Can You Go Into the Ocean After Getting a Tattoo?

Short answer? No, you should not go into the ocean after getting a tattoo.

That is probably disappointing to hear, but skin experts and experienced tattoo artists agree it is the best option. 

Your body is still healing, and to give it its best chance at healing correctly, it is best to stay away from the water. Doing this will help keep your body healthy and give you a nice-looking, long-lasting tattoo. 

Swimming in the ocean can be a fun and relaxing activity to do with friends. It is also a great way to show off the new art you got, but it needs to be done in a timely manner.

For that reason, it is best to wait the appropriate amount of time, allowing your tattoo to heal, before entering into the water. 

We will discuss a few different factors to explain this answer, such as how long you should wait to get back in the ocean based on the size of the tattoo and how you will know that you can safely swim again. 

Why Can’t I Swim After My Tattoo? 

Let’s dive a little deeper into this. You may be wondering, “why can’t I swim after my tattoo?” Well, there are a few different reasons.

The primary two reasons include health and tattoo longevity. 

First off, your tattoo is still healing.

Treat your tattoo as you would a cut or a burn. The tattoo needle has broken your skin, which leaves it open to the elements, like an open wound. Because of this, it is unsafe to jump into the ocean after getting a tattoo.  

While you can take steps to protect your fresh ink, nothing is truly waterproof, especially when it comes to the rough and tumble intensity that is the ocean. So waiting to heal fully is the best option. 

The ocean, while beautiful, holds tons of bacteria waiting for the chance to jump onto your exposed tattoo.

These different bacteria can cause a multitude of issues. Those issues can include horrible infections, irritations, and rashes such as contact dermatitis. 

These can lead to dangerous and sometimes life-threatening complications. While infections may be rare, they are a real danger and should be taken seriously. 

Those possible infections, along with the open micro-wounds of the tattoo, could lead to a very dangerous situation very quickly. Because of this, it is best to wait until the tattoo is fully healed.

Secondly, the salt and the sun can damage the life of your tattoo. The salt can get into the inked areas causing precise lines to blur. It will also sting pretty severely since it is the equivalent of pouring salt on the wound. 

The sun is also a dangerous factor for a healing tattoo. The sun’s UV rays can cause lasting damage to the tattooed area.

Even if you apply sunscreen, the saltwater will make maintaining a proper protective layer challenging. 

Even when your tattoo is fully healed, and you swim, be sure to keep a good helping of sunscreen over the tattooed area as the salty sea will do its best to de-screen your skin.  

How Long Until I Can Get Back In?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might like it to be, but there are too many things that can mess with the timeframe, to be specific. 

The time it takes to get back into the ocean safely can vary due to many different factors. Those factors can include your artist’s suggested time, the size of your tattoo, and the type of activities you will be doing. 

While there is a general suggestion of how long to wait (around 2-4 weeks), every artist is different, which means they do not have a set time period.

However, here is a range of times to give you an idea for estimation purposes. 

Smaller tattoos will usually heal within about 2-4 weeks.

However, some artists may suggest longer spending on your healing process, where the tattoo is located, and if any unseen difficulties arise. 

Large tattoos can take 4-6 weeks, or even longer, to heal fully. In these instances, observation and tedious aftercare will be your best friend and assistant to getting back in the ocean as soon as possible. 

It is also important to note that the time limit may be impacted by what form of activity you are doing. For example, wading around in the water is much gentler on the body than surfing or water skiing. 

Because of this, your tattoo artist may suggest a longer healing time, especially if you will be doing rougher activities that could re-injure or damage your tattoo.

Avoiding these activities can prevent the ink from fading sooner rather than later.  

While you can get an estimate on how long it will take, always go to the field’s professionals to know when it is safe to go in the ocean. 

How Do I Know When My Tattoo Is Fully Healed?

To know when your tattoo is fully healed, you should go back to your artist for your check-up appointment.

You can also keep an eye on it yourself, so you know how it has been healing. 

During the first week after you get your tattoo, the skin will be tender and swollen because you will still have micro-wounds from the needle penetrating your skin.

However, as the first week passes, you will begin to heal. 

In the second week, those micro-wounds should be mostly closed up or quickly working on finishing the healing process. There may be some scabbing at this point. 

Most tattoos will be fully healed within six weeks. However, some complications can arise that may extend the healing process further. 

When it comes to knowing if your tattoo is completely healed or not, your best option is to get back to your artist for a “check-up” of sorts.

Your artist will assess the tattoo and use their experience and knowledge to either give you the green light for swimming in the big blue or tell you to wait a little longer. 

Whatever they suggest, it is best to listen to any warning or advice they have to keep your tattoo healthy and lasting. 

To Sum It All Up

Finishing up, no, it is not safe to swim after having just gotten a tattoo, for various reasons, including your health and safety and the life of the tattoo you received. 

You can jeopardize your health if you aren’t patient with the healing process because the tattoo acts as an open wound, and bacteria that live in the ocean can access it.

The saltwater and sun can also cause lasting damage to your skin and the tattoo itself. 

When you will be able to swim again depends on your artist’s suggested time, the size of the tattoo you got, and how well and how quickly it heals.

These variables can change a given timeline and should be carefully watched and listened to. 

Finally, the best way to undoubtedly know that it is safe to swim again is to get the “all clear” from your tattoo artist. Once you finally receive their “go ahead,” be sure to lather up in sunscreen and have a blast! 

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