[EXPLAINED] Can I Train BJJ After Getting A Tattoo?

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Got an awesome new tattoo recently or looking to get one?

New ink is always great, but you may need to wait up to 4 weeks before resuming your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) training. Training before your tattoo has had a chance to heal completely could cause infections and could even permanently damage your tattoo.

Tattoos are usually pretty pricy and they also happen to be permanent.

So it’s always best to allow your tattoo to heal completely before going back to training.

Consider using full-length spats and rashguards, even under your Gi to protect your fully-healed tattoo from friction and mat burn when you’re back on the mat.

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Let’s look at how long it typically takes to recover from a tattoo as well as how to speed up the healing process, so you can get back on the mat as soon as possible.

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BJJ - The Gentle Art x
BJJ - The Gentle Art
How Long Do Tattoos Take To Heal?

Tattoos typically take between 2 and 4 weeks to heal.

The healing process may vary depending on the size of your tattoo and its placement. Smaller tattoos that aren’t more than a couple of inches in diameter usually heal within 2 weeks. Larger tattoos like the kind that cover your back can take up to 4 weeks to heal.

If you train BJJ and you’re looking to get a new tattoo, you should definitely take the size of your tattoo into account when determining your downtime from training.

Larger tattoos like the kind that cover your back can take up to 4 weeks to heal.
Credit: Next Luxury

If you don’t want to take a whole month off from training, you may want to avoid getting a large tattoo.

However, getting a large tattoo may be preferable to getting multiple smaller tattoos in different stages.

This is because the latter could increase your overall total downtime.

Let’s look at the healing process more closely, so you know what to expect before going back to the mats.

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What Is The Tattoo Healing Process Like?

A tattoo is essentially a controlled wound.

This means the healing process is pretty much the same as an ordinary wound in many ways.

Credit: Boy Girl Tattoo

There are four primary stages in the healing process:

  1. Oozing and redness
  2. Itching
  3. Peeling
  4. Aftercare

It’s important to take good care of your tattoo as it’s healing and be sure to keep a close eye on it.

Look out for any possible infections that may need medical attention, extending your recovery time.

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Oozing and Redness

A tattoo artist will typically bandage your tattoo once they’re done applying the ink.

They will then instruct you to leave this bandage on for anywhere from half a day to a full week.

Again, depending on the size of your tattoo.

The tattoo artist may also advise you to remove your bandage and wash the tattoo area before replacing the bandage with a new one to avoid infections.

You may notice some plasma fluid coming from the tattoo region when you remove your bandage for the first time.

Credit: Boy Girl Tattoos

The surrounding skin will also appear redder than usual.

This stage can look gross, but it is a normal part of the healing process.

The oozing and redness stage typically subsides within a week.

If you find that your tattoo isn’t moving past this point in the healing process, it may be an indication of infection.

If this happens, be sure to consult your doctor as soon as possible.

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Itching

Itching is also common in the first two weeks following a tattoo.

This is similar to the itching associated with normal wounds.

You’ll experience itching both on and around your freshly tattooed area.

You should be careful to avoid scratching your tattoo during this stage as it will disrupt the healing process and potentially ruin your tattoo. 

If the itching feels unbearable, you can place an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel or cloth over the affected area to temporarily numb it.

In extreme cases, you can take an over-the-counter antihistamine for relief.

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Peeling

Your tattoo should start peeling during the third and fourth weeks of the healing process.

Credit: Boy Girl Tattoos

This is another natural occurrence that shouldn’t cause any concern.

It is the body’s natural response when dealing with an injury.

Some of the damaged top layers of your skin may peel off during this stage, but your tattoo should remain intact because it’s actually embedded in the layers of skin below.  

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Aftercare

The final stage of the healing process is the aftercare stage.

This is when the oozing, redness, itching, and peeling have subsided and the tattoo looks vibrant and completely healed.

Your tattoo may look great at this stage, but it is vital to keep up with the proper aftercare to ensure no problems occur.

Especially not this close to being completely healed.

How Do You Care For A Tattoo?

A tattoo is a serious commitment, and taking the necessary time to care for it is important.

There are many stages to tattoo aftercare.

Your tattoo artist will likely spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the tattoo area before bandaging it up for the first time.

Once you are instructed to remove your bandage, you should wash the area with an antimicrobial soap and pat it dry with a tissue.

Following this, you can apply a layer or antibacterial ointment twice a day.

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This will help keep the area moisturized and sanitary.

You should wash the tattoo area twice a day using soap and water at this stage.

You should also avoid swimming or exposing your tattoo to direct sunlight for at least a month.

The bacteria in swimming pools or natural water bodies could get into your tattoo wound and cause an infection.

Exposure to direct sunlight may also cause irritation and lead to more itching.

Here’s a great video on tattoo aftercare:

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Will Sweat Ruin My Tattoo?

Large amounts of sweat can interrupt the healing process and lead to other potential complications.

Your body has between 2 and 4 million sweat glands that play a crucial role in regulating your body temperature.

You can’t stop these glands from doing their job.

Especially not if you’re training BJJ.

If you’ve spent any time training, you’ll know how sweaty you get in both Gi and NoGi Jiu-Jitsu.

So it’s best to avoid training altogether until your tattoo is completely healed.

How Long After My Tattoo Can I Do BJJ?

You should wait at least 4 weeks after getting a tattoo before resuming your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. The top surface layer of your skin may appear completely healed by the 4-week mark, but the inner layers of your skin may still need additional time to recover.

However, to avoid damaging your tattoo, you could be even more careful and wait up to 6 weeks before going back to training.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a high-intensity, high-friction activity that involves moving your muscles, bending, stretching, and a lot of sweating.

Not to mention the friction caused by both mat burn and your Gi itself, which may also interrupt and lengthen the healing process.

Each of these factors can disrupt the healing process and potentially ruin your tattoo.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of considerations to keep in mind when getting a tattoo.

If you can’t afford to interrupt your BJJ training for 6 weeks, you should avoid getting a tattoo.

That being said, plenty of prominent Jiu-Jitsu fighters have tattoos on their bodies.

If you’d still like to get a tattoo, you should consider getting a smaller one located on a part of your body that doesn’t experience much stretching or pulling during training.

This allows you to get some wicked body ink without compromising on your training goals for too long during the healing period.

Watch this video to the end where they discuss BJJ and tattoos:

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