How Long Should You Wait To Swim After Getting A Tattoo?

Just get some new summer ink? Then you probably can't wait to get out there and flaunt it to the world. And what better place to show some freshly tattooed skin than at the pool or the beach, where you can let it all hang out? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. As nicely as that bikini or Speedo might show off your tat, going for a swim could spell serious danger for its longevity.

Tattoos are becoming much more popular and normalized in our society, but it's important to remember that they're still wounds and require careful aftercare. That's why pretty much every tattoo studio will send you home moisturized, bandaged, and with a set of instructions for your healing process, like Saved Tattoo's day-by-day aftercare timeline. And sorry to all you eager swimmers, but these aftercare instructions include avoiding too much time in the water. But why is H2O considered such a villain when it comes to new tattoos, and how long do you really have to wait before you can go swimming again?

Can swimming damage a new tattoo?

Part of you might still be thinking, "It's only water. How bad could it be?" But don't fall into this line of thinking, or you could end up spoiling your new body art. For one thing, most water you'd encounter on a swim isn't sterile, so soaking your vulnerable tattoo is a quick way to expose it to potentially harmful bacteria (via Healthline). These bacteria could cause serious infection, which is bad for the sanctity of your design and dangerous for your health.

The chlorine in pools and salt in the ocean can also pose a problem, as these compounds can actually leach the ink out of your skin and prolong healing (via Refinery29). Moreover, excess exposure to moisture can cause your tattoo to bubble. When the scabs covering your new tattoo soak up too much water, they can become soggy and lose their cling — meaning that they fall off too soon, before the layers of skin underneath are sufficiently healed. These scabs may also take some of the ink deposits away with them, which can damage the end result of your tattoo and leave it looking uneven and faded (via Authority Tattoo).

When can you start swimming after getting a tattoo?

We've already established that soaking a fresh tat is bad for both your skin and the art. As such, you should avoid immersing your new tattoo in any body of water, whether that means a swimming pool, a lake or ocean, or that hot tub in your backyard. You can't even take a bath unless you're able to keep your tattoo out of the water the whole time. While your skin is healing, it's a safer bet to stick with showers.

If you're a beach bunny or a pool enthusiast, you may want to reconsider getting that long-awaited tattoo in the summer months, because the healing process could mean missing weeks of primo swimming time. Every person's body is unique, so there's no strict timeline that will clear you to hit the water again. Instead, you'll need to pay attention to the signs that mean your tattoo is fully healed. By this point, all scabbing and dry skin should have naturally fallen off, which can take up to four weeks (via TatRing). Again, the scabs should have come off naturally and on their own. Never pick or pull at the scabs covering a tattoo, unless you want to risk messing up the finished product.

Ultimately, how long to wait between getting tattooed and going swimming depends on how quickly your particular body recovers. If you start feeling antsy and impatient to hit the waves earlier, just stop and ask yourself: is it really worth messing up a tattoo that will be with you for life, just for one day of swimming? Give your body the time it needs, then you can enjoy your next trip to the pool with a piece of art that looks its very best. (Just be sure to protect it with some SPF!)