A tattoo is a personal investment in body art, an emblem of individuality inked permanently onto the skin. For some, it’s a spontaneous decision. While others plan their tattoo meticulously, deciding on the design and placement with careful consideration.
However, the question that often puzzles tattoo enthusiasts is: how long after getting a tattoo can you go on holiday? If you’re planning a vacation, you might want to consider the timing of your tattoo appointment. This is because a fresh tattoo requires specific aftercare, which might be challenging to adhere to while traveling.
This article aims to address the question of traveling after a tattoo in detail. While offering insights from tattoo artists and dermatologists, and providing tips to ensure your tattoo heals properly while you’re away.
Can I go on holiday after a tattoo? Consider these factors first.
A Fresh Tattoo: An Open Wound
A fresh tattoo is essentially an open wound that takes time to heal. The healing process varies from person to person and depends on the size and location of the tattoo. In general, tattoos take at least a month to heal completely, often longer. The first few days are critical, setting the tone for the entire healing process.
In the initial days post-tattooing, your skin is in its most vulnerable state, prone to infections and other complications. This susceptibility is further magnified if you plan to travel soon after getting inked.
Hence, it’s recommended to postpone your holiday plans or reschedule your tattoo appointment to allow your tattoo adequate time to heal.
The Dilemma of Traveling Post-Tattooing
Traveling after getting a tattoo might expose your fresh ink to several risk factors that could compromise the healing process. Here are the reasons why it’s risky to travel immediately after getting a tattoo:
Exposure to Contaminants
Traveling, especially on a plane, exposes you to a host of potential contaminants and bacteria. In the first two to three days post-tattooing, your tattoo is essentially an open wound, highly susceptible to infection. Maintaining a clean environment is crucial during this period, something that might be challenging while traveling.
Discomfort during Travel
Tattoos, especially those placed on sensitive areas like the back, thighs, legs, stomach or gluteus, can cause discomfort during travel. Plane seats can be particularly uncomfortable. Prolonged sitting might cause your tattoo to hurt, adding to the discomfort and potentially complicating the healing process.
Dry Air in the Plane
The air inside a plane is significantly drier than typical room air. This dryness can dehydrate your skin, leading to dryness and flakiness around the tattooed area. Since a fresh tattoo can’t be moisturized, this could potentially slow the healing process and lead to complications.
Note: To help seal in moisture and keep dirt and germs out of your new tattoo, always use a professional tattoo aftercare cream. Professional, purpose specific tattoo aftercare creams are designed to provide a barrier coat over the tattoo that locks in moisture, while having anti-bacterial and anti-microbial qualities.
Potential Issues with the Transport Security Authority (TSA)
Security checks at airports can pose another challenge. The sight of a bandage-covered tattoo might raise suspicion, leading to a request for removal. Removing the bandage exposes your tattoo to bacteria and potential contaminants, increasing the risk of infection.
Note: You should not re-bandage your tattoo once you have removed the initial film wrap applied by your tattooist. So this become less of an issue if you are flying more than a day after getting tattooed.
Unexpected Tattoo Reactions
The first few days post-tattooing can be unpredictable. Your tattoo might suddenly start hurting, bleeding or oozing.
Sometimes, it can take between 24 and 48 hours for an allergic reaction or an infection to manifest. Dealing with such issues during a flight or holiday can be particularly challenging.
Note: It is very common for tattoos to seep ink in the initial days following a tattoo session. Larger tattoos with heavier areas of ink will seep more. And this does lead to stained clothing and furniture. It’s not something a paying passenger would like to sit next to on a plane.
The Recommended Waiting Period Before Traveling
Ideally, you should wait for at least a week before hopping on a flight with a new tattoo. This waiting period allows your tattoo to close nicely and start healing properly. It also gives you ample time to observe the healing process and spot any issues like allergic reactions, swelling or excessive leaking.
In urgent cases, try to wait for at least two to three days until the tattoo stops oozing and starts drying out. Traveling immediately after getting a tattoo can complicate the healing process. You certainly wouldn’t want to deal with a tattoo infection during your holiday.
Tips for Traveling With a Fresh Tattoo
If you absolutely must travel soon after getting a tattoo, follow these tips to ensure proper aftercare and protection for your fresh ink:
- Stay Hydrated – The dry air inside a plane can dehydrate your skin and tattoo. Since you can’t apply moisturizer to a fresh tattoo, ensure you drink enough fluids to keep your body hydrated. Include fruits in your diet and avoid salty food, which can dehydrate your body.
- Wear Loose Clothes – Loose clothing won’t stick to your tattoo and will allow it to breathe. Tight clothes might stick to the tattoo, potentially introducing bacteria and contaminants.
- Clean Your Tattoo – During the flight, you might need to clean your tattoo at least once, depending on the duration of the flight. Clean your tattoo in the bathroom with lukewarm water using your own antibacterial tattoo soap.
- Mindful Eating – Your body requires energy to heal the fresh tattoo. So, during the flight, try to snack on nuts and fruits instead of chips and chocolate. Also, avoid drinking alcohol, which can thin your blood and cause excessive bleeding.
The Bottom Line
The question, ‘how long after a tattoo can you go on holiday?‘ doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the various factors, including your skin type, the size and location of the tattoo and your body’s individual healing abilities.
Generally, it’s recommended to wait for at least a week before traveling after getting a tattoo. However, if you must travel earlier, follow the tips mentioned above in this article to ensure your tattoo heals properly.
Always remember, proper aftercare is crucial for a healthy and vibrant tattoo.
Happy tattooing and safe travels!