After tattooing, the first question that may come to your mind is how much time will it take to heal?

You’ll find some say 2-3 weeks, whereas others mentioned at least 4-6 weeks to fully heal.

But what is the exact time it will take? The answer will vary from person to person, their body’s ability to heal a wound, aftercare, and the tattoo’s size.

Let’s read on to know how long does it take for a tattoo to heal. We’ll also learn what things can speed up or slow down the healing process and give you signs so you can better understand whether your tattoo is healing correctly or not. 

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo to Heal?

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo to Heal?

The first thing you need to know is that your new tattoo is like an open wound.

A recent study published in the National Library of Medicine mentioned that wounds generally take 4-6 weeks to heal. However, some chronic wounds may take a prolonged period.

The outer part of the tattooed skin (the layer we can see) will heal within 2 to 3 weeks. (1) However, a large tattoo may take a little longer, about 4-6 weeks.

But the deeper layer of the skin will take 2-6 months to heal completely.

You shouldn’t slow down or minimize your aftercare routine in this timeframe. It can extend upward to 6-12 months to heal the skin below your tattoo.

Remember, certain factors like not moisturizing, exposure to water and sunlight, stretching, or using lotions with alcohol may cause infection and scabs and delay your healing process.

Tattoo Healing Stages

Tattoo Healing Stages: Day by Day

The healing process may vary for every person, the size and location of the tattoo, and the aftercare routine.

Generally speaking, the tattoo healing process can be divided into four stages. So, let’s check out what you can expect in the different stages of healing.

Week 1

For the first 72 hours, your tattoo is like an open wound and should be treated accordingly. It is normal to notice redness, oozing, swelling, warmth, or a burning sensation in this stage.

After getting a tattoo, you can remove your dressing 2-3 hours later, while you may see liquid oozing from the tattoo mixed with excess ink, which is entirely normal.

First, you should clean your hands, gently wash the tattoo with antibacterial, fragrance-free soap, and apply a water-based moisturizer. (3) Then tap with a clean towel to dry (be sure not to rub) and leave it to breathe and dry naturally.

If you’re following the aftercare routine correctly, you’ll begin to feel less sore and red after a few days. And your tattooed area may become duller than initially.

But you no need to worry about that. It’s a sign that the tattoo is healing. You should continue to wash and moisturize the tattoo 2-3 times per day.

Week 2

In this stage, your skin will naturally become flaky, itchy, and scabby and begins to peel off. This is normal and a sign of a healthy recovery process. (4)

In such situations, try to avoid scratching, rubbing, and removing peeling skin which can cause infection and a prolonged recovery period.

You should use your artist or doctor’s recommended moisturizer to keep your tattoo hydrated and reduce the itchy feeling.

Weeks 3 and 4

Your tattoo should begin to dry out, and the scabs, itchiness, and peeling should pass at this stage. And the surface layer of the skin should be healed.

But, if it doesn’t and still has redness, it’s a sign of an infected tattoo, and you should talk to a doctor or your tattoo artist for the best possible advice for your condition.

If this isn’t the situation, you should continue with your aftercare routine (moisturizing and less exposure to water and sunlight), and resist the urge to touch, scratch, pick or peel.

The tattoo may appear dull and less vibrant, which is expected because a layer of dry skin has formed over it, which will naturally exfoliate itself and reveal the vivid tattoo.

However, the deeper layer of the skin may take several months to heal completely.

Months 2 to 6

In this timeframe, your deeper skin should be healed and appear vivid, bright, and vibrant, and there shouldn’t be any itching.

However, it’s wise to continue the aftercare routine during this period.

In the long-term aftercare, you can stop moisturizing, but make sure to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen with a protective SPF or cover with loose clothes, and keep the tattoo clean.

At this point, you can start working out, take longer baths or swim since your tattooed skin is healed, and the water won’t cause any issues.

However, you should consult a doctor if your tattoo still scars and feels itchy.

Watch Tattoo Healing Process: Day by Day

How to Speed Up Tattoo Healing Process

As I said earlier, a tattoo is an open wound, and it needs time and care to heal properly. Although healing is a natural and slow process of the body, we can do certain things to help reduce the tattoo healing time.

Here’re the seven things you can do to help your tattoo heal quicker:

Don’t Re-Bandage

After tattooing, your tattoo artist will do a bandage with clear plastic or surgical wrap, and once you remove it 2-3 hours later or when you get back home, you shouldn’t re-bandage or cover it.

In this stage, your tattoo needs to breathe so that it dries naturally and gets in touch with oxygen, which is crucial for healing.

But if you re-warp the bandage, it may cause extra moisture and a lack of oxygen, resulting in scabbing and slow healing.

Clean Regularly

One of the crucial things in your aftercare routine should be daily cleaning. Use lukewarm water and tattoo soap and gently wash your tattooed area at least 2-3 times a day.

Be sure you’re not using hot water, which may hurt the skin or open the pores, resulting in ink drawing in the body.

So, first, clean your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap, splash water onto the tattoo, follow with a neutral soap (fragrance and alcohol-free), and gently tap it dry with a clean towel.

Use Right Moisturizer

In the first few days, use the moisturizer your tattoo artist recommend.

Unless your artist recommends explicitly, you shouldn’t use heavy products like Vaseline after getting a tattoo. Because it stops airflow to the tattoo, causing delayed healing.

You should (and your artist will likely recommend) use vitamins A, D, lanolin, and petroleum products in the first few days.

However, after a week or two, you can start using alcohol and fragrance-free aftercare moisturizer or even pure coconut oil.

Don’t Expose to Direct Sunlight

Direct UV rays are one of the main reasons for a fading and discoloration of a fresh tattoo.

So, you should completely avoid too much direct sunlight to the tattooed area in the first couple of weeks.

And after it gets healed, you should always either cover your tattoo with loose clothes or use a good sunscreen with SPF 50 (at least).

Don’t Scratch or Peel

Here’s another don’t for you. Urge to itchiness is normal during the healing process, and you need to prevent yourself from doing that. Otherwise, it can lead to scarring and delay the healing process.

So, you should avoid scratch or peeling at the scabs and flakes of your skin in order to speed up your tattoo healing process.

Wear Loose Clothing

After tattooing, wearing loose cotton clothes is essential, which help you maintain proper airflow to the tattoo and wouldn’t rub your fresh wound, leading to a healthy recovery.

Drink Lots of Water

One of the most important things you should do is keep your body well hydrated throughout the day. Hydrated skin is healthy skin.

Keep drinking 3-4 liters of water every day for optimum skin health and regeneration of cells.

How Long After a Tattoo Can You Do Regular Activities

How Long After a Tattoo Can You Do Regular Activities

A new tattoo is an open wound and therefore has a high chance of getting infected and delaying healing.

So, it is recommended to avoid certain activities that involve sweating and stretching the tattooed skin, such as working out, intense activity, and exposure to water such as long baths or swimming.

You should also avoid outdoor activities where the tattoo gets too much sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can cause fading and scabbing, leading to inappropriate healing.

Related: Can You Workout After Getting a Tattoo?

Signs Your Tattoo isn’t Healing Properly

It’s crucial to know the signs that your tattoo isn’t healing correctly and has infected so you can take the proper precautions immediately.

The improper tattoo healing symptoms are:

  • Prolonged redness: Redness is inevitable in the first few days after your tattoo session. But if it is visible even after a week, it’s a sign that your tattoo isn’t healing efficiently.
  • Swelling and puffiness: Although it’s normal for the tattoo to be swollen and puffy for a few days but not for the surrounding skin, it may indicate that you have skin allergic to the ink.
  • Pus or oozing fluid: Your tattoo may be infected if the pus or oozing continues to come out after 2 to 3 days of your session. In such situations, see a doctor.
  • Severe itching and hives: Although itching and hives after getting a tattoo are normal, but not for a prolonged period, indicating that you’re allergic to ink. See a doctor.
  • Fever or chills: Fever and chills are a direct indication of an infected tattoo, so you should immediately see a doctor.
  • Scarring: A properly healed tattoo shouldn’t scar. If it’s scarring, the cause might be due to raised puffy skin, prolonged redness, allergic reaction, or infection.

If any of these symptoms occur after week one or two, you should talk to your artist or see a doctor for the best possible advice and treatments.

How Do You Know When a Tattoo is Healed

You’ll experience that your tattoo is fully healed when there are no itching, pain, swollen, or scabs and the texture of the tattooed skin is the same as a similar surface of the skin, and the colors on your tattoo are fully vivid.

However, this complete healing process may take 4-6 weeks to as long as 2-6 months.

When You Should Contact a Doctor

There’re some symptoms if you notice on your tattoo even after a couple of days; you should consult a doctor or dermatologist right away.

Namely, if you’re experiencing any redness, puffiness, itching, pain, or swelling beyond a few days after your session (which may indicate infection or allergic reaction to the ink), see your doctor.

Also, if you’re having a fever, or a yellow-brown liquid coming out from the tattoo, this may be a sign of infection. In such scenarios, you should immediately consult a healthcare professional.

Conclusion

After having a tattoo, the surface layer of the tattooed skin usually takes 2-3 weeks to heal fully. However, the complete healing process can take several months.

Follow a proper aftercare routine (which includes daily cleaning, ointment, or moisturizer) for at least this long to reduce the risk of infection or other unwanted situations.

So… we’re done with “how long does it take for a tattoo to heal.”

Now I’m curious to know which part you’ve tattooed and how many?

Or, if you have questions regarding the tattoo healing process and aftercare, drop them in the comment section below. I will definitely help you out. 

FAQs

How long does it take for a small tattoo to heal?

The healing process pretty much depends on the size of your tattoo and the amount of ink it has.

You can expect a small tattoo to heal faster than the larger ones with proper aftercare. The outer layer of the skin typically heals within 2-3 weeks, but it can take up to 6 months to complete from deep within. 

Can you let your tattoo heal on its own?

Letting your tattoo heal on its own isn’t advisable, and you might also don’t do that because a fresh tattoo is an open wound, and allowing it to heal on its own can lead to infection, pain, fading, or scaring, which will farther delay your healing time to 6-12 months.

So, it’s recommended to follow proper aftercare advised by your artist or a doctor for at least the first couple of months.

How long does it take for a tattoo to stop hurting?

After getting a tattoo, if you do correct aftercare, then you could expect minimizing pain or discomfort after week one.

However, this may vary on the tattoo’s size, the amount of ink, and how efficient your body is in healing wounds. 

Can you get a new tattoo while one is healing?

As a newbie, you can get two or more new tattoos in one day as long as the conditions are met.

But suppose you pass a few days or weeks and want to get another one. In that case, it’s best (and advisable) to wait until the first one has fully healed because healing two tattoos at a time need extra effort for you and your body, which may lead to infection and unwanted situations, leading to prolonged recovery.

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