Got a fresh tattoo and wondering if you can take a hot bath after? How long should you wait?
In most cases, you should let new tattoos heal for at least two weeks before hopping in the bath. Since fresh tattoos are essentially open wounds, soaking them can lead to infection, scarring, and ink loss. Additionally, cleaning and moisturizing your inked skin is crucial in helping it heal.
You undoubtedly want your ink to look as great as possible. So to help, this article explains why you should avoid soaking in the tub—and how you should wash your new tattoo instead.
Why you shouldn't take a bath with new tattoos
Soaking your tattoo in the bath before it heals poses risks for your health and your piece's quality. And the more you submerge it, the more likely these issues become.
Here are some reasons why baths are bad for new ink:
- Infection: Harmful bacteria thrive in water. As a result, you should generally avoid soaking open wounds, such as tattoos. If you have to hop in the bath, try not to submerge your ink.
- Scarring: Soaking your new tattoo can interfere with the healing process and cause minor scarring. These marks may dramatically affect the appearance of smaller pieces.
- Quality loss: When a fresh tattoo scabs, it also pulls some ink out of your skin. However, submerging your piece can cause excessive scabbing. Because of that, your piece may look washed-out and less vibrant.
As you can see, you should try to avoid hopping in the tub with a fresh tat. Otherwise, your piece may not heal right or lose some of its details.
Is it safe to shower with new tattoos?
Believe it or not, showering with your fresh ink is completely fine. In fact, most artists will recommend that you do it to keep your tattoo sanitary.
This is because the shower is an excellent place for cleaning your new ink. The ideal way to wash it is by gently lathering a scentless antibacterial soap. Afterward, pat the skin dry and use a moisturizer like Aquaphor.
Always wash fresh tattoos with your hands only—avoid loofahs since they can carry harmful bacteria.
However, you want to make sure you don't take a shower too soon. So after you get inked, ask your artist how long they recommend keeping your bandages on. Smaller pieces usually need 2 or 3 hours. Meanwhile, huge tats may need as much as 6 hours.
Whatever you do, don't shower with your bandages on unless they're waterproof. Otherwise, moisture will get trapped under it—and as a result, soak your tattoo.
How to help your tattoo heal
The sooner your tattoo heals, the sooner you can enjoy a hot bath or dip in the pool. So naturally, you might wonder if you can speed that process up somehow.
To help, here are some tips on taking care of your fresh ink:
- Stay moisturized: It might seem counterintuitive since soaking can be harmful. However, moisturizer is crucial for helping your tattoo mend. Aim to apply ointment five times a day, or as directed by your artist. And use unscented products only.
- Remove the bandage within 24 hours: Otherwise, the wrap on your tattoo may collect bacteria and increase the chances of infection.
- Wash it twice daily: You should lightly clean your new ink twice a day even when you don't shower. After washing, pat it dry and reapply moisturizer.
- Don't peel or scratch the skin: Resisting the itch might be challenging. Nonetheless, avoid picking at your inked skin. Pulling scabs up may leave scars and patches in your tattoo.
How to tell when your tattoo has healed
You can tell if your tattoo has healed by its texture and appearance. Fully-mended skin will no longer be peeling or scabby. Additionally, it should feel similar to or the same as the uninked skin around it.
For most pieces, the healing process takes about two or three weeks. Although, larger pieces can take twice as long to fully mend. Additionally, any unintentional soaking or scratching may extend the time it takes.
Once it is fully-healed, feel free to bathe with your tattoo to your heart's content. However, you should still take some steps to preserve your ink's quality.
For example, apply sunscreen to your tattoos whenever swimming at the beach. That way, sunburns won't wash out your ink's colors.
Additionally, try to moisturize your tattoos daily, even after they heal. Doing so slows down the aging and stretching of your inked skin.
Can you swim with a new tattoo?
Generally, you should also avoid swimming of any kind with a new tattoo at all costs—and there are several reasons why:
- Soaking: Swimming with a new tattoo will also soak it. As I covered earlier, that carries risks ranging from scarring to infection.
- Parasites and bacteria: Salt and freshwater carry tons of microbes that are dangerous to humans. Since tattoos are open wounds, they're easy for these organisms to infect.
- Sand: If you've ever been to the beach, you know the sand is unavoidable. And if it gets into your tattoo, it can also be painful and hard to remove. So don't hit the waves until your ink heals.
- Chemical irritation: Pools are chock full of potent chemicals to maintain sanitation. Unfortunately, those same additives may cause your freshly-tattooed skin to sting or develop dermatitis.
So, if you’re considering a new tattoo, be sure to give yourself enough time for the healing process. Follow your artist’s instructions on how to best take care of your skin during and after the inking process, and resist the temptation to soak in the tub until those two weeks have passed. In the meantime, keep that area moisturized so it can heal properly and look its best!