How long do tattoos take to heal? If you’re anything like me, pop culture has familiarized you with both the tattooing process and the final product, but not so much what occurs in between.
Naturally, questions regarding this in-between stage linger: How long does a tattoo take to heal? Is the healing process painful? And what are some signs that a tattoo isn’t healing appropriately?
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Tattoo Healing Process
In our experience, a normal healing tattoo will move through three broad stages of healing.
Days 1 to 3: Inflammation
It is usual for a tattoo to be red, swollen, and tender for the first 48 to 72 hours. There may even be some oozing of blood and/or ink during this time period. These symptoms should improve significantly each day. Prolonged signs should be evaluated by your tattoo artist and/or a physician.
Days: 4 to 14: Visible Recovery
As the healing process continues, the top layer of skin peels, flakes, scabs, and itches—similar to the response the body makes as it heals from a sunburn. This is a usual, healthy recovery process.
Bypass scratching, rubbing, picking at scabs, and physically removing peeling skin. Doing these things might only induce more injury and prolong the recovery period.
Days 14 to 30: Invisible Recovery
The visible signs noted above have typically resolved by the third-week post-procedure, in our experience, however, the tattoo will remain dull and dark appearing until approximately one month after the tattooing procedure.
At the one-month mark, the tattoo may have brought on its permanent vibrant color. Remodeling of the skin underneath the tattoo will continue for three to six months when the tattoos are completely healed.
How Long Do Tattoos Take to Heal?
In general, it takes about one month from the time of tattooing for a tattoo to take on its permanent form in a young, healthy individual. However, as mentioned above, tattoos are deemed fully healed around 3 months.
However, there are some elements that can influence healing time. For one, tattoos with more saturated color areas may take a little longer to heal. Saturated pigment requires more needle pricks to deposit ink than more delicate tattoos. This may make a larger inflammatory response, potentially requiring a longer recovery phase.
Tattoo Healing and Aftercare Tips
Both experts have little different post-care instructions, but the core of their routine is the same: The body is capable of healing the wound as long as we don’t get in its way. Advancement should occur daily, and that lack of daily improvement may be a sign of delayed wound healing or infection.
Use a breathable bandage for the first week: Since tattoos create an opening in the skin that allows bacteria entry, Moore recommends covering the tattoo with an adherent, breathable bandage, such as Derm Shield for the first week. These bandages are meant to cover the wound from infection while allowing it to breathe. She recommends washing the skin with gentle soap and water and reapplying the bandage daily for the first week. After the first week, the bandage can be released. However, it’s important to continue to apply a healing ointment on the tattoo until all symptoms of healing have resolved.
Cleanse with antibacterial soap: A breathable bandage immediately after tattooing. He prefers for clients to leave this initial dressing on for three days. After removing the breathable bandage, wash the skin with antibacterial soap twice a day.
Break out the healing ointment: After the breathable bandage comes off and you’ve cleansed with antibacterial soap twice daily for about three days, Slathering the area with Aquaphor Healing Ointment daily. After the first week of doing this, he recommends moving on to daily cleansings and application of a gentle, fragrance-free lotion, such as Eucerin Advanced Repair Lotion.
How to Know If Your Tattoo Isn’t Healing Correctly
There are a few tell-tale symptoms that your tattoo isn’t healing properly. Especially, if you’re experiencing any redness, puffiness, or itching beyond a few days, consult with your physician. Also, if you notice any fluid or pus oozing from the tattoo, this may be a symptom of infection.
The tattoo healing process is fairly straightforward. Swelling, pain, and oozing are typically fixed by day three and are followed by itching and peeling for another week, in our experts’ experience. Your tattoo may even look darker and duller than anticipated for the first month.
Follow the appropriate course of care from your dermatologist and/or tattoo artist, as proper care may help protect you from infection and create a better tattoo result.