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Why is it necessary to wait 2 weeks after a new tattoo before swimming in a chlorinated pool?
May 7, 2008 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Why is it necessary to wait 2 weeks after a new tattoo before swimming in a chlorinated pool?

I understand that oceans and lakes will have bacteria. Swimming Pools, however, have chlorine, a disinfectant used to keep them clean. Obviously the people who get into the pool are dirty, but isn't that the point of the chlorine, to disinfect the water that is getting dirty?

Why does swimming in a chlorinated pool have risk of infection for a new tattoo?

I have only been able to find sites which say not to swim, but none which explain why a chlorinated pool leads to infected tattoos - just that it does. That doesn't seem like a good explanation :)
posted by jesirose to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I always understood the risk to be fading of the tattoo via the chlorine.
posted by jaythebull at 2:20 PM on May 7, 2008


2nding jaythebull - the risk of infection would probably be reduced by chlorine, but it will fade your tattoo as it is bleach.
posted by goo at 2:25 PM on May 7, 2008


I have read both actually, that is what I am confused about. Some sites say infection, and some say fading. Then there is this one :http://faqs.cs.uu.nl/na-dir/bodyart/tattoo-faq/part6.html

Which says
"1. "Vaseline makes a tattoo faded". The ink is underneath the epidermis
and the outer layer of dermis. There's NO WAY that vaseline can get
down through the epidermis to draw out any of the ink.

2. "Swimming makes a tattoo faded". For the same reason as the above,
pool chlorine does not get to the ink to fade it. Common sense
precautions include not swimming in a public pool with a raw sore,
such as a new tattoo while oozing or completely raw. After the first
2 days, the surface over the tattoo is impervious and (from personal
experience as well as science background) it is OK to swim."
posted by jesirose at 2:26 PM on May 7, 2008


The rec.arts.bodyart faq seems to agree with you.

2. "Swimming makes a tattoo faded". For the same reason as the above,
pool chlorine does not get to the ink to fade it. Common sense
precautions include not swimming in a public pool with a raw sore,
such as a new tattoo while oozing or completely raw. After the first
2 days, the surface over the tattoo is impervious and (from personal
experience as well as science background) it is OK to swim.

The people on this forum suggest five days to a week. Yahoo Answers says... well what they always say.

While it does make sense to not basically rinse an open wound in sweaty water, if your tattoo is healed [i.e. no more scabs or openness] it should be okay. There's also just the fact that soaking and waterlogging your skin and making it more liable to scratching and whatnot is bad for freshly tattooed ink which may be where some of this is coming from. Usually the two weeks is more about not submerging a tattoo then not getting it someplace infection-worthy.

Note: IANAD but IAATS [I am a tattooed swimmer] and have put getting new ink on indefinite hold until I can spend a few weeks out of the water.
posted by jessamyn at 2:26 PM on May 7, 2008


I used to be a lifeguard. I was a lifeguard for a long, long, long time. I worked with a girl who got a tattoo when she was 17, on her ankle, when she was a lifeguard. She waited about 48 hours before going in the pool. At the end of the summer, her entire tattoo was gone, minus a tiny bit of the outline of what had been the circle. POOF gone. For real. Weird.
(She got another one the next summer (we lifeguarded a nonchlorinated lake)) and stood in the crazy sun all day. It faded to mute colors very, very fast.
posted by TomMelee at 2:41 PM on May 7, 2008


Geez. Nobody ever told me not to swim after getting my tattoo. Luckily I don't much enjoy pools. Thanks for asking, so I have the info for the future, though.
posted by iguanapolitico at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2008


Exposing a brand-new tattoo to lots of sunshine (like, when you're swimming) will assist in fading it. This is bad. Even exposing a not-so-new tattoo can cause fading, so load up on the sunscreen or keep it covered when you're outside.
posted by rtha at 3:38 PM on May 7, 2008


My wife used to work as a pool inspector for the local health department. I learned from her that most swimming pools' chlorine levels are not maintained properly. Also, an expensive country club is just as likely to have an improper chemical balance as your average apartment complex.

I would just wait the two weeks.
posted by Quonab at 3:57 PM on May 7, 2008


My tattoo artist told me to avoid any prolonged exposure to water, whether chlorinated or not. The reason being you don't want your scab to become saturated with water and fall off prematurely, taking some of the ink with it. This holds true if you've ever seen a tattoo of someone who has peeled off the scab instead of letting it fall off.
posted by Ugh at 6:07 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Two Reasons:

1. Even a chlorinated swimming pool contains bacteria. Soaking an open wound in potentially infectious water increases your risk of infection. Period.

2. Soaking a fresh tattoo in ANY water will cause the scabs to get thicker, which leads to cracking and premature peeling. This can lead to light spots and scarring.

Basically, keep your new tattoo's exposure to water to a minimum (i.e. quick showers), and it will heal better.
posted by TheCoug at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2008


Thanks.

Quonab: The pool in question is my own private pool which I personally maintain the chemicals of, and it's kept properly. I test the water every few days :)

That being said, I'll stay out of the water until the time is up! I use sunscreen anyway so no worries there.
posted by jesirose at 8:42 PM on May 7, 2008


Geez. Nobody ever told me not to swim after getting my tattoo

Heh, me too, iguanapolitico, and that's probably why my first tat looked crappy within a couple of weeks. Thanks for the question, jesirose!
posted by goo at 3:25 AM on May 8, 2008


If it makes you feel better, no one told me with my first two tattoos. But they are small and plain. This is a huge very colorful one on my back, so I'll be listening to the advice. I just wanted to understand WHY the pool is so bad. The scabs reasoning makes sense as well.



Also, it's really retarded that the when you hit tab out of here you don't hit the submit button. NOT too hard to fix Me.Fi.
posted by jesirose at 5:24 AM on May 8, 2008


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