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by Kelly O’Mara

November 26, 2019

Here’s how you can swim with a new tattoo

You just got some new ink and are wondering how long before you can jump back in the pool. How can you swim with a new tattoo? Even if you’re not supposed to get it wet, is there a way to waterproof a tattoo for swimming?

In a nutshell, the answer to how to swim with a new tattoo is: Don’t. It’s important to give your skin time to heal. Here’s why and what you can do if you absolutely have to swim.

Why Can’t You Swim With a Tattoo?

Essentially, a new tattoo is an open wound. That’s why you’re supposed to stay out of open water, hot tubs, and pools until it heals. As with any wound, you don’t want it to get infected by any potential bacteria in the water. Although it’s rare, there’s at least one documented case of a man with an existing liver disease dying after going in the Gulf of Mexico and getting his new tattoo infected.

That’s not likely to happen while swimming laps at your pool, but there’s always a danger of infection as long as the wound isn’t healed. An infection can both damage the new tattoo design and cause bigger health problems. Although the pool might be cleaner than many open water venues, there’s still some bacteria. Additionally, chlorine and other chemicals can be painful to an open wound and cause redness. A new tattoo needs to breathe and air dry in order to heal well. If it scabs and peels too much, you also risk taking with it some of the ink and detracting from the color.

How Long Before You Can Swim With a New Tattoo?

Most of the time, a tattoo needs to fully heal before you can safely swim. How long that takes varies from person to person, but many tattoo artists recommend anywhere from two to four weeks.

When you get a tattoo, you’ll be sent home with a bandage over it. After a few hours, you can likely remove the bandage and wash off the excess blood and ink. Use your hands to gently wash it with light warm water and antibacterial soap, then let it air dry in a clean environment and apply the aftercare cream.

As the tattoo heals, flaky skin and scabs will form. As the scabs flake and fall off naturally, a new layer of skin will heal underneath. When there’s a new layer of skin, that’s when you know you can safely swim.

Throughout the healing process, you’ll also want to avoid baths for many of the same reasons, but continue to gently clean the area, air dry, and use the aftercare cream.

How Can I Waterproof a Tattoo for Swimming?

If you absolutely have to swim with a new tattoo, then you might want to try covering it with a waterproof dressing. There is no way to fully waterproof a tattoo, but there are some methods swimmers have tried: waterproof bandages that can fully wrap and cover the tattoo, heavy layers of Vaseline, or even plastic press n' seal wrap.

To swim with a new tattoo, cover it and waterproof it as best as possible right before you get in the water, remove the covers after, and gently wash it with warm water and antibacterial soap, then let it air dry and heal. Continue using the aftercare cream throughout the post-tattoo healing process.


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