How long does a tattoo take to heal? The healing process explained

How long does a tattoo take to heal? The healing process explained

Getting a tattoo is an exciting journey, but understanding the healing process is crucial to ensure your new ink looks its best. Healing times can vary depending on things like the size and location of the tattoo, your skin type, and how well you follow aftercare instructions. Here’s a detailed look at the tattoo healing process, what to expect, and tips for proper care.

The tattoo healing process: The initial healing phase (days 1-6)

Immediately after getting a tattoo, your skin will be red, swollen, and possibly oozing a clear or slightly bloody fluid. This is your body’s natural response to the trauma of tattooing. Your tattoo artist will cover the fresh tattoo with a bandage or cling film to protect it from bacteria and irritation.

  1. First 24 hours: Keep the bandage on as advised by your tattoo artist, usually for a few hours to overnight. Once you remove it, wash the tattoo gently with lukewarm water and mild, fragrance-free soap. Pat it dry with a clean towel and apply a thin layer of tattoo aftercare ointment.
  2. Days 2-3: The tattoo will start to scab over. It’s important to keep it clean and moisturised to prevent infection and aid the healing process.
  3. Days 4-6: The tattoo may start to itch as it begins to heal. Do not scratch or pick at the scabs, as this can cause scarring and damage the tattoo.


Mid-healing phase (days 7-14)

During this phase, the outer layer of skin (epidermis) is healing, but the deeper layers are still undergoing repair. The scabs may flake off, and the skin might feel dry and itchy.

  1. Flaking and peeling: The tattoo will start to peel, similar to a sunburn. This is a normal part of the healing process as the dead skin cells shed.
  2. Moisturising: Continue to apply a fragrance-free moisturiser regularly to keep the skin hydrated and promote healing.
  3. Itching: If the itching becomes unbearable, you can use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, but sparingly and not on the tattoo itself unless advised by a healthcare professional.


Final healing phase (days 15-30)

By now, most of the outer scabs and flakes should be gone, and the tattoo will look less shiny and more like the healed skin around it.

  1. Colour and clarity: The colours and lines of the tattoo may still appear a bit dull or hazy as the deeper layers of skin continue to heal.
  2. Sensitivity: The skin might still be sensitive to touch and sunlight. It’s crucial to protect the tattoo from excessive sun exposure by using a high-SPF sunscreen once fully healed.


What affects the healing time of my tattoo? 

As mentioned up top, several factors can influence how quickly your tattoo heals:

  1. Tattoo size and detail. Larger or more detailed tattoos take longer to heal.
  2. Location. Tattoos on areas with thinner skin or more movement, like joints, can take longer to heal.
  3. Aftercare. Following proper aftercare instructions can significantly speed up the healing process.
  4. Skin type. Everyone’s skin heals differently, and factors like age, health, and skin conditions can play a role.


Tips for proper tattoo aftercare

  1. Always follow your artist’s instructions! Your tattoo artist will provide specific aftercare instructions based on their experience and your tattoo. Artists want your tattoo to look as good as possible. Ignore these instructions at your own risk. 
  2. Keep it clean: Gently wash the tattoo with mild soap and lukewarm water.
  3. Moisturise: Apply a thin layer of recommended aftercare ointment or fragrance-free moisturiser.
  4. Avoid picking: Do not pick at scabs or flakes to prevent scarring.
  5. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
  6. Avoid sun and soaking: Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight and avoid soaking in water (baths, pools) until fully healed.


When to seek medical advice

While most tattoos heal without issues, it’s important to recognise signs of infection or complications. Seek medical advice if you notice:

  1. Excessive redness and swelling: If the area remains red, swollen, or painful after a few days.
  2. Pus or foul odour: Discharge or a bad smell from the tattoo site.
  3. Fever: If you develop a fever, it could indicate an infection.


Thinking about some new ink?

If you’re thinking getting a new tattoo, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team for more info or to book a consultation with one of our experienced artists.

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