Whether you’ve just gotten a tattoo or are thinking of getting a tattoo but have travel plans coming up, there are definitely a few things you should know.

In short, you should avoid flying straight after getting a tattoo because the first few days after getting a tattoo are essential to the healing process and how your tattoo will turn out.

Of course, as tattoos are permanent, you shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the healing process, even if you have a week in the sun coming up.

Having said that, many people have flown as soon as 24 hours after having gotten a tattoo with no complications, but it is by no means recommended.

The longer you wait, the better, with many tattoo artists recommending that you wait a week to completely be on the safe side.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Fly Immediately After Getting a Tattoo

The first few days after getting a tattoo, your tattoo will be in its most vulnerable state.

So proper aftercare to avoid ink leaking, excessive bleeding and oozing, prolonged healing, and even infection are a must.

1. Exposure to Bacteria

The first couple of days after getting a tattoo, your tattoo is basically an open wound that requires plenty of care and commitment.

You need to wash it, perhaps rewrap it, and do your utmost to keep it away from potential contaminants.

Flying isn’t exactly conducive to the healing process.

2. Discomfort

Flying isn’t exactly the most comfortable thing to do.

Depending on the location of your tattoo, the discomfort can be great.

3. Dry Air

The air in planes is very dry, which results in dehydrated skin that can affect your tattoo’s healing process.

Remember that you can’t just slap on some moisturizer and call it a day after having just gotten a tattoo because your tattoo first needs time to heal and start sealing.

4. TSA Agents

TSA agents are naturally a suspicious bunch due to the nature of the job.

So if you arrive at the airport covered in a bandage and wrapping, it may trigger airport security personnel suspicions, and they may ask you to remove the bandage.

This can expose your tattoo to bacteria that can result in an infection.

5. Unexpected Reactions

We all hope that a tattoo will turn out fine after getting one, but the truth is that even if you take all the necessary precautions, there is no way to guarantee that there won’t be an unexpected reaction.

This reaction can sometimes take up to 48 hours to show, which is something you definitely don’t want to experience when flying.

5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo When You Need to Fly

1. Location of Tattoo

If you have a long flight coming up, naturally you don’t want to get a tattoo on your buttocks.

The same goes if you get a tattoo on your back and want to go backpacking.

2. Size of Tattoo

The smaller the tattoo, the less likely there will be any complications.

3. Travel Destination

As sunlight can make tattoo ink fade or lose color intensity, it’s better to avoid traveling somewhere too hot and sunny.

In any case, you should wrap your tattoo in a bandage.

4. TSA Regulations

As you will need to clean your tattoo, it’s important to take note of TSA regulations.

The TSA does not allow passengers to pack any liquids in their carry on in containers that are larger than 3.4oz/100ml.

Suspicious TSA agents may also ask you to unwrap the bandage covering your tattoo, which can expose your skin to bacteria and contaminants.

5. Short-Haul vs. Long-Haul Flights

When flying long-haul, it can be hard to take proper care of your tattoo during the healing process, especially in those tiny plane bathrooms.

Make Sure You Stay Well Hydrated on the Plane

Airplanes are pressurized to a level that is equivalent to outside air at about 8,000 ft of elevation, which makes the air inside the cabin drier.

This dry air can dehydrate your skin, which can affect your tattoo’s healing process.

This is why it’s important to stay hydrated when you are flying, and even more so if you have a tattoo.

Remember that you can’t just put on some moisturizer to hydrate your tattoo after having gotten one because your tattoo needs time to heal and start sealing.

It’s Best to Wait For a Few Days to Fly

Many people have such an incredible time traveling to a new destination that they want to get a tattoo to remember it by.

If you want to get a tattoo while traveling, it is recommended that you wait at the very least a few days to fly and make sure that you have access to the products you need to ensure proper healing.

Tips for Flying After Getting a Tattoo

  • Listen to your tattoo artist’s healing recommendations: Your tattoo artist has likely done hundreds or even thousands of tattoos, so listen to and follow their instructions.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of water helps the healing progress and increases your comfort level. Keeping your skin topically hydrated is also important, though not recommended on fresh ink.
  • Wear loose clothing: Wearing tight clothing may delay the healing process and damage your tattoo, as your skin won’t have room to breathe, and it may possibly introduce bacteria and contaminants, too.
  • Clean the tattoo properly: Cleaning your tattoo will help prevent infection.
  • Wrap your tattoo in a bandage: Wrapping your tattoo in a bandage will prevent it from sticking or ruining your clothes and bedding. It will also prevent bacteria from getting into your skin.
  • Avoid direct sunlight exposure: Sunlight can make the ink fade or lose color intensity.
  • Avoid touching your skin if it itches: Scratching your skin can damage the tattoo or even cause an infection to develop.
  • Take a photo of your tattoo: Take a photo of your tattoo and bring the receipt from the tattoo studio to show the TSA to avoid taking off the bandage if they become curious about your tattoo.

Don’t Swim After Getting a Tattoo

Tattoo artists recommend that you wait two weeks before you swim in either the ocean or a swimming pool.

This is because saltwater and chlorine are harsh on tattoos, and you need to give your tattoo and skin time to heal.

If you must swim, make sure you wear a waterproof bandage before getting into the water.

What You Shouldn’t Do After Getting a Tattoo

There are a few things you shouldn’t do after getting a tattoo.

  • Cover your tattoo with moisturizer, sunblock, or any other lotion
  • Scratch or pick at your tattoo
  • Wear tight clothing over your tattoo
  • Expose your tattoo to direct sunlight
  • Remove your bandage too soon
  • Using overly hot water to clean your tattoo
  • Re-bandage or cover your tattoo
  • Shaving the skin where the tattoo is
  • Go swimming
  • Over treat your tattoo
  • Sweat excessively

Can You Fly With Tattoo Needles and Ink?

The TSA state that you can pack tattoo needles in both your carry on and checked bags.

The TSA allow you to pack tattoo ink in both your carry on and checked bags, though if packed in your carry on, any container of ink must be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml.

There’s No Problem Fying With a Piercing

You can fly after getting a piercing, but it is important that you follow the correct aftercare and keep your piercing clean.

It’s definitely easy to fly after getting a piercing than it is a tattoo.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).