Is Chlorine Bad For Tattoos? - Everything You Need To Know

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Going to a pool is a perfect excuse to show off your tattoos, but like everything else in a post-tattoo world, there are a few items you should take note of when it comes to exposing tattoos to chlorine.

Whether you have a new tattoo or an old tattoo, chlorinated water may pose a few concerns for your ink. Read on to ensure you’re prepared before you dive in.

Is Chlorine Bad For Tattoos?: The Facts

The danger that chlorine may pose to your tattoos depends on the age of the tattoo but there are a few factors worth noting.

Color Fading

When you choose to get a tattoo, you are essentially investing in a lifelong piece of art on your skin. This art requires careful and thoughtful maintenance over time that helps maintain its brightness and “like new” appearance.

Unfortunately, chlorine can open up the pores of your skin, stripping it from the natural oils that keep it hydrated. This can result in premature aging of the skin. Tattoos require moisturization and hydration over their lifetime to ensure they stay bright, that the elasticity of your skin stays tight, and that your piece of art maintains its sharp appearance.

For a new tattoo, which is essentially an open wound, this damage can extend into the dermis where your layer of ink is planted and can force the wound to push out more ink than necessary during the healing stage.

Both of these factors result in the color fading or dullness of your tattoo.

Infections

Though chlorine is known to be a bacteria killer, when it comes to a new tattoo or a cut that occurs near your old tattoo, going for a swim at the pool may open you up to a variety of risks.

Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a contact irritation that happens to your skin, and it’s the most frequent sensitivity reaction to chlorine. Those with hypersensitive skin are especially prone to this concern.

This infection can cause severe itching, redness, rashes, or even discharge from the place of irritation. The longer you spend in the chlorine, the more exasperated this dermatitis can become.

Dermatitis can permanently distort your ink, cause scratching that leads to greater infections, or cause severe scarring.

Sepsis

Although sepsis is rare, this bacteria may exist in some pools but it is most commonly found in bodies of water. In the case of a Texas man, he got septic shock from swimming in the ocean with a new tattoo. By swimming in a chlorinated pool with an open wound like fresh ink, you could put yourself at a similar risk for bacteria infiltrating your tattoo.

If you consider that pools get shut down to “shock” the bacteria out when a child has an accident, imagine what you may be exposing your tattoo if something goes unchecked by management.

Burns

Did you know that chlorine is a chemical that is toxic when it is at room temperature in its gas form? When it is in a pool, the pool may have ventilation or filtration issues that can cause the gas to build up. This can cause severe burns, blisters, and hives. These can lead to infection or permanent distortion or scarring of your tattoo. This can occur to a new tattoo or skin where an old tattoo may have healed; it all depends on the care and maintenance of the pool.

Exacerbated Conditions

If you already have skin irritation issues, autoimmune concerns, or if you had difficulty healing your new tattoo, chlorine could make these issues worse. Exposure may cause the inflammation of psoriasis or eczema, which will cause pain, irritation, swelling, or scaling of your skin.

What Do You Do Now?

Swimming and enjoying the poolside is not meant to be feared. There are many things you can do to ensure that chlorine doesn’t negatively impact your tattoos.

Wait Until You Are Fully Healed

Do not submerge your tattoo until you have given yourself at least a month of healing time. This is when it is most vulnerable to issues with the ink and infection. For careful directions on when it is safe to swim again, check out our article How Soon Can You Go Swimming After Getting A New Tattoo?

Before You Swim

After allowing a month for your tattoo to heal, the best way to protect your tattoo is to prep it before you dive in. Protect your tattoo by applying a cream, lotion, or ointment. Your moisturizer should be free of fragrances, parabens, and added chemicals as these can actually cause reactions when exposed to chlorine. Have a look at our list of our favorite moisturizers that are packed full of safe ingredients, and will be an added barrier for your tattoos against chlorine while also optimizing your skin health.

If you are swimming outside, you should be sure that you use sunscreen which has broad spectrum UV protection and reapply the sunscreen after swimming.

After You Swim

As soon as you’re done swimming in a chlorinated pool, be sure to take a shower with fresh, lukewarm water. You should then reapply moisturizer, particularly one that has vitamin C which helps neutralize chlorine on the skin.

Every Day

In order to minimize the effects of chlorine on your tattoo, you can follow some day-to-day tips.

  • Hydrate daily by drinking a lot of water.
  • Take shorter showers in order to avoid epidermis dehydration.
  • Apply moisturizer after every shower.

Our Final Thoughts

While chlorine is definitely harmful to a new tattoo, putting you at risk for infection, with a bit of caution and careful aftercare, you can minimize the negative effects of chlorine on an older tattoo. If you have hypersensitive skin and are concerned about what reactions you may have to a pool, ask management for more information about the procedures for their pool maintenance.

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