The human body’s ability to heal itself is amazing, and this is particularly true during the tattoo healing process.
After being inked, your skin goes on a journey. It starts more or less as soon as the tattooing begins. And it ends with a healthy, vivid and fully-healed tattoo – providing you take good care of your new ink.
But what exactly happens during the tattoo healing process?
In the space of a few weeks, your skin goes through three very distinct stages of healing. We will look at them in more depth below.
1 – 6 Days After Tattoo – Swelling, Soreness & Oozing
The first stage of the tattoo healing process will be apparent as soon as you leave the artist’s chair. It may even present itself before the session’s over.
Immediately after you’ve had your tattoo done (and often, even during), you will notice a clear, yellowish liquid oozing on to the surface of your skin. This is plasma. It’s one of our body’s essential tools for patching up open wounds, which is basically what a new tattoo is.
When you get home and remove the wrapping that your artist has put on at the end of the session, you will notice your tattoo has oozed quite a bit. But not just plasma. There will also be blood and ink mixed in too. This is totally normal and just needs washing off with lukewarm water and gentle, fragrance-free soap.
As well as this, another more immediate effect is that you may feel run-down after your tattoo – especially if it was a long session. Your body goes through a lot when being inked, from dips in blood sugar to adrenaline, to working hard to heal you. This is normal, just take it easy, eat some food and get some rest.
Overall, during the first few days, your new tattoo will be sore and swollen. It will feel similar to sunburn and can be uncomfortable when trying to sleep.
7 – 14 Days After Tattoo – Scabbing, Flaking and Itchiness
As your new tattoo heals, it will begin to scab over. Your body creates a protective barrier, under which new skin can form.
As this part of the process happens, your tattoo will start to look less defined and cloudier. Don’t panic. It won’t stay like this. However, this is typical for this part of the tattoo healing process.
As the tattoo scabs over, it will become dry and begin to flake off. What’s really important is that you don’t pull any of the flaking skin off.
Although it’s tempting, and it may feel like you’re helping the healing along, there’s a good chance you could actually damage the tattoo.
And with the flaking comes itchiness.
This is arguably the most frustrating and mentally-testing part of the healing process. You will feel, at times intense, itching sensations as the skin heals. But you can’t scratch it as you may cause blemishes or patchiness within the ink.
To minimise itchiness, try to ensure the tattoo is well moisturised. And if it gets too much, a top tip is to tap the area instead of scratching. It’s not as satisfying as you’d like, but it’s better than nothing. Trust me.
15 – 30 Days After Tattoo – Cloudy and Dull
By this point, the top layers of your tattoo will be more or less completely healed. However, areas with heavier scabbing will stick around for longer.
Even if the majority of the scabbing and flakiness has come off, your tattoo may still be dull and cloudy.
This is because, although the top layers of your skin have been repaired, your body is still working on the deeper layers. And in fact, it can take up to 3-4 months for the deepest layers of skin to heal.
At this point, it’s important to keep an eye on your skin, ensuring it doesn’t get dry, which it may do.
Keep it moisturised as you have been doing. But it’s likely you won’t need to moisturise it at the same frequency you were earlier on in the tattoo healing process.
At this point, it’s really just about keeping your skin in good condition and letting your body do the rest. You should notice your tattoo becomes more defined and vivid as it gets closer to being fully healed.
Final Considerations During The Tattoo Healing Process
The most important thing to remember during the tattoo healing process is to let your body heal in its own time.
Aside from cleaning and moisturising your tattoo, all you can do is let your body heal at its own pace – and remember, everybody is different.
Don’t scratch or pick at your tattoo – no matter how hard it is to resist at times.
Take care of it but, ultimately, leave your skin to do its own thing and the end result will be a tattoo that looks excellent for years to come. And if you ever do get bored of it, you always have the option of laser tattoo removal.