Stages of the Tattoo Healing Process
A new tattoo goes through certain stages throughout the healing process. The process can be divided up into a few different stages over the days and weeks, we will describe to you what you could expect in your healing process.
Tattooed skin will protect itself from harmful outside bound bacteria and will regenerate itself back to full health after any damage that has been done after the tattooing process.
Tattoo Healing Process
First week - weeping, swelling, tenderness and redness that will gradually get better as each day passes. Scabbing begins to form over the area within the first week.
Second week - Itching, tingles and flaking of your top layers of skin will begin, as the layers of dead skin and scabs have fallen off.
Third week - your Tattoo will start to look fully healed but may look as though it’s slightly cloudy for a few more weeks. While the Deeper layers of skin is still repairing itself under the surface, so you need to continue to look after your tattoo.
Stage One – Tattoo weeping and Soreness
These first stages of your skins healing starts while you are still in the tattooist chair. The areas in which the fresh ink has been injected beneath your skin is now regarded as a large open wound and the skin will to begin the clotting and scabbing process.
At this point your artist will clean and protect the area with an antibacterial based soap and proceed to wrap your tattoo for protection against any contact with bacteria from your environment and clothing until you get home. Your tattoo artist will advise you on how long to keep this wrap on for the first day.
Once you take your bandage/wrap off with care, it will be quite likely that your tattooed area will be weeping with a bit of blood and ink, at this stage this is completely normal and is the body’s way of forcing itself to repair the damage to the layers of your skin.
At this stage you will want to very gently in washing away as much of the area as you can with warm water and a sensitive fragrance free soap and by using your clean fingers in a gentle circular motion, avoid using any towels, clothes or sponges as these would be too abrasive at this stage so soon after your tattoo.
By gently washing your new tattoo with this soap this will do a great job at disinfecting the area and keeping the colours of your ink bright and vibrant. Due to your skin being sensitive to the healing tattooed area we recommend a soap that has a completely natural ingredient base.
By washing your tattoo regular you will help to keep to a minimum and help to prevent any bigger unsightly scabs you would normally see on a deeper wound, at this stage it’s important to try and wash as often as possible over the first few days of getting a tattoo.
At this point in the healing process your tattoo is going to be sore for the first several days especially if it’s a big tattoo. The feeling can be described as moderate sunburn. The tattooed area will also feel like it’s warm to the touch for a few days.
(If the warmness remains for more than a week or so, then we suggest you go and see a doctor to ensure that there isn’t any infection present in the tattooed area, it is rare a tattoo gets infected providing you follow these stages in the care of your new tattoo).
Along with the soreness, the tattooed area maybe red and probably raised above the skin layer slightly, there may be some potential bruised area around the skin from some of the blood leaking underneath your top layers of skin.
bruising is normally kept to a minimum as the artist isn't too rough and the needle isn't forced too deep in to the skin, however you can sometimes expect some swelling and bruising to be apparent on extra tender areas of the body where the needle has to pass several times over certain areas of your design, this is usually on dark shaded areas of your tattoo.
The swelling around the tattooed area is a normal part of the healing process as your body is increasing the blood flow to the area.
As part of your immune system white blood cells are assisting in fighting foreign bodies within your blood stream that are trying to enter the open wound. The warmness of the area is down to the increase blood flow so there’s nothing to worry about here, as this reaction is completely natural and would be expected to some extent during the first stage of the tattoo healing process.
If you start to experience any extreme bruising or redness and seriously uncomfortable burning sensation around your tattoo, especially for the full duration of the week, go and see a doctor to be on the safe side to put your mind at rest.
After a few days you will start to see the formation of scabbing. As long as you're cleaning your tattoo as suggested earlier 2-3 times a day initially the scabbing shouldn't be too thick and heavy. Your tattoo will start to look a bit more cloudy and duller than it initially did, this is normal. The sharpness to your tattoo will come back slowly following the processes involved in the healing stages.
The scabbing stage of healing can be irritating when it comes to sleeping especially if the tattoo is in an awkward location such as on your shoulder or on the side of your body. It will be difficult to get a good sleep initially and in a lot of circumstances due to the soreness of your tattoo and the fact that you'll want to keep the tattoo from rubbing and sticking onto bed sheets and potentially damaging the surface of your tattoo.
Stage Two – Tattoo Itchy and Flaking
This can be regard as the worst stage during the tattoo healing process, the dreaded itching.
During this part of the process, your scabs will become hard and well formed; some of the smaller areas of your tattoo are probably ready to start flaking off.
At this stage this will continue for around another week. As your skin is going to become dry and flaky at this stage, the dryness of your healing skin causes it to starting flaking, and this flaking in itself is what starts to cause the itching sensation. A good tip for the prevention of itching is to keep the skin moisturized.
It is critical at this stage to NOT SCRATCH THE ITCH ON YOUR TATTOO this is very important as it can ruin your new tattoo if you’re not careful, if its unbearable and you must relieve the itch, then instead of scratching, try lightly tapping the area as this can disrupt the itchy sensation, or you could give it another wash and moisturize as this will help eliminate the itch for a while.
By keeping your skin well moisturized the itchiness should be nothing more than a mild annoyance to you During this second stage, you are advised to moisturize your tattoo as often as you possibly can, some people advise moisturising several times a day, but with moisturizing with a good quality fragrance-free lotion after each time you wash your tattoo that should be enough to keep your skin around your tattoo moist enough to prevent extreme dryness and itching.
You may also experience some tightness in the skin around your tattoo, this is down to the skin becoming drier than normal as it heals, by applying lotion at this point you can help loosen the skin which can help lessen the problem.
Ensure that you tattoo is completely dry before applying your lotion. Water trapped between the lotion and the skin can cause your scabs to soak up water, making the scabs far more susceptible to being scuffed or scratched off your body.
Don’t apply too much lotion if you feel you have done you can just dab off the excess with a paper towel until you can see only a faint shine on the surface of your tattoo as your skin and tattoo still needs to breath as part of the healing process.
As you start to reach the end of this second stage, more of your skin is going to start hanging and flaking from your tattooed area. It will be very tempting to peel these pieces of skin off but it’s vital you resist that urge to mess with them, they will fall off when they’re ready.
by pulling the skin off prematurely rather than letting your skin do the work for you, you can cause the ink to be pulled from the deeper layers of your tattoo which will result in you needing to have your tattoo touched up. When cleaning your tattoo you might see some coloured pieces of skin flaking away, this is a normal occurrence during the washing process.
Stage Three – Tattoo Still Looking Dull & Cloudy
The third and final stage of the healing process, pretty-much all of your scabs and the areas of flaky skin will have dropped off although some of the heavier scabs may still be on your tattoo, The tattoo may still be slightly dry still and a little tender to the touch, but if you Continue to moisturize whenever your skin starts to look or feel dry you should be fine, and your skin will return to normal soon.
During this stage your tattoo will remain to look slightly dull and cloudy in comparison to previous weeks but this is fine as it will start to regain its glossy, shiny appearance over the coming week as the very fine dead layer of skin over the tattoo will naturally flake away over the next month until your skin has regenerated back to normal.
When a Tattoo Is Fully Healed?
After the 2-3 weeks of healing stages, your skin will look as though its back to normal, but the deeper layers of your skin will still be busy repairing themselves. The outer layer of skin will always heal the fastest as this is the immune systems way of sealing it up in order to block infection that may cause bacteria from entering your tattooed skin.
The lower layers of skin may take a few months to heal completely, your tattoo should start to look much clearer and sharper long before your tattoo is completely healed after a few months.
Everybody heals differently so it’s hard to say everyone will go through the same process and time scale. There are lots of various factors such as how large the tattoo is and how good the artist was, the quality of the ink used and how deep under the skin the ink was applied, and how regular you are in cleaning and moisturising your tattoo.
Within six months your tattoo will have completely healed, this sounds like a long time, but really within a few weeks for you it will be healed and protected already.