How Long After A Tattoo Can You Swim? Expert’s Advice is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

You just got some new ink and you can’t wait to show it off to the world. Before you put on your swimsuit and head out to the swimming pool or beach, you may want to find out how long after you get a tattoo can you swim

The unfortunate reality is that you have to wait for your tattoo to heal completely before you can go for a swim. This can take anything from two to four weeks depending on various factors. Before you go looking for a loophole or shortcut, there aren’t many foolproof ones. 

If you want your skin to heal faster and the colors of your tattoo to stay as bold and bright as the first day you got it, then you can’t break this rule. 

In this article, we will tell you how long after a tattoo can you swim and explain why you shouldn’t rush the big reveal of your new skin art. 

Swimming With A Fresh Tattoo

A fresh tattoo is an open wound and the last thing you want to happen is for it to get infected.

This is the main reason why you should stay out of open water, including swimming pools and hot tubs, until it is entirely healed. 

How long after getting a tattoo can you swim depends on a few things. 

Firstly, the size of the tattoo. If your new piece of body art is fairly large, you may have to wait a bit longer than the recommended four weeks before hitting the water. Smaller tattoos will need less time to heal.

The location of the tattoo is also important to consider. If it is situated in a spot that bends a lot or gets chafed constantly, the healing will take longer. 

However, if your tattoo aftercare is done religiously and you use the products your tattoo artists recommended, you may be able to cut the healing time by a day or two. 

It is best to gauge the healing process as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule—there are too many variables at play. If your tattoo is still red, scabbing, or peeling, then it’s still healing and you should wait before going for a swim. 

Exposing your tattoo to water too soon may lead to infection as mentioned, and this can damage the tattoo or worse yet, lead to other health problems. 

how long after tattoo can you swim

Another reason why you may not want to go swimming with a new tattoo is something called contact dermatitis. Doesn’t sound like a fun time, does it? Well, the chances of you experiencing this skin irritation are very high when you submerge your tattoo in a pool filled with chlorine. In fact, you’re asking for a painfully long and slow healing process when you add chlorine to the mix. 

Again, a tattoo is an open wound and letting it come into contact with a harsh chemical is only going to aggravate it. Chlorine also causes the ink to bleed from the wound and that means your tattoo will lose its vibrancy. 

But what about the ocean? It doesn’t contain chlorine so it should be fine, right? Nope, it’s just as bad as swimming in a chlorine-filled pool. The salt will also irritate the wound. There’s a reason why the saying “rub salt into an open wound” exists—it really does make an unpleasant situation much worse. 

Then there’s the matter of possible sun damage when you’re swimming. Your skin is already super sensitive from the tattoo; don’t expose it to damaging UV rays from the sun. 

We’re sure you now realize why it is best to wait until your tattoo is completely healed before you go swimming. How long this takes depends from person to person, as mentioned. 

how long after getting a tattoo can you swim

If You Have To Go Swimming

There are certain situations where people can’t avoid getting their new ink wet, like physical therapy or rehab. If you have to swim with a fresh tattoo, then there are ways you can try to cover it to prevent infection and damage. 

You can apply a waterproof dressing that will protect your tattoo when submerged under water. Just make double sure you clean the surrounding area so that the dressing sticks thoroughly and doesn’t lift as soon as it gets wet. It’s also best if you apply the dressing right before you get into the water and remove it first thing when you get out of the swimming pool. 

Wash your tattoo as soon as you can and gently pat it dry with a paper towel. Apply the recommended tattoo aftercare and you’re set. 

Another way to ‘waterproof’ a tattoo is to apply heavy layers of Vaseline. This method doesn’t work as well as using a waterproof dressing as the Vaseline can easily rub off, exposing your tattoo to the water. For this reason, only use this method when you’re in an absolute pinch. 

The Bottom Line

How long after you get a tattoo can you swim? The general answer is anything from two to four weeks but there’s more to it than that. Bigger tattoos may need more time, while tiny tats can heal in a matter of days. 

It is up to you to track your healing and make sure to stay out of open water until your tattoo is fully healed. You don’t want to get an infection or irritate your already sensitive skin with chemicals or salt. Not to mention the harmful rays of the sun. 

We know you can’t wait to show off your tattoo but patiently waiting for that day will keep your tattoo’s colors nice and vibrant. What’s the use in parading a fresh tattoo today only to sit with a faded one tomorrow?

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