The Tattoo Healing Process
Before getting a tattoo, make sure you understand the tattoo healing process properly. If you do not treat your tattoo right during this time, you can experience issues like infection or loss of color. The better you care for your new skin ink, the better the end result will be! You need to understand the stages of tattoo healing and aftercare tips that ensure a healthy and good-looking tattoo. Preparing ahead of time is simple and allows you to maintain the best tattoo possible. The total healing time for most tattoos is three to four weeks, with larger and deeper tattoos taking closer to four weeks to completely heal. There are various tattoo aftercare products in the market to support the skin healing process and fight infections before they arise at all.
Stage One of Healing
The first stage of the tattoo healing process starts as soon as the tattoo is finished. The tattoo should be treated as an open wound, since it essentially is one. Cleanse the area around your tattoo one to two times a day, and make sure to apply fresh bandages after each cleansing. In general, you want to wear a sterile bandage for up to twenty-four hours, and then reduce how long you keep the bandage on over the course of two to three more days. The time varies depending on the size of your tattoo, so consult your tattoo artist about this.
The primary purpose of the bandage is to catch any fluids, since new tattoos ooze and weep clear plasma and excess ink. Change or forgo bandages to prevent them from sticking to the tattoo. If you choose to forgo bandages, make sure nothing touches your tattoo that might not be sterile—this includes towels and unwashed hands.
During this stage, your tattoo will also be swollen and red on the edges. In some cases, you might even find bruises around the area. This is perfectly normal, and it indicates that the tattoo is healing. Scabs will gradually form over your tattoo, and it’s important not to pick or scratch at them. Simply use a gentle soap to cleanse the area and use proper moisturizer during this stage to encourage healing and prevent infection.
Stage Two of Healing
Stage two of the tattoo healing process is usually where people start to notice an itchy tattoo. This stage generally lasts for approximately one week. Although it might be annoying, an itchy tattoo indicates that your skin is naturally recovering. You have to resist itching and scratching during this stage, since doing so may end up damaging the colors or even form of your tattoo.
It takes about one week for your skin to finish regenerating. One to four days after the itching starts, the skin starts peeling, and this makes the itching worse. Since you cannot scratch it, you can alleviate the itching and reduce the peeling by applying an approved moisturizer. In most cases, tattoo artists will recommend an anti-bacterial ointment that is safe to apply to your tattoo. This works to s often your skin, reduce itching and peeling, and prevent infection while your tattoo finishes healing.
During this stage, your tattoo can look like it has a translucent or white film on it. So, why are your tattoos peeling in the first place? Your skin is being pulled tighter as it binds and heals together, making it incredibly itchy. That white film is a layer of healing skin that hasn’t absorbed the same amount of ink as deeper layers of skin. As your skin regenerates, it will fill in with its final, more vibrant color. The skin has to slough off naturally so that the pigment is properly absorbed. If you get too annoyed, just apply that moisturizer and wait it out—it will all peel and fall off on its own, without your intervention, and the end result is worth it.
Must Read: The Best Tattoo Lotions
Stage Three of Healing
In the final stage of the tattoo healing process, your tattoo will appear mostly healed. At this time, all of the scabs are gone and the ink should be settled. There will still be a few layers of healed skin between the colored areas and the tattoo, but these will fall off on its own. Remember that your main tattoo is deep in the skin, where the skin starts to grow—you have to grow into a tattoo before you start to see its true colors. Once it manages to shed naturally, your tattoo will look as vibrant as it was when you first got it. This is normal for the final stage of healing.
It is important to continue to gently cleanse and lotion your tattoo once or twice a day. This will encourage that final layer of dead skin to fall off, and it will prevent your tattoo from getting overly dry. Do not attempt to peel this final layer, since that will damage your tattoo. Moisturizing will take care of this naturally, and encourage any remaining scabs to fall off on their own. If your skin is very dry, you can moisturize more often to reduce this. Have a look at our Tattoo Aftercare Products Review to see which of the available products fit your needs!
H2Ocean is one of the leading brands when it comes to tattoo aftercare. Their products are all FDA-approved and they work! We used several of their products ourselves and recommended them a lot. But don’t take our word for it. After all, we get a commission from amazon if you buy via our link, which puts our recommendation into a somewhat bias light. Take a look at the reviews and comments on their products on amazon itself. As with any aftercare products, please make sure to read the instructions. If you have any kind of special allergy, please make sure you inform yourself about all ingredients before you use any product. Get it on Amazon.
Same goes for Tattoo Goo, also a prominent figure within the tattoo aftercare industry. Well know and widely used products. We never encountered any issue with their aftercare line and therefore we can safely recommend using them. The link will take you directly to amazon. It’s worthwhile reading the other reviews to get a more complete picture (one opinion is good, a few hundred better!). Again, please read the instructions carefully and, if you have known allergies, check the ingredient. Get it on Amazon.
We reviewed more aftercare products in our dedicated Tattoo Aftercare article.
If your tattoo burns or swells after the first stage of healing, be sure to consult your tattoo artist or your doctor about what to do—sometimes it is a sign of infection. The tattoo healing process takes time, and during that time you might be dissatisfied with the color of your tattoo. Keep in mind that the true colors of your tattoo will emerge only after your skin sheds off naturally—a process that takes weeks and sometimes months, depending on the location of your body. Always remember that your patience and care will lead to a more vibrant tattoo! We also wrote an in-depth two part guide on how to care for your new tattoo.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our other articles at InkDoneRight.com! We have dozens of tattoo design galleries (such as the White Ink or Small Tattoos Articles), information on getting a tattoo and even several historical articles of ink as art! There’s something there for you for sure! As always, thanks for reading!