How To Protect A Tattoo At The Beach?

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I see this being asked a lot on other internet web sites and even forums. What kind of precautions do I need to take for my tattoos when I plan on spending the day that the beach? If you have tattoos and your planning to go to the beach for the day you need to consider a few things to protect your skin and tattoos. If you are thinking about getting a new tattoo this summer is not a great time to get that new ink. But this article will discuss some do’s and don’ts on how to protect your tattoos when heading to the beach or just planning a day in the sun. This article will cover things you need to consider when spending that day at the beach in the sun whether if you have a new tattoo or an older tattoo.

How do you protect your tattoo when you’re at the beach? There are different ways to protect your tattoo depending on if it is a fresh tattoo or a fully healed older tattoo. So, we will cover how to protect and what to be careful of when you have a new and an older tattoo when you’re on the beach. So here are some common questions that are usually asked.

Is Ocean Water Bad For A New Tattoo?

You should never expose a new tattoo to ocean water. Treat your new tattoo like it is a fresh wound that needs to be protected from the elements. Going into the ocean is not a good thing to do when you have a new tattoo that has not fully healed yet. The salt water can dry out and possibly irritate your skin which could lead to itching, burning, rash, and even an infection.

Although you may think that the salt in the ocean water may be good for your new tattoo it is not. Ocean water contains other elements including bacteria which could cause your new tattoo to get a serious infection.

Worst yet it was reported by that a 31-year-old man died after swimming in the ocean only 5 days after he got a new tattoo. This person ended up picking a bacteria named Vibrio vulnificus while swimming in the ocean. This is the same bacteria found in contaminated seafood.

In fact, if you have a new tattoo you should eliminate all swimming activity’s this includes ponds, lakes, hot tubes, saunas, and even chlorinated swimming pools. It’s not good to expose your new tattoo to chlorine because it can irritate it.

You should wait until your tattoo has fully healed before do any bathing or swimming activities. Which means that the tattoo has finished scabbing and peeling. This typically takes 3-4 weeks. So, you should stay out of the water until then.

Is Exposure To The Sun Bad For A New Tattoo?

If you have a new tattoo you need to protect against direct sun exposure. It’s the ultraviolet light that can cause damage to a tattoo. When you’re on the beach you will get direct sun exposure but you can also get indirect sun exposure. For example, even on an overcast day, your skin is still getting a fair amount of ultraviolet light. You should minimize the amount of time that you stay in the sun. (Just as a side note, even exposure from a tanning bed can be bad for a new tattoo.)

How To Protect My New Tattoo From Sun Exposure At The Beach?

Remember a new tattoo is just like an open wound and you should not put a sunblock product on it while it is still healing. Sunblock contains chemicals, fragrant and other ingredients that could irritate your new tattoo. If you need to be in the sun cover your new tattoo with some loosely fitted clothing preferably made from 100% cotton to protect it from direct sun exposure.

Do not wear tight clothing because your tattoo may get stick to it and cause irritation. If you let your new tattoo get a sunburn it could affect how long it will take to heal. Or worst yet if the sunburn is severe it can cause permanent damage to your new tattoo.

It’s important to keep your freshly tattooed skin hydrated. If you ignore moisturizing it cold lead to itchy, dry, and tight skin. This could also slow down the healing process.

“Also follow your tattoo artist aftercare recommendations when you have a new tattoo”

Is Sun Exposure Bad For Older Tattoos?

Even older tattoos need proper protection from the sun when you’re on the beach. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can also affect an older tattoo in that the way it ages because ultraviolet light can cause the ink to fade which makes it look aged.  Also, UV rays from the sun can affect the pigments in tattoo inks which could cause some colors in your tattoo to change.

Another interesting fact is that one study found yellow ink caused redness and swelling when exposed to the sun and other inks like red, blue, and black also caused swelling and other skin irritations. 

The best thing to do is to choose a high-quality sunblock with a moisturizer that will keep your tattoo protected and hydrated. You should choose a sunblock that protects against UVA and UVB sun exposure.

 Start with a least an SPF 30 or higher. Higher would be better and if you are going to be on the beach for a while keep reapplying about every two hours or when needed or as directed by the product label.

Below are just a few sunscreens that are rated as SPF 50 which you can find online at Amazon.

INK Tattoo Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+ Reef Safe and Water Resistant

INK Tattoo SPF 50+ Stick

If you need to protect the tattoos on your arms one option to consider are arm sleeves that have sun and UV protection built-in. These sleeves are highly rated and come in different colors for both men and women. You can check them out online at Amazon.

Can You Get Sand on A New Tattoo?

You should stay away from any beach sports like volleyball and football. You don’t want to be performing any diving saves or catches and working up a good sweat with that new ink. Keep it protected from the sand. Sand is abrasive to the skin and could break open an already scabbing that may be taking place on the tattoo. Or worst yet getting sand or sweat into the wound could cause an infection.

After a full day on the beach, you should clean your new tattoo. Failing to do this could lead to a serious infection. Always make sure your hands are clean first and use a mild anti-bacterial soap to clean your tattoo.

Below is a list of just a few anti-bacterial soaps formulated for tattoo care that are available online at Amazon.

Tattoo Goo Deep Cleansing Soap for Tattoos

H2Ocean Blue Green Foam Soap

Can I Get Sand On a Healed or Older Tattoo?

Sand is abrasive to the skin. So, if you are going to participate in any sports activities on the beach it is probably a good idea to protect those tattoos by covering them up. If you don’t and you start making diving catches or saves you could get an abrasion to your inked skin.


So, in summary for new tattoos keep it protected from the sun. Do not go swimming in the ocean. If you are staying at a resort or hotel you should not be swimming in the pool or jumping into a hot tub. Keep your new tattoo protected from the sand. For fully healed older tattoos keep them protected from the sun by using a good quality sunscreen.