One of the most common questions that tattoo artists get from their clients is “How long will my tattoo take to heal?”
Clients are often unaware of how long it takes for a tattoo to fully heal. This process makes many people anxious. Some people may overanalyze and constantly look for warning signs that their tattoo isn’t healing properly, even after it might be fully healed.
A tattoo will heal during 4 stages and the amount of time that it takes to recover from a tattoo depends on the area it is located, the size of the tattoo, and your aftercare habits. The earliest stages of healing on the outer skin will heal after a period of 2-3 weeks. During this time it may feel as though you are recovering from a sunburn. You will want to continue with aftercare long after the warming sensation has stopped.
Aftercare is something you will need to take on for 6 months or more after your tattoo has been done. This is the length of time that it may take for the skin layers below your upper layers of skin to heal completely. During this time it is especially important to protect your tattoo in the sun with a high SPF sunscreen, use lotion, and clean the area regularly.
During the initial stages of aftercare, you will need to make sure that you are not picking at the scabs. Cleaning the area regularly and doing your best to keep the tattoo site out of the sun are also very important aspects of aftercare.
The first week, your tattoo will be bandaged for a few hours and you will experience inflammation or swelling around the site. This inflammation should stop by the 5th or 6th day, even with larger tattoos.
By the second week you will experience flaking skin around the tattoo site. The ink will remain in its set form even though the tattoo appears to be scabbing off. Avoid picking at scabs or skin falling away and moisturize as much as possible.
In week 3-4 the itchiness stops and if you still have redness this can be a sign that your tattoo may be infected. Do not pick or scratch at the site as this can cause scar tissue to form.
2-6 months after you will need to continue aftercare and keep your tattoo clean. By the end of 6 months you should have a completely healed tattoo!
This post was written by J Michael Taylor. J Michael Taylor is an artist and owner of Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery. Black Amethyst is a Clearwater tattoo shop. They provide an art-first approach to custom tattooing in a gallery setting.