If you’ve ever gotten a tattoo, you surely know that you’ll need to take care of it so that it heals properly and looks its best. Your tattoo artist likely gave you some pointers on aftercare, including submerging it in water. Obviously, swimming is out, but can you go to the sauna with your new tattoo?
Never go into the sauna with a healing tattoo. A fresh tattoo is essentially an open wound and should never be exposed to water for a prolonged period of time. A sauna is intended to make you sweat, which can be just as bad as total immersion in water. Sweating so much with a new tattoo could lead to infection or permanent damage to the tattoo.
Read on for why you should avoid getting your new tattoo wet and why the dry heat from the sauna can be just as bad as immersing your healing tattoo.
Is a sauna bad for new tattoos?
Moisture is not good for any open wound. A tattoo may not look or seem like what you’d normally consider an injury, but it consists of hundreds, or even thousands, of punctures. Fresh tattoos frequently bleed and scab, and they’re covered specifically to protect them when they’re really fresh.
You probably left your tattoo parlor with a thin film of plastic protecting your new tattoo, and depending on the nature and size of the design, your artist may have suggested you keep the protective plastic against your fresh ink for a period of several hours, or even overnight.
Exposing your new tattoo to water is never a good idea, and the same holds true for the sweat you expect when you visit a sauna. Sweating in the sauna can interfere with the healing process, over-saturating the delicate, forming scab. Too much moisture can result in several problems, including potential infection, a condition called “bubbling,” and cracking, fading, or permanent scarring to the tattoo itself.
Just as you wouldn’t walk around with a fresh open bleeding cut unprotected, your new tattoo needs to be kept clean and covered, typically for a few hours, as your body begins the process of healing.
Can sweating ruin a new tattoo?
Before exposing your tattoo to water, it must be given time to heal.
This is not to say that you can’t bathe or shower – you just need to be conscientious about how much moisture you’re exposed to. A quick pass with soap and water is actually recommended, so a fast shower is okay. But that long, half-hour-long steamy shower is out… at least until your tattoo has healed. So are steam rooms.
Too much sweating – even outside of a sauna – in the first several weeks after you get a new tattoo can ruin it. Excessive moisture, whatever the source, can have the same disastrous results on your new tattoo as swimming or other total immersion in water.
However, as with a brief shower, a little bit of infrequent perspiration is fine. You’re encouraged to moisturize your new tattoo lightly several times a day. Similarly, a bit of sweat on your skin here and there isn’t going to be a big deal.
Keep the tattoo clean and relatively dry, and avoid activities that you know will provoke perspiration, such as strenuous activity or taking a sauna for that first early period of healing.
What can I do if I notice bubbling or an infection?
If your tattoo is exposed to too much water, the scab protecting your new tattoo can absorb the water and start to bubble.
If your tattoo starts bubbling, dry it out as quickly as possible. Don’t try to clean your tattoo until it’s completely dry. Make sure you don’t touch the bubbling tattoo – not with your hands or your clothing. You don’t want to rip off the healing layer of the scab and scar the tattoo – you want to dry it out, exactly as it is, without losing any scab, if at all possible.
Try to expose the tattoo to the air for a few hours and allow it to dry. You want the scabs to firm up, securely attached to your skin.
You should be able to resume your normal aftercare routine the following day. Ensure you take extra precautions, allowing your tattoo to dry completely before giving it a light moisturizing.
Can heat mess up a new tattoo?
Temperature doesn’t affect the healing of a tattoo, but it can contribute to conditions that may.
Heat itself does not directly cause trouble for new tattoos. Extreme heat (like that found in a sauna) will naturally lead to excessive sweating, which in turn can saturate a new tattoo.
When the scab over a fresh tattoo becomes saturated, it will bubble and may flake off, leading to infection or damage the appearance of the healed tattoo.
Is hot water bad for a new tattoo?
Fresh tattoos should not be exposed to hot water, but it is not inherently worse than water at any other temperature.
How long do I have to stay out of the sauna?
Once your tattoo has healed, it should be safe to revisit the sauna.
After getting a new tattoo, you should avoid saunas and steam rooms until your tattoo has completely healed. It will take your tattoo 2 to 5 weeks to heal at the skin’s surface depending upon your age, the placement of the tattoo, the type of tattoo, the skill of your tattoo artist, and your adherence to aftercare instructions.
While your tattoo artist probably told you to stay out of pools and water for 2-3 weeks, that’s just the time it takes for the surface of the skin to heal. The injury to your flesh is actually quite a bit deeper and will take several months to heal fully beneath the surface.
Depending on the tattoo’s location, size, and nature – if, for example, it has a lot of shading or elaborate color – it can take upwards of 6 months to heal fully.
What will happen to my tattoo if I get it wet?
The risks of getting a new tattoo wet, whether by sweating in a sauna, swimming, or just bathing too early in the healing process, are infection and/or a condition called bubbling. Neither is good, but you don’t want to get an infection AND lose or ruin your tattoo.
“Bubbling” happens when fresh tattoos are exposed to excessive moisture before they’ve had time to heal adequately. New scabs become saturated and separate from the skin, leading to scarring, cracking, and other permanent damage to your tattoo’s design if the scabs lift away before you’re able to dry them out. The bigger the tattoo, the greater the danger of bubbling.
Signs of bubbling include seeping pus, redness that gets worse, pain, an itchy rash, and fever and/or chills.
You want to make sure you only allow a licensed tattoo facility to do your tattoo and ensure that the place is scrupulously clean and all equipment sterile. Even so, any tattoo carries a risk of infection, and bubbling can still lead to a greater risk of infection.
Can you go to the sauna after tattoo removal?
If you’ve recently had a tattoo removed, the same general aftercare rules apply as when it was fresh.
The healing process is different, but you still risk infection and disruption of healing by taking a sauna too soon. Sweating is still a bad idea, so no sauna’s here, either.
You even run the risk of partially undoing the removal.