How To Waterproof A Tattoo For Swimming

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Getting a tattoo is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. The feeling you get from your dream ink can’t be matched.

However, if you are a swimmer there are steps you need to consider before getting back in the water. These tattoo care instructions must be followed whether you are a casual pool lounger or competitive athlete.

This article on how to waterproof a tattoo for swimming covers:

How To Waterproof A Tattoo For Swimming Dive

From a personal standpoint, I swam for The University of Michigan. After the NCAA Championship, it is tradition for the freshmen class to head to the local Ann Arbor tattoo parlor to get a Michigan “M” tattoo.

While the tattoo artist recommended staying out of the water for 2 weeks, try telling that to our swim coach. After 2 days I was back in the water with my new ink.

During that time I implemented all the well known tattoo care techniques, learning which worked and which did not.

Why Can’t You Swim With a Tattoo?

The reason why you shouldn’t swim right after getting inked is because it is essentially an open wound that could get infected.

Whether it is a chlorinated pool or the open water, bacteria is present, and if that bacteria comes into contact with any unhealed wound, then infection can occur.

This can damage the tattoo and cause some serious health problems. For example, part of my yellow and blue tattoo bled and turned green.

Furthermore, chlorine and saltwater can cause pain when they come into contact with an open wound and can lead to a redness which may lead to itchiness. 

anthony ervin
Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Ervin is known for his epic tattoos!

How Long Before You Can Swim With a New Tattoo?

If you have just got a tattoo done, then you should wait at least two to four weeks before you start swimming again. This will allow the skin around the area to heal properly. 

How long the healing process usually is, will depend on each person and the tattoo.

Normally, after getting a tattoo it will be bandaged for you, and you are to take this bandage off when you get home (depending on your tattoo artist’s instructions). You should then gently clean off any excess ink or blood with warm water. 

After a few days, you’ll notice your skin shedding and bits of ink flaking from your skin. Once all the skin has flaked off, you will be left with a new layer of skin, and your tattoo imprinted on it. This is when you know your tattoo has healed and it is safe to swim again.

How Can I Waterproof A Tattoo For Swimming?

While there is no way of fully waterproofing a tattoo for swimming, there are a few things you can do to prevent damage. 

If you’re going to go swimming with a new tattoo, make sure it is fully covered with either a waterproof bandage, some Vaseline, or both. 

Then, once you’re out of the water, quickly remove the cover, and rinse the tattoo with fresh water.

Your tattoo artist will also have given you some aftercare cream to put on the area with the tattoo. Once you have washed it after swimming, simply apply some of this cream to the tattoo. 

How To Waterproof A Tattoo For Swimming Ocean
While you may long for your next swim, waiting for your tattoo to heal is crucial.

Tattoo Care Tips for Swimmers

The first few days after getting a tattoo are crucial to taking care of it. As mentioned earlier, a new tattoo is an open wound, so treating it like one is key. 

You should always use the aftercare cream your tattoo artist gave you. They will advise you on how often you should use it, but usually, it is 2 to 3 times a day. 

In the early days, the area where you have been inked needs to stay healthy and moisturized while it heals. Applying this cream will do exactly that, and you should never cover it up after applying this cream, it should air dry naturally. 

As your tattoo heals, it will scab and flake away. This can sometimes be itchy, but you should never scratch at it, as this can damage the tattoo. You should never pick or remove the scabs that form over the tattoo, and they should always be kept dry. 

When you first get your tattoo, it should be kept out of the direct sun, as this could tamper with the healing process. You also should not apply sunscreen to it while it is healing, as this contains chemicals that can cause an infection.

Instead, cover it with some loose clothing. Once it has healed, you can apply sunscreen to it as you would on the rest of your body. 

How Do I Shower With A New Tattoo?

Reading the above may have you wondering: how do I shower?

This is a very good question. If your tattoo has been wrapped in a waterproof bandage, then you can shower around 3 or 4 hours after getting inked. However, this can depend on a few factors.

The best thing to do is go by your tattoo artist’s advice. They’ll be able to advise you on how long you need to keep the bandage on, and when it is okay to wash the area. 

When it comes to the shower, there are a few things to bear in mind. The new tattoo should never be left under running water or submerged underwater for a period of time. Scrubbing it with a sponge or loofah is also a big no-no until it heals completely. 

You should wash the area with fragrance-free, mild soap and cool or lukewarm water. You must also make sure you aren’t using any products that contain alcohol or other chemicals, as these can dry the skin out. 

Once you’re done with the shower, you should gently pat the area that has your new tattoo with a clean towel. Then, you should apply the aftercare cream your tattoo artist gave you, and leave the area uncovered. 

Can I Take A Bath?

Unfortunately, all bath lovers are going to be disappointed with this answer. Taking baths after a new tattoo should not be done, as this means your new ink is likely to be submerged underwater for a period of time. 

Leaving it submerged could make your tattoo more prone to infection and irritation, so baths are out of the question if they can be avoided. 

If your tattoo is small, and as long as you can leave this area of skin outside the bath, then that shouldn’t be an issue. 


To conclude, all kinds of swimming should be avoided after getting inked, until the tattoo has healed. Not following proper care instructions can lead to infection or damaging your new body art.

If you absolutely must go swimming for whatever reason, then you can protect your tattoo using a waterproof bandage, Vaseline, and the recommended methods above. 

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  1. It’s important to take care of your tattoo, especially if you plan on swimming with it. Thank you for sharing!

  2. After my tattoo is finally healed and then forever, should I put some type of cream on my tattoo while swimming in an indoor pool? I’m certainly worried about chlorine pools.

    • Once your tattoo is healed, there is no need to apply additional anything before swimming. You are good to go!

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