How Long After Getting A Tattoo Can You Go Swimming?

Getting a tattoo can be a great experience and it’s the best feeling when the tattoo turns out perfectly and just the way you wanted it. However, even though you have your tattoo you still have to take precautions to keep it safe.

How Long After Getting A Tattoo Can You Go Swimming

In this article we will be looking at the aftercare process of getting a tattoo in terms of swimming. What happens if you swim after getting a tattoo? How long should you wait? Will your tattoo ruin?

Read on to find all your tattoo answers. Tattoos have its perks and its downfalls. You’ve just had your new tattoo done and all you want to do is show it off to the world, maybe go to the pool with some friends.

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as that. Swimming after a tattoo is done is not always for the best and this is for many reasons.

The sensible thing to do is to wait the recommended time by the tattoo artist to ensure your tattoo will stay looking as great as it was the day it was done. You are also minimizing any risks by listening to your tattoo artist.

Tattoos And Water

Aside from just swimming, any form of water can have a negative effect on the quality of your tattoo. It is also not recommended to hold your tattooed areas directly under the shower for too long and to avoid submerging your tattoo in bath water.

This may seem extreme but it is all for a good cause. When a tattoo is healing it eventually scabs over and scabs form in order to heal a wound (which a tattoo is).

If you are to submerge that scabbed area in water then this could result in the scab prematurely falling off, removing ink from your tattoo along with it.

This is why it is better to avoid all types of water, including submerging it directly under the shower head and in the bathtub.

How Long Should You Wait To Go Swimming?

The recommended time to wait to go swimming is anywhere between 2 weeks and 4 weeks. This may seem like quite a long wait, but it is all worth it for the safety and end result of your tattoo.

Credits: reposadhoe

And remember, you spent money on this art piece, you want to make sure that it stays perfect.

It is essential for the tattoo to be fully healed before going into the water or you may be at risk of ruining your tattoo. An easy way to know if your tattoo is healed up enough is to keep an eye on the skin.

When a tattoo is newly done the area will turn dry and the skin will flake, that layer of skin pealing. In turn, a new layer of skin will form and once that’s happened you then know your tattoo has healed enough for you to head into the pool.

Unfortunately, tattoos can sometimes on occasions take up to 6 months to heal completely, but the general consensus is a 2-4 week waiting time.

In order to make sure that the healing process runs smoothly for you make sure you stick to the aftercare. Your tattoo artist will talk you through the process and if you have any questions on specifics, they will be happy to help you.

What Happens If You Don’t Wait To Swim?

Not waiting the recommended time can have a negative impact and effect the healing of your tattoo. In order to ensure your tattoo will heal properly it is important to avoid swimming if you can.

Even though the tattoo itself is completed that doesn’t mean that your tattoo will forever look that clean. It is important to look after your tattoo to maintain its quality.


The biggest risk you could face is infection. A tattoo is essentially an open wound and exposing that wound to the swimming pool is also exposing it to harmful bacteria. This is not only a risk to your tattoo but a risk to your health as well.

Swimming in a chlorine pool and swimming in the natural lake or sea both have different effects for obvious reasons. Chlorine is a chemical used to decontaminate and prevent any unwanted bacteria, whereas the ocean is filled with thousands of roaming germs and bacteria.

It is safer to swim in a chlorine pool, but that doesn’t mean you should take that risk. There will always be bacteria, even if you do try to kill it away.

Looking at a cut is a good way to understand – when you have an open cut you wrap it in a band aid to prevent infection. This is the exact same thing as a tattoo. You are preventing infection by keeping it away from bacteria.


Discoloration is another major risk that can occur if you swim straight after getting a tattoo. The worst thing that can happen is for your tattoo to fade and to allow the vibrant colors of your design to discolor before your eyes.

If you want the quality of your tattoo to last before nature takes its course, avoid swimming at all costs. It is not worth the risk for a moment of fun versus a lifetime of regret.

The main cause of this is due to the chlorine and saltwater in the water. They are known to drain ink from your tattoo which can affect the color of the tattoo.

Dry Skin

Another risk Is dry skin. Dry can cause have a drastic impact on the quality of your tattoo. Tattoo artists recommend in the aftercare regime to moisturize your skin accordingly.

Swimming in water will only dry out your skin and create the opposite effects. This can also create irritated skin which can in some cases lead to blisters, rashes, and soreness.

ocean water swimming with tattoo

What If You Have To Swim?

There could sometimes be instances where you have no choice but to go swimming, such as having a swimming competition. There’s no need to worry because in unavoidable times like these there are ways to protect your tattoo.

Of course, having your tattoo submerged in that water can still be risky to your tattoo, but following precautionary tactics will help to avoid these problems.

Waterproof Dressing

You are able to wrap your tattoo up in waterproof dressing. This is a good tool as they come in a variety of sizes, great for tattoos of all shapes and sizes. When applying the dressing it is best to do so straight before getting into the water.

This is because the tattoo requires air during the healing process. Your tattoo is already going to be submerged in water which is enough of a risk. You want your tattoo to take in that oxygen and be healthy for as much time as possible.

When shopping for a waterproof dressing, make sure to look at multiple reviews and read the back of the packaging. Different brands work differently – some work well and some don’t.

You want to be reassured that you tattoo will be kept safe, especially if you are having to swim for a long period of time. It is important to know if the bandage will last.

Alternatively, you can bandage your tattoo up with a plastic seal wrap. This is what some tattoo artists wrap on the tattoos after it is complete, so wrapping yourself in this as well as the waterproof dressing gives your tattoo that extra needed protection.

Immediately Clean Your Tattoo

As soon as you have finished swimming and are out of the water, remove the dressing and clean your tattoo. Wrapping your tattoo can only help so much but water can still easily seep through, especially after being submerged.

Gently wash the tattoo with warm water and non-fragranced soap. After allowing your tattoo to dry apply the necessary creams to the tattoo and give the area air.

How Different Types Of Water Can Impact Your Tattoo

Credits: c4rolromero

As explained above, any water can be harmful to your tattoo. This includes everything from your chlorine swimming pools, to oceans, to bathtubs. Each type has a different effect on your tattoo depending on what’s in the water and how much you will be getting on your tattoo.


It can be hard to completely avoid getting water on your tattoo and that’s okay – it’s expected. But you should still try your best not to submerge the tattoo if possible.

This advice is given by tattoo artists after the tattoo has been done for many reasons. One reason is that showers are typically hot and fill up with a lot of steam.

The heat from the shower can mess with the healing process as it can peal at the scab which has formed which can in turn remove the ink from the tattoo. Once completely healed, this can show on your skin. Your tattoo may end up looking patchy and looking incomplete.

In some cases, for extra precaution your tattoo artist may recommend avoiding taking a shower for 24 hours. At the tattoo’s early stages, this is an understandable request.


It’s been a long day at work and all you want to do is lay back and relax in the bath. Unfortunately, this is something that you should be avoiding with a new tattoo.

You should wait as long as you have to wait to swim, 2–4 weeks, before getting in the bathtub. Have you ever heard the expression ‘bathing in a bathtub is like swimming in germs’?

Well, that expression indeed has some meaning to it. There are so many germs in a bath and allowing your tattoo to come into contact with that is risky. You are risking causing an infection which can deteriorate the overall quality of your tattoo.


Lakes are one of worst places to go for a swim, maybe even worse than sharing a swimming pool with strangers. This is because lakes are the home to nature and wildlife, wildlife who are infested with germs and bacteria.

Hundreds of creatures are using that lake whether that be the fish swimming at the bottom or the flies which bop around near the water. Lakes are filled with fish excrement and bugs float around which are carrying a bucket load of disease.

going swimming with a tattoo

As well as this, there is no way of knowing what people have been using the lake for. They could have littered or poured anything into the water.

There is no way to decontaminate a lake, not like how we are able to decontaminate a pool. The best thing to do is to avoid swimming in the lake for your own health and the protection of your new tattoo.


The ocean is very similar to the ocean, only with a much bigger surface area. Plenty of bacteria is contaminating the water and can be traumatic for your healing tattoo.

Revealing your opened wound to this bacteria is bad for the end result and is also harmful to the body. It will be easy to catch an infection in this ocean with an open wound.

You must also recognize that you will more than likely be sharing this ocean with many other people who also carry bacteria. It is an easy task for someone’s band aid to fall off in the water or for someone with an unknown foot infection to be swimming nearby you.

In order to stay safe, it is better to avoid the ocean altogether.

Chlorine Pool

Although chlorine is a chemical used to decontaminate bacteria, sharing that pool with others who may be carrying infection can easily pass that onto yourself and be damaging to your tattoo.

The most damaging effects of swimming in a chlorine pool is its ability to dry out the skin. It is known that tattoo artists recommend that their clients moisturize their skin, especially in the area of your tattoo.

Dry skin can be bad for your tattoo as it can cause the skin to crack and peel. Cracked skin can affect the way the tattoo looks like at the end.

Another important rule of the tattoo healing process is to, at all costs, avoiding scratching. If you’ve had a tattoo before you know how hard it can be to control yourself, but the creams used can help to soothe that aching urge.

If you are not moisturizing your tattoo then the urge to scratch the dried skin will be increased, and if you give in to that urge then you could be scratching off your artwork.

Final Thoughts

The butterfly effect is real, particularly in terms of a tattoo. There is a lot that goes into protecting your tattoo and it is best to follow the instructions. Once you make one wrong move that can affect all other chain of events afterwards.

It is important to listen to what your tattoo artist advises, no matter how big the temptation. As much fun as it is to swim and have fun playing around in the water with your friends and family, you will have to put those plans on hold. As we know, a tattoo is an open wound.

That is why a tattoo forms a scab – that is the body’s way of healing itself. In order to allow your body to heal itself you want to make sure that you are protecting yourself. And on the bright side, you are only having to avoid swimming for a maximum of 4 weeks, any longer is a rarity.

Any kind of water can be harmful to your tattoo, and it is not always about catching germs and infections. This tattoo will always be on you and with all that work put into creating it you want the finish product to be perfect. By taking risks such as swimming you are risking the outcome of your tattoo.

If this is hard to read then maybe decide to get your tattoo done when you are less likely to go swimming, such as in the winter when it is cold and snowy.

Of course, you still won’t be able to take that warm, relaxing bath but at least you won’t have the temptation of leaving the house to go swimming.

It takes a lot of work to maintain a quality tattoo and it is up to you to make the right decisions and take care of your tattoo the right way.

Megan Ivy