The tattoo healing process happens in stages. While the stages of tattoo aftercare can range from person to person, this guide can help you know what to expect after getting tattooed. From basic recovery to proper care to how long it will take for your tattoo to heal, here’s everything you need to know about your tattoo healing day by day.
Tattoo Healing Stages
Here’s a quick overview of the day-by-day healing stages of your fresh tattoo. Each person’s tattoo will go through these stages of healing, but some people may recover faster or slower than others.
- Stage One (Week 1 and Days 1-6): In the first week, you’ll have some redness, swelling, and oozing coming from the tattoo and it will be tender to the touch. These effects typically last the first few days, with each day getting better. During this time you may start to see some scabbing.
- Stage Two (Week 2 and Days 7-14): Your tattoo will become itchy and flaky, but don’t worry; this is an essential part of the healing process. This simply means your dead skin is falling off and being replaced with fresh, new skin.
- Stage 4 (Days 31 and beyond): After you’ve made it through the crucial first weeks of the healing process, this last stage is more of an upkeep phase. Keeping your tattoo moisturized and protected from the sun is extremely important to keep tattoos from fading. The use of sunblock and a good moisturizer is recommended throughout the life of your tattoo.
Make sure to always follow the aftercare instructions of your artist. Here, we will dive deeper into the healing process so you know what to expect and when, and how to ensure you make the most out of your fresh ink. With so many cool tattoo ideas to get, these steps will help your design look like beautiful artwork.
Stage One – First Week
Taking care of your tattoo during this time is critical. This stage usually lasts a week, but may take longer for those who heal slower and for those who choose not to take good care of their tattoo. By the end of this stage, all swelling and redness should be a thing of the past.
You may be excited to show off your new piece, but your artist may recommend keeping the bandage on for up to 24 hours after you’ve finished your session. This bandage serves as a barrier to protect your tattoo from contaminants and to protect you from the oozing plasma that’s likely coming from the tattoo.
At this point, you are walking around with an open wound, so there is always the chance of infection and irritation. If you decide to take your bandage off, make sure you wash your hands before handling it, and gently wash the tattoo with soap and lukewarm water. Protect sheets and bedding from the oozing by laying down a towel under the tattooed area.
As your skin regenerates about three to four days after your session, you’ll find there may be some scabbing and the dreaded itchiness starts to set in. Whatever you do, do not peel away the scabs or pick at the skin during this time. This can lead to infection and it also may pull the ink out of your tattoo.
For this week, the name of the game is keeping the tattoo moist at all times. If you’re using natural aftercare products, you’ll want to moisturize throughout the day. When using petroleum-based products, use sparingly, applying a thin layer over the tattoo twice a day.
Stage Two-Second Week
After you’ve made it through the first week, the redness and swelling should be gone. The tattoo will still be sore to the touch, but this is just a sign that the skin around the tattoo is still healing.
You will experience more itching during this stage, as the skin is speeding up its natural healing process. When it comes to dealing with the itch, it’s recommended to apply pressure to the area instead of itching, hitting, or rubbing it.
Sometimes, the itchy sensation is due to lack of moisture, so make sure that the tattoo is still covered with a light layer of moisture at all times. The area should never be dry or cracked.
Make sure the aftercare product is worked into the skin. Keep the tattoo clean and moisturized at all times and use your artist’s recommended aftercare protocol. This will ensure the healing process is doing its job.
Stage Three-Third and Fourth Weeks
The third stage typically takes about two weeks. During this period, you will begin to feel a little more like yourself again. The itching should have resolved and most of the scabbing should have cleared up by now. It is still essential to keep the area moisturized daily. You’ll want to steer clear of petroleum-based products at this time and switch to a lightweight moisturizer.
It may appear as if the tattoo has lost some of its color at this stage, but it’s just the body’s reaction to the wound. The skin is creating a protective layer that helps keep sunlight from penetrating too deep into the skin.
If you’ve followed the aftercare protocol correctly, the fading should be gone by the fourth week. Although your tattoo is now officially healed, this is certainly not the last step in the healing process, as you will have aftercare that will span your lifetime.
Stage Four-Continued Aftercare
This stage is seen as a maintenance phase, and while it’s not as crucial as that first month, taking the time to care for your tattoo is essential to keeping colors vibrant and looking fresh.
During this phase, you’ll want to keep the tattoo moisturized; dry skin on a tattoo is not only unpleasant, but it also takes away from the aesthetics of the piece. Keep a lightweight moisturizer on hand for touch ups during the day.
At all costs, your tattoo should be protected from the sun, especially if it has color inks in it. Sun exposure causes color tattoos to fade rapidly, so it’s best to always keep a good sunblock on hand if you’ll be outdoors.
The job of taking care of your tattoo is never over, as you’ll want to proudly display your art for years to come. Getting work done by a quality artist, religiously following aftercare instructions, and protecting your tattoos from the damaging sun, is your key to healthy tattoos and skin. The better care you take of your skin, the better your tattoos will look.