lead to infection.

I Have to Go Swimming With a New Tattoo. What Do I Do?

Honestly, you should try to reschedule your swimming training, trips to the beach, and jacuzzi sessions. Plan your appointment around your extracurricular activities and get your tattoo at a time when you can manage to stay out of the water for a few weeks. If you absolutely must submerge it, however, here's how to prevent water from touching your tattoo:

  • Wrap a waterproof material such as plastic tightly around the tattoo. Try to seal out the water as much as possible. (Anyone who has ever tried to do this before knows it is impossible to do with 100% success, but at least it will limit the amount of water touching the new art).
  • Keep your tattoo wrapped for the shortest length of time possible.
  • Once you are out of the water, wash your tattoo promptly with an antibacterial wash and clean water to remove any infection-causing bacteria.
  • Allow to air-dry. If there is a lot of excess water, pat it off with a clean, non-fluffy towel and let the air dry it the rest of the way.

I Accidentally Got My Tattoo Wet. What Do I Do?

If your tattoo is accidentally submerged in water for more than a few seconds:

  • Wash with anti-bacterial tattoo wash.
  • Allow the area to air-dry. You could also pat it dry with a non-fluffy towel or cloth.

Why Can't I Get My New Tattoo Wet?

Fresh, open wounds require clean air and time to dry out. As your new tattoo heals, the top layer of skin will dry out, begin to flake, and crumble off. It might also form scabs. It is critical to keep your skin dry throughout this process, because if you don’t, the scabs might fall off prematurely. This could result in a loss of ink.

Standing water (e.g. in baths, hot tubs, and swimming pools) is not bacteria-free. Imagine the grime from your feet floating up to your new tattoo wound and penetrating the fragile skin. It's not a pretty picture, and neither is an infection.

The best way to prevent tattoo damage and infection is to just stay out of the water!

You can get your tattoo wet when every scab or dry piece of skin has fallen off and a new layer of skin has grown to seal the area. As stated earlier, this can take up to four weeks.

Stages of Tattoo Healing

In the first few weeks following your appointment, your tattoo will go through various stages of the healing process. While it's healing it will form thin, dry, crackly skin, and some scabs which will eventually flake off.

As it is healing, you should wash your tattoo with antibacterial soap and warm running water during your typical showering routine, but avoid soaking it. I highly recommend the Premium Aftershock Tattoo Box, set as it provides all the products you will need over your tattoo's entire lifetime. Considering the money you spent on your art, the products you invest in will assist its vibrancy and keep the skin fresh.

Timeline for Post-Procedure Tattoo Care:

  • The new tattoo is wrapped by the artist for the journey home.
  • After waiting at least two hours and no more than four (depending on your artist's recommendation), you can wash off the plasma, blood, and extra ink. Do not use a cloth. Only use your hands.
  • Allow it to air dry in a clean environment.
  • Apply a small amount of tattoo aftercare cream.
  • Over time, dry, flaky skin or scabs will form on the tattoo's surface. Do not scratch or pick off the healing skin or scabs. You should allow scabs to naturally fall or flake off when they have completely dried and the skin has healed underneath.
  • Continue to moisturise with approved tattoo aftercare cream.

It's worth taking the effort to avoid infection. Besides potentially damaging your new design, an infection could cause a lot more damage to your actual limb in extreme circumstances. But they do happen.

Good luck with your scabs, your healing, and your freaking awesome tattoo!

Back tattoo tree of life on girl

Back tattoo tree of life on girl

More Information on New Tattoos

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Robin Davis on June 22, 2019:

I just got a tatoo on my wrist should I cover in plastic while taking a bath

Anne (author) from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS) on June 01, 2019:

ALL COMMENTS WITH LINKS WILL BE REMOVED!

A on February 20, 2018:

It's been two months and four days since I got my tattoo. Can I swim in an ocean or a swimming pool or just swim?

Bianca on April 09, 2017:

I have a tattoo from April 4

When can I go in the beach water?

B. on February 15, 2017:

Try Saniderm.

Milly on December 29, 2016:

I'm a lifeguard- I can potentially stay out of the water for just under four weeks but most likely three because of staff training. In the rare case I have to dive in for a rescue as long as I have antibacterial should it be okay? If I have to go in the water knowingly for a time do u have any specific suggestions of coverings that would really help my situation?

amanda on August 02, 2016:

I got my sons name on my wrist two weeks ago can I bath normally now as the scabbing is all off. Thank you

Stefanie on April 15, 2016:

Hello, I got a small tattoo on the back of my neck 2 weeks ago (April 2 and we're now april 15).

I actually had hardly any peeling - after about two days I had very few small flakes coming off and since then no scabs, no wounds, just a little "healing itching". Is it ok to take a bath? It's possible not to soak it completely of course, but I was wondering if it will still flake more or if it's already healed?

Fox Music on July 22, 2015:

Great Follow-Up Info On New Tattoos - Thanks For Sharing

Baloiu Alexandru on July 05, 2015:

Baloiu Alexandru Paul - Internet media Great Job

Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on June 23, 2015:

These are great tips for someone who just got a new tattoo. Voted up and useful.