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Can I work out after getting a tattoo?

How to Work Out with Your New Tattoo

If you typically stay active and enjoy a good workout, one of the first questions you’ll likely have is, “Can you work out after getting a tattoo?” Of course, if you are just leaving the tattoo shop, the answer is no. But if it has been a few days, the answer is, possibly yes, as long as you take some precautions. 

Working Out with a New Tattoo

Remember, your new tattoo is an open wound. The body is hard at work healing, and it can take time for the skin to recover. When you get a new tattoo, how soon you can hit the gym or running trail will depend on the size, placement, and how well you follow your aftercare instructions.

In general, it can take two to three weeks for the outer layer of the skin to heal. And, it can take up to six months before the deepest layers are fully healed. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take all of that time off before you begin to exercise again. In fact, you may be able to get back to moving your body within just a few days. You may, however, want to hold back from highly intense workout sessions for the first couple of weeks to ensure your tattoo remains vivid and beautiful and doesn’t become distorted due to the movement.

Read More: Can I Exercise and Workout With Saniderm?

Factors that Affect How Soon Can You Work Out After a Tattoo 

As with most answers in life, it’s never one size fits all. Several factors can affect how soon you can work out after a tattoo, including:

  • Tattoo Location: If your workout tugs on and pulls the skin of your tattoo, you’ll want to skip those workouts until you’re fully healed. Once your tattooed skin resembles the feel and texture of the skin around it, you’ll know it’s fully healed. That can take two weeks, two months, or even more. So, a tattoo on a joint like your elbow or knee may require more time off than a tattoo on your forearm. Remember, pulling on or rubbing the tattoo during the healing process can damage it and lead to a loss of color, detail, or even distort the shape.
  • Intensity: A stroll through the park can likely be resumed within days of receiving your tattoo, but if you’re pushing your body to the limits powerlifting or training for a marathon or the like, you may be taxing your body too much. This can slow the recovery from your workouts and also for your tattoo. This isn’t the time to be working on a personal best.
  • Sweat: Speaking of intensity, if you find your body oozing sweat after a workout, that can also make your new tattoo more vulnerable. Especially if it’s exposed and you’re toweling off, you could contaminate the area with dirt, grime, and germs. Plus, the excess moisture isn’t good for the healing tattoo.
  • Where You Work Out: Do you have a home gym where you can control the cleanliness, or do you work out at a crowded gym where the equipment may or may not get a good wipe down between uses? How clean and hygienic your gym is can also impact how soon you should expose your new tattoo to that environment. And just because you work out at a “high-end” facility doesn’t guarantee it’s always the cleanest, depending on the other patrons and managers.

Protecting Your Skin to Work Out After a Tattoo

No matter where you work out or what type of workout you do, you’ll want to take extra precautions for your healing tattoo. For example, you’ll want to:

  • Avoid stretching the skin. For instance, if you just got a tattoo on your legs, you may want to focus on upper body movements and give your legs a rest to keep the skin and tattoo from being stretched out of shape.
  • Protect it from bacteria and other people’s fluids (e.g., sweat) and avoid contact sports or using equipment without cleaning it well with an antiseptic spray.
  • Cover it with fitted, but not tight, clothing, which could rub against and irritate the skin. You also want to make sure it isn’t exposed to the sun during your daily walks or runs. Avoid working out when it’s super hot—due to weather, hot yoga, or lack of air conditioning at your gym. If you get too hot, the skin of your tattoo may itch, peel, or feel uncomfortable.
  • Skip the pool until the tattoo is fully healed. This is one workout you’ll want to avoid for a few weeks to months as the tattoo heals. Otherwise, you can expose your healing flesh to the sweat, oils, and unmentionable fluids left behind by other swimmers. Fluids that may contain germs that could infect and damage your tattoo. Even if you have your own perfectly clean swimming pool, you’ll want to avoid it due to the pool chemicals that can damage the tattoo. What about natural bodies of water? Those are no-go’s as well, especially if there’s an algal bloom or if it’s a watering hole for animals in the area.

    In addition to the increased risk of infection, getting the tattoo overly wet (beyond just a quick shower) may cause the ink to fade.
  • Wet environments also aren’t great for your tattoo. Moisture, in general, can damage a tattoo over time, so whenever you work out, wear sweat-wicking materials and skip the sweaty sauna or steam room sessions until your tattoo has healed.

It can be challenging to skip a workout and miss out on how good you feel after moving your body. While you may want to give your body a chance to rest and recover the first few days or even a week or two after getting a tattoo, you don’t have to just sit on the couch, getting depressed as you wait for it to fully heal. 

Use a quality, breathable tattoo bandage like Saniderm to protect your new tattoo, and enjoy some gentle movements with increasing intensity after about a week. This way, your immune system can focus on healing your skin rather than recovering from a workout. A good walk (as long as nothing is rubbing or pulling the skin) is always a great way to move the body. What’s more, you may even benefit from the extra rest when you’re healed and come back stronger than before. 

Updated on December 21, 2022

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