Let’s set the scene. It’s summer, and you just got a really cool new tattoo. You can’t wait to show it off to all your friends. They’re going swimming, and you really want to go with them. Hit the pause button.
The answer is simple: you shouldn’t swim after getting a new tattoo. Your new tattoo is going to require a lot of special aftercare to heal beautifully and last a lifetime. Swimming has the potential to disrupt the healing process. It can also leave your new tattoo very vulnerable to bacteria.
Tattoos are great, and swimming is great, but that doesn’t mean the two go well together. Here’s what you need to know before you dive in.
Why Is It Bad To Swim With a New Tattoo?
Your tattoo artist probably told you not to swim or take a bath in your aftercare instructions. They may not have told you why it’s not safe. You already know what not to do.
Here’s why it’s not a wise idea to do it.
New Tattoos Shouldn’t Be Submerged
Your tattoo artist probably advised you to keep your tattoo moist throughout the healing process. It seems kind of weird to say that you should regularly moisturize your tattoo but also that it’s bad to get it wet. There’s a pretty big difference between skin-moisturizing products and prolonged exposure to water.
When your skin has been submerged for a few minutes, it changes slightly. That’s why your fingertips might look like raisins after you leave the bathtub. Skin prunes and pruning changes its surface. Those changes will remain visible until you’re completely dry.
Your healing tattoo will create a protective layer of tissues to shield itself from the elements. When you get wet, this tissue layer gets soggy and emerges. This can set your healing process back quite a bit.
You Run the Risk of Bacterial Infection
Bacteria love to live in water. Even though pools are treated to keep bacteria in check, a few still slip by. Natural bodies of water, like oceans, springs, and ponds, contain more bacteria than it’s even possible to count.
If you’re a fairly healthy person without any open wounds, these bacteria are far less likely to harm you. If your tattoo is still healing, that might be a problem. A new tattoo is so beautiful to look at that it’s easy to forget it's an open wound. Bacteria and open wounds are always a no-go.
Chlorine and Other Chemicals Can Harm Your Tattoo
If you’ve ever gone swimming in a pool that’s recently been chemically treated, you probably notice that your hair and skin are very dry when you get out. Think about what those chemicals might do to an open wound.
You may not feel it while swimming, but you’ll definitely notice the effects of chemical exposure after you’ve dried off. Harsh chemicals like chlorine can irritate open wounds and undo your body's progress toward healing.
Chlorine can also have a mild bleaching effect. If your tattoo is very new, there's a slight chance that chlorine can wreck the color.
Can I Use the Hot Tub With a New Tattoo?
A pool and a hot tub are almost exactly the same in terms of the risks you’ll run. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a pool, a hot tub, the ocean, or even your bathtub. Swimming with a new tattoo is likely to mess with your healing process.
How Long Do You Have To Wait To Swim After You Get a New Tattoo?
You need to wait at least two weeks after getting a new tattoo before submerging it in water for a prolonged period. It’s even better to wait four to six weeks.
Even when a tattoo looks nearly healed, your body is still working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes. Assume that your body will take six weeks to fully manage the healing process.
What if I Have to Get Wet?
There may be circumstances where you have to be in the water for an extended period. If your shower breaks and all you have is the bathtub, don’t panic or skip your bath. Just be mindful about protecting your tattoo.
Your tattoo artist might have given you some extra clear plastic sheets called SaniDerm. These waterproof bandages do a very good job of keeping your tattoo protected from outside moisture.
If you really need to get in the water, apply one of these sheets to your tattoo and make sure the edges are firmly stuck down. Although SaniDerm does its job very well, you should still be mindful about submerging the tattooed part of your body. Regularly check the sheet to ensure it isn’t lifting while in the water.
What if I Already Got My Tattoo Wet?
If you get your tattoo a little wet in the shower, that’s not a big deal. If you already took a bath or went swimming with your new tattoo, you need to watch it carefully. Never vigorously rub your tattoo dry with a towel.
Let it air dry on its own. Refer back to your artist’s aftercare instructions to determine what you should do if your new tattoo gets submerged in water.
The Final Word on Swimming With New Tattoos
Swimming can be very harmful to our new tattoo. So can a bubble bath or an evening hot tub session. It’s worth going a few weeks without swimming to keep your great new tattoo safe.
If you absolutely need to get your whole body wet for more than a few seconds, waterproof plastic bandage sheets can help keep your tattoo safe.
Why Does My Skin Get Wrinkly in Water? (for Kids) | Nemours KidsHealth
Survey of bacteria in private swimming pools | Pub Med | National Library of Medicine
Wound Care: How to Care for an Open Wound or Cut | Health Essentials | Cleveland Clinic