Getting a new tattoo is an exciting change and you want the ink to stay bright and the lines to stay clear. While you may feel fine after getting your tattoo, you should avoid exercise for a little while.
Learn exactly how long you need to wait before exercising after getting a fresh tattoo and what workouts are best to skip.
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How Long Tattoo Healing Takes
At the very least, you'll want to avoid exercise for at least 48 hours after getting a new tattoo, recommends Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based strength coach who is no stranger to tattoos and exercise.
There's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to healing timelines, Araujo says. Some of her smaller tattoos took only about a few days to heal, whereas her larger pieces required several weeks. The healing timeline depends on the size and placement of your new ink.
Proper care for a new tattoo is critical to ensure it heals well, preserves bright colors/crisp lines and doesn't get infected. First and foremost, follow the instructions given by your tattoo artist.
When the artist is finished, they cover your tattoo with a bandage. Keep the bandage on for 24 hours. After you remove the bandage, wash the area well with soap and water. Avoid hot showers as this can fade the ink.
Keep your new tattoo clean and apply moisturizer throughout the day. As the skin heals, a scab forms over the tattoo. Avoid picking at or scratching the scab.
Working Out After a Tattoo
Can You Go to the Gym After Getting a Tattoo?
One of the biggest risks you face when working out after a tattoo is an infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although most gyms clean their spaces consistently, there's no guarantee each piece of equipment is totally disinfected, putting you at higher risk of infection.
"Even if your tattoo is in a spot that doesn't come in contact with gym equipment, your tattoo is going to feel itchy, and you may accidentally touch it with dirty hands," Araujo says. "You can wrap your tattoo back up but it's best to avoid the gym completely within the first two days."
If you decide to hit the gym, avoid any exercises that pull on, rub or stretch your tattoo. For example, lifting weights after a tattoo may be fine if you got ink on your ankle, but if the tattoo is on your forearm, you should skip the upper-body lift and focus on your lower body instead.
The same principles apply to stretching and yoga after a tattoo. Avoid stretches and poses that pull on the skin around your new ink.
Running is generally a safe form of cardio after a tattoo as long as you avoid sweat by wearing moisture-wicking clothing or using a towel to dry the area.
Is It OK to Sweat With a New Tattoo?
You want to avoid getting sweat in a brand-new tattoo, as the sweat can affect healing and the way ink settles in your skin.
Exercise can also stretch your skin and rub off scabs, disrupting the new ink that has not fully set in your skin. Give your body plenty of time to heal before attempting any strenuous, sweaty activity, recommends Araujo.
Wear loose and breathable workout clothing that wicks your sweat. Clothing that is too tight may rub and irritate your tattoo. And make sure your gear is clean and free of any fragrances that may irritate your healing skin.
Exercises to Avoid After a Tattoo
Do not swim for at least two weeks after getting a tattoo, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Natural bodies of water, like oceans and lakes, are teeming with bacteria that may infect your skin, and chemically treated pools may also cause irritation and infection. Soaking your tattoo or rubbing it before it is healed can also cause the ink to break down.
Avoid sunbathing and any outdoor exercise that may expose your tattoo to the sun, Araujo says. And after it has healed, make sure you apply plenty of SPF on your tattoos to keep them looking fresh and sunburn-free. The skin around the tattoo is very sensitive, and direct sunlight can bleach and fade your new ink. Even after you're healed, sunscreen can help keep colors bright and lines crisp for longer.
Finally, avoid any contact sports where your tattoo may be bumped, stretched or grabbed.
Although tattoos are common, they aren't risk-free. Allergic reactions and skin infections are just a few complications that may affect your healing time, per the Mayo Clinic. If your tattoo doesn't seem to be healing or continues to feel uncomfortable after two weeks, it's best to consult a doctor.
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