What Happens If You Put Bleach on a Tattoo? Will the Ink Drain?

Are you wondering what happens if you put bleach on a tattoo? A fresh tattoo should not be exposed to bleach, such as chlorine.

A tattoo is a great way to display your personality, creativity, and passions, but knowing what you can and can’t expose your tatted skin to isn’t always common knowledge.

The truth is that bleach finds you no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Swimming pools are chlorinated. Many skin treatments and hair care products also contain bleach. Even if you use eco-friendly alternatives, bleach is often unavoidable in cleaning supplies.

New tattoos that are still healing should not be exposed to bleach, including chlorine. Not only will it remove new ink, but bleach can also bring inflammation to sensitive skin, which can cause an infection. Moderate contact with bleach won’t harm your ink once it has had time to heal.

Many turn to bleach creams to help them fade unwanted tattoos, but does this work, and should you even try it?

In this article, we’ll discuss what happens to your tatted skin when it is exposed to bleach.

Why You Should Stay Away from Bleach If You Have a New Tattoo

Fresh tattoos are essentially open wounds that are vulnerable and susceptible to damage and infection. It requires time to heal, much like any other open wound. The difference, however, is that tattoos contain ink, so preserving it is also important.

Since bleach is a cleansing agent, it makes sense that applying it to the wound might help keep it clean, and getting some on your tattoo—say, from hair dye—wouldn’t be a major concern. However, chlorine-containing bleach is also a significant skin irritant.

It can cause more damage to the skin, increase the chances that it will become infected, and encourage the removal of the ink from the skin.

What to Do If You Get Bleach Gets on Your Skin

If you get bleach on your skin accidentally, don’t panic! In a few simple steps, you can minimize the damage.

1. Rinse Off the Bleach

First, you must rinse off the bleach with running water. However, you should not soak your skin in water, as this can cause your pores to become waterlogged and encourage the skin to remove the ink.

2. Cleanse the Area

Don’t use washcloths or anything abrasive to scrub off any stains, as this can cause severe damage to your sensitive skin. Instead, use a fragrance-free soap to cleanse the area and remove any excess bleach gently.

3. Dry the Area and Apply Ointment

Rinse the soap off well and pat the skin dry gently. Apply the cream or ointment recommended by your tattoo artist. If you have any concerns, contact your tattoo artist or your doctor.

What About Chlorine from the Pool? Can You Swim After Getting a Tattoo?

New tattoos should never be saturated in water. Even if a pool doesn’t have chlorine, you shouldn’t use it with a fresh tattoo. You shouldn’t even try to work out with a new tattoo, much less swim laps.

Because you’ll have to stay away from swimming pools and the beach for about a month after getting new ink, summer isn’t the best season for getting new tattoos.

Damaged skin can develop a rash from exposure to chlorinated water or sea salt, which can then get infected or develop dermatitis.

Additionally, chlorine does not eliminate all the bacteria in the pool, making infection nearly a given. The healing process will also be slowed down by exposure to seawater or chlorine.

Moreover, the ink may be removed from the skin with chlorinated or salt water. Your9 tattoo may fade, become spotty, or blurred, even if you miraculously manage to prevent infection.

Bleach and Tattoo Care

Since bleach is harmful to freshly tatted skin, here are a few things that you should avoid:

• No bleach creams (although you can use these on older tattoos)
• Don’t allow cleaning products with bleach to come into contact with your tattoo
• Avoid soaking in pools or hot tubs
• Don’t use hair dyes if you have a tattoo on your face, neck, or shoulders

What to Do If You Have to Get into a Swimming Pool or Hot Tub

If getting wet is unavoidable, there are a few steps to take. However, keep in mind that you should spend as little time in the water as possible.

The first thing you should do is buy a waterproof dressing big enough to cover the tattoo. Make sure you don’t get any sticky ends on the tatted skin, as you can damage and irritate the skin when pulling off the dressing.

Once you get out of the water, remove it very gently and cleanse the area as described above using a mild soap. While this offers a suitable temporary solution, dressings are not good for tattoos and can cause infection, so limit the time you spend in the pool or hot tub.

Bleach and Fully Healed Tattoos

Following a tattoo’s complete healing, you can resume normal activities. This includes dying your hair and swimming in the sea or chlorinated water. A tattoo that has healed is no longer an open wound, so you won’t have to worry about infection or the ink being drained.

Sweat glands, hair follicles, and connective tissues are all located in the dermis, which is also where the tattoo ink is stored in the skin.

This is positioned over the fat- and connective-tissue-filled hypodermis. The tattoo ink is essentially sandwiched between the skin layers, preventing absorption by the body and removal during regular activities like swimming.

Chlorine and bleach do not produce UV rays, so once the tattoo has healed, these substances are unable to harm the ink by penetrating the dermis. Sunlight, however, causes tattoos to fade because its UV rays can disintegrate the ink and allows the immune system to start removing it.

What Does Bleach Cream Do to Tattoo Ink?

Tattoos get their appearance from:

• The ink that is injected deeply into the skin
• Scars that often result from the needles penetrating the skin during the first tattooing process

Bleach cannot alter ink that is embedded deep beneath the skin. While tattoo ink is typically injected deep beneath the skin, the tissue it affects is close to its surface.

However, applying skin bleaching treatment on them can cause them to fade because tattooing also causes the production of scars that make the tattoo more obvious.

This is because bleach lessens the quantity of melanin that gives the tattoo its hue, which in turn reduces the intensity of the color.

Moreover, for this to work, you have to use bleach cream consistently. Depending on the product you choose, you can anticipate seeing results within a few days to a few weeks.

Final Thoughts

While bleach won’t affect your skin if you have an old tattoo, exposing a new tattoo to bleach can have devastating effects on the appearance of your tattoo and the healing process.

We advise staying away from it until your tattoo has completely healed, which generally takes around four weeks.

After this, you can resume your normal activities and enjoy swimming in the pool again!

If you found this helpful and want to know more about tattoo care, browse the articles on our website!

Sources: 

  1. Khunger N, et al. (2015). Complications of tattoos and tattoo removal. DOI:
    10.4103/0974-2077.155072
  2. Tattoos: 7 unexpected skin reactions and what to do about them. (n.d.).
    aad.org/skin-care-basics/tattoo-skin-reactions
  3. Tattoo aftercare instructions. (n.d.).
    city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/healthAuthors/CEH/PDFs/Tattoo_aftercare.pdf