How to keep my tattoo pretty (at the beach)??
August 22, 2021 7:50 PM   Subscribe

I got a tattoo yesterday (Saturday). I'm going camping at the beach next Thursday, just 5 days after I got it. I know, I know! What can I do to protect my pretty new flesh decor?

I've gotten tons of tattoos and SHOULD know better, but the tattoo appointment and the camping trip were both unmovable. The tattoo is about palm sized and on my shoulder blade. It's currently under tegaderm. Any best practices?

I was thinking of buying new tegaderm, taking off the current stuff after another couple of days, rinsing well, and then applying a new layer just before leaving and hoping it stays on the whole trip. I also imagine just keeping it covered up with a shirt at all times might help. But should I let it scab over instead of re-covering with tegaderm? Use suncreen instead of fabric to protect it? Stay out of the water under penalty of death? Something else I'm not thinking of?

My most strenuous apologies to all of the gods of tattoos, and to the minor gods of beach camping trips.
posted by EmilyFlew to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Definitely don't get in the water! I haven't used tegaderm so I'm not sure about removing and reapplying, but if you decide to take it off because you don't think it'll stay on all trip, use sunblock religiously if the sun is going to touch it (but making sure it isn't overly moisturized) and ideally cover up. It's not ideal that sunblock has fragrance but I've put sunblock on fairly new tattoos and it's been fine, I feel like sun protection is more important as long as you're not noticing active irritation (but if you keep it covered with a shirt you don't have to do that calculation). Try not to let it marinate in sweat too much. It's gonna be fine! Don't swim.
posted by babelfish at 8:37 PM on August 22, 2021

Yeah, seconding "stay out of the water". Sunscreen is vital. I've never used Tegaderm either, but I, with only a couple tattoos so small-ish sample size, swear by Tattoo Goo to keep the skin hydrated while it's healing and prevent scabbing.
posted by pdb at 8:40 PM on August 22, 2021

Can you ask your tattoo artist? If it were me, I’d leave the Tegaderm on until Thursday morning (assuming it’s the same thing as Saniderm?), wash and moisturize, and then just keep it covered with dark fabric and/or sunscreen if you absolutely must. If you do use sunscreen wash it off your tattoo gently every night.

As for swimming, I’d probably wade in up to the waist but no further, if you HAVE to get all the way in the water NO SOAKING and wash/ moisturize your tattoo immediately when you get out. No soaking also means being careful not to let your wet t-shirt lay on it for any length of time!
posted by stellaluna at 8:43 PM on August 22, 2021

Yes to tegaderm, I generally do this for a full week anyway. It’s still an open wound at this point. Yes to no sun exposure under fabric. It’s too fresh for sunscreen. Absolutely do not swim with it.
posted by corvine at 10:24 PM on August 22, 2021

No sun exposure.

No sunscreen.

No swimming. Maybe you can wade around in the water, but don't get the tattoo wet and definitely make sure that you don't soak it.

Be careful that clothing doesn't get stuck to it
posted by kinddieserzeit at 10:32 PM on August 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

So the main issue with tattoos isn’t just the pretty - but the fact that the top layers of skin have been obliterated. Therefore your body is more sensitive to sun exposure and burn and damage and infection. 5 days is better than directly fresh but still a wound.

I’ve seen first hand people get burned BAD after being in the sun with a tattoo. The tattoo was fine. But the burn is bad news and painful.

Layers of clothing, possibly an opaque bandage (bandaid has non stick gauze), possibly UV rated clothing. Consider a big umbrella or other shade. No sunscreen directly on it as it’s not healed over yet. No water. No sand in it.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:56 PM on August 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you search for "UV rated rashguard", you should be able to find both long and short-sleeved shirts with better-than-average sun protection.
posted by ourobouros at 4:06 AM on August 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm going to add that you do everything possible to keep it clean. You don't specify what kind of beach (ocean? lake?) but when I see camping my first thought is dirty. Make sure you have clean clean first layer to put on at night when you sleep. For me that would be clean tshirts in a ziploc bag that only were touched for sleeping. You do not want an infected tattoo. My guy recommends the tegaderm for up to 5 days, and my recent ones have healed beautifully using it. I'd see what the artists recommends, and I have never heard of re-applying the tegaderm but that just means I've never heard of it. You will be fine if precautious and careful.
posted by archimago at 4:15 AM on August 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

1) definitely check in with your artist, because they all do things a little differently, but...

2) mine would tell you that at 5 days out and palm sized, it's probably going to be mostly done oozing under the tegaderm and ready for the lotion stage (our shop also uses tegaderm and recs for 3 to 7 days, basically when the teg starts to come off on its own and the oozing has stopped). Bad timing, but it is what it is. If that turns out to be the case - you know they all heal slightly differently every time - then dark rashguard/sunguard shirt when you're in the sun, and definitely keep a shirt on at all times (I always end up getting something on my forearms during the summer and then going "why do I do this?") - sunscreen is for later, as it's going to be too tender, 5 days out, for sun exposure even with sunscreen, and you don't want to get dirt in it right now. Find a friend that actually knows how to wash their hands for the lotioning.

If it looks like it will benefit from a couple more days under the tegaderm (my artist is like "yea, if it looks like it's not done oozing yet and the tegaderm is starting to roll up, you can reapply, NBD") and you reapply, make sure you get a piece big enough to allow for some edge rolling. Tegaderm isn't cheap, but neither is good ink, so. :) [I know you know that, but for the next person with baby's first tattoo that stumbles across this...]

No bandaids, you want it breathing (which is one of the nice things about tegaderm).

Another nice thing about tegaderm if you haven't used it before is you mostly skip the scabbing stage - I'll always slough a little more skin after it comes off, but for the most part, it comes out of the tegaderm 95% healed up, you lotion for a couple few days, and you're done.

(And definitely no swimming, sorry. I think my artist says no swimming and no soaking, even in a bathtub, for two weeks after? The infection risk is real.)
posted by joycehealy at 4:32 AM on August 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

joycehealy said everything I would say. The main thing I would worry about at this juncture is keeping it clean, and a layer of tegaderm + a rashguard or always a shirt that covers the shit out of it would be the way I would go.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:17 AM on August 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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