Last time, we talked Neosporin. Next up on the tattoo aftercare mythbusting block: water myths (and truths!).
THE MYTH: Swimming, Especially in the Pool, Will Fade Your Ink
Much like the myths regarding petroleum products leaching color from tattoos, this one is also false, however there are many layers to this particular issue.
First, let's address the pool. There is no evidence showing that chlorine from the pool is responsible for faded ink. If you're still concerned, remember that once the tattoo is fully healed (3 months), it is an absolute impossibility for chlorine to effect your ink in any way because it's too deep in your skin.
That doesn't mean you should dive in just yet. The unspoken reason you should avoid swimming after getting a tattoo is the immersion factor. You see, one of the two real problems with swimming, bathing or showering is all the bacteria in the water.
Never forget, your tattoo is an open wound. Even though I hate thinking about it, water is just full of all kinds of junk. (It brings to mind the episode of Archer, Double Deuce, when Woodhouse's Officer friend dies uttering the last words "Fish fuck in it") Bacteria, particulates, amoebas... ALIENS... I don't even know what all is in there! Water is just teaming with life. I LOVE life, but seriously, you don't want it absorbing into your tattoo.
The other problem with immersion, be it swimming or bathing, is the possibility of your skin getting waterlogged. You know how your fingers "prune" or begin to look like raisins if you stay in the water too long? Biologically speaking, recent studies suggest that this is an evolutionary adaptation so that we can grip objects when wet. Lucky us! The rest of our body doesn't have as visible a reaction to soaking in water, but it's still effected. Due to it's physical makeup, our top layer of skin, the epidermis, is the most absorbent. That layer expands to accommodate additional water in the skin, even though you might not see it happen. While the top layer of skin expands and contracts, the deeper layers do not move. If you live in the north, think of the "frost heaves" that appear in the road during the winter- it's the same sort of thing. These almost invisible changes in your skin can disrupt ink, especially if it wasn't injected deep enough into your tissue.
Most artists will ask you to stay out of the water for at least one month. As a general rule, a tattoo isn't considered completely healed until about three months have passed, and that's how long they really want you to avoid swimming.
This is not an excuse to stay out of the shower. It's important to wash your tattoo. Most artists even recommend multiple washings per day in the first 4-6 days of healing. Even though there is bacteria in water, and even though your skin expands and contracts to accommodate water absorption, quick showers are crucial to a healthy healing experience. If possible, limit your ink's water exposure even during your shower, and make sure cleaning and rinsing your tattoo is the last thing you do before stepping out. Apply your aftercare product immediately after dabbing your tattoo dry with a clean towel.
I hope you choose to use MY aftercare products, but if you don't that's totally cool! Come back tomorrow and learn about the last major tattoo myth left to bust: dry healing.