I Just Got a New Tattoo. When Can I Go Swimming and Get it Wet?

Updated on August 19, 2016
Vampire and skull tattoo
Vampire and skull tattoo | Source

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 the rate that your tattoo heals.

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. This applies to lakes, hot tubs, and swimming pools, especially those with chlorine and other chemicals which could be painful and damaging to an open wound.

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 the water you use to clean your tattoo is clean and that you 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.

Dot tattoo. Fly and moth tattoo
Dot tattoo. Fly and moth tattoo | Source

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 tattoo 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 tattoo).
  • 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 new tattoo 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. bath, hot tub, and swimming pool water) 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 tattoo 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 tattoos entire life time. The anti-bacterial wash is ideal for situations where a tattoo needs to be cleaned thoroughly. Considering the money spent on a tattoo, the products you invest in will assist its vibrancy and keep the skin fresh.

Timeline for Post-Procedure Care:

  • The new tattoo is wrapped by the tattoo 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 on your tattoo. Do not use a cloth. Only use your hands.
  • Allow your tattoo 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 tattoo 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 | Source

Do you have to get your tattoo wet for some reason before it has finished healing?

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    • profile image

      Bianca 10 months ago

      I have a tattoo from April 4

      When can I go in the beach water?

    • profile image

      B. 12 months ago

      Try Saniderm.

    • profile image

      Milly 13 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      amanda 18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Stefanie 22 months ago

      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?