Tattoos are forever. Fortunately, the tattoo healing process is not, but it still requires planning and care to successfully get through it.
How long does a tattoo take to heal, and how careful do you have to be with it? A tattoo can look like it’s healed in a matter of days, but the entire process can actually take up to six months. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to keep it wrapped up or avoid baths for the entire time. With some awareness of aftercare and the things to avoid after a tattoo, you can ensure all stages of your tattoo healing go smoothly.
Every tattoo heals slightly differently. The size, the individual, the amount of shading, the colours and the area of your body where the tattoo is located all play their part in how long the stages of tattoo healing last.
Tattoos are growing in popularity, and getting your own can be a powerful expression of personal taste, identity and your growth as an individual. But the process of a unique piece of body art starts with planning that begins before the ink even touches your skin.
How long does a tattoo take to heal, and how do you ensure it heals successfully? Here is everything you need to know about the tattoo healing process.
Tattoo Healing Timeline
It’s important to start taking care of your skin at least two weeks before your appointment. Apply SPF50+ sunscreen daily and keep out of the sun. Moisturise the area daily. Avoid alcohol and blood thinning medications prior to your appointment. Also, make sure you eat well and drink plenty of water.
How long does a tattoo take to heal? While there’s some variability to the healing process, generally, there are three broad stages of tattoo healing:
Inflammation (Days 1-3)
For the first 48 to 72 hours, your tattoo might be swollen and tender, or the skin around it may be very red. It’s normal to see some blood or ink coming out of the tattoo. However, if this lasts for more than a week, it’s time to see a doctor.
Visible recovery (Days 4-14)
Some itching, scabbing or flaky skin is normal during the visible recovery process when you can see your skin working to heal itself. Avoid scratching, rubbing or anything else that causes the skin to come off during this time.
Invisible recovery (Days 14-30)
By the time the third week rolls around, your tattoo will have finished its visual signs of healing; however, it may appear a little dull in colour at first. It generally takes about a month for it to bloom into its full vibrancy. The skin beneath the tattoo will continue to remodel its structure for three to six months after your appointment.
Technically the answer to the question “How long does a tattoo take to heal?” is three to six months. However, aftercare is usually only required for the first 30 days. Here is how to look after your new tattoo during the various stages of tattoo healing:
On the day
After your tattoo artist has finished your tattoo, they will wrap your tattoo in plastic wrap. This should be left on for at least an hour or two to protect it. After that, there’s no need to re-apply it.
For the first two days, use an antibacterial cleanser and lukewarm water to clean your tattoo. Avoid soap or body wash and pat dry with a clean towel or a disposable paper one.
48hrs – 14 days
Apply a layer of aftercare balm twice a day for two weeks.
For the first 30 days, you should avoid exposing your tattoo to the sun as much as possible. There are other things to avoid after a tattoo, too. How long does a tattoo take to heal? It can take a lot longer if you don’t know what to avoid.
Things to Avoid With Fresh Ink
When it comes to giving your tattoo the best chance of healing quickly and looking fantastic, there are definitely some things to avoid after getting a tattoo. Some of the things that will have the biggest negative impact on your fresh ink are:
Direct exposure to sunlight can not only slow down your tattoo’s healing process but can also cause tattoos you’ve already had for years to fade faster. Cover your fresh tattoo with clothing when you have to go in the sun in the first few days. Once your fresh tattoo has become a closed wound, you can use SPF15+ to protect your skin from the sun.
The fragrances in scented soaps are one of the things to avoid after a tattoo because they can irritate it. It’s better to wash it twice a day with unscented, antibacterial soap while it heals.
For the first month of healing, you should avoid shaving the area where your new tattoo is located. As it heals, your tattoo will scab. Shaving may not only be painful, but it can also damage the tatt as well.
No matter how itchy your tattoo gets during the healing process, you should avoid scratching and potentially opening the scab up. This can cause an infection, the ink to fall out, or scars to form over the tattoo designs.
Too much moisture can slow down your tattoo’s healing and put it at risk of infection. Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to miss the gym and sauna for a couple of weeks.
Submerging your tattoo in water
Showering is fine, but you should avoid swimming, taking baths and any other activities that involve your tattoo soaking in water for long periods of time. Water can harbour floating bacteria that can infect your tattoo, or it can lead to a tattoo fading prematurely.
Foods that are high in sugar and fat can cause inflammation and disrupt the tattoo’s healing. Examples include fast food, processed meats, lollies and alcohol. Instead, maintain a balanced diet and consume anti-inflammatory foods high in omega-3 and good fats.
Tattoo Healing Tips
There are quite a few things to avoid after a tattoo, but what about some tips for moving through the stages of tattoo healing faster and more comfortably? If you want to speed up the process of healing for your new tattoo, there are some steps you can take:
Wash the area daily
Before you begin, make sure your hands are clean. Use a mild antibacterial soap and lukewarm water (avoid water hot water temperatures) and gently wash the area.
Moisturise the area
Use a moisturising aftercare balm two to three times per day for the first few weeks after your new tattoo.
Once the tattoo has healed enough to be a closed wound, make sure you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF level of at least 15, but we’d recommend 30 just to be extra safe.
To keep your skin in the best possible condition while it’s healing, eat healthy food and avoid fat, sugar and alcohol.
Get Your Next Tattoo at Celebrity Ink
Our team sets standards in tattoo design while working alongside you to bring your vision to life. Whether you’re seeking traditional tattoos, realistic designs, mandalas, or any other, we have artists specialising in a range of tattoo styles that can provide you with the tattoo you have envisioned.
Book a consultation to discuss your tattoo design, get in contact with the crew at Celebrity Ink, and we will lock you in for your next ink session.