How Long Do Tattoos Take To Heal?

If you’re here, reading this article, you may be considering booking your first tattoo. Or, maybe you have already booked it.

Maybe you already have a couple of tattoos, but so much time has passed since you last got inked that you can’t remember what happened afterwards. 

Either way, congratulations

This is an exciting time, and we’re excited for you. There is nothing quite like the anticipation of getting some new ink.

You may be feeling a number of emotions during the build up: happiness, excitement, anxiety, and so many more. This is completely normal! 

How Long do Tattoos Take to Heal

After all, it’s not everyday that we get to permanently mutate our bodies, right? 

There is one important thing that you may need to consider before booking in with your chosen artist: the timing. The date that you decide to have your new tattoo is more important than you may initially think, and this is because of the healing time.

Depending on the size of your design, it may take longer for it to completely heal up, and this will mean that, during this time period, you may need to make certain small adjustments to your daily routine.

So, how long will it take for your tattoo to completely heal over? How will it affect your day-to-day life? Is there any way that you can speed up the healing time, cheating the process?

You’ve come to the right place. Continue reading below, and we will answer all the questions burning at the back of your brain, hopefully putting you at ease before your big day. 

So, let’s get into it!

How Does Tattooing Work?

Whether you’re a beginner preparing to get their first piece of ink, or you’re an experienced customer who just never really thought about the tiny details before this moment, keep on reading to find out how a tattoo is transferred onto your skin, and how it stays there permanently.

If you have a fear of needles and you would, perhaps, rather not know the ins-and-outs of this process, you may want to skip this section of the article.

So, once your chosen tattooist has finished their design, and the big day has finally arrived, they will prepare by disinfecting the entirety of their workplace and sterilising all their equipment.

When you arrive at the tattoo parlor, the tattooist will wipe, using disinfectant soap, and lightly shave the area of your body that is being tattooed.

They will then place a non-permanent stencil of the outline of the tattoo on that area, allowing you to view the placement before it is irreversibly etched into your skin: after all, it’s too late to back out if you decide that you don’t like the tattoo once its actually there. 

There are two main ways to distribute a tattoo: the ‘stick and poke’ method, during which they will use a single, sterilized needle to gently stab the ink into the first few layers of your skin, or by using a tattoo gun, a handheld device that quickly jabs the needle in and out of the skin.

The latter option is much more commonly used at tattoo parlors, and takes up much less time. Every needle consists of several tiny needles at the end, allowing ink to soak up and apply easier into your skin.

The design you have chosen will determine the size and the number of needles needed. Almost every tattoo will start off with the tattooist drawing the outline with thin ink, lining the overall shape. This is generally stated to be the least painful part of a tattoo. 

If your piece only consists of line work, then this will be the entirety of your tattooing experience this time around. If you have decided on a more detailed piece, the tattooist will then move onto shading, using a thicker ink and precise strokes to create even lines. 

Next, after cleaning the excess ink from the area, they will begin adding color: even if your tattoo has been designed to be exclusively black, the tattoo artist may add some white ink to add detail.

This part is known to be the most painful by most customers.

Once the tattoo has been completed, the artist will clean up the excess ink and blood, and will then cover it up, usually with cling film. Then, they will advise you on how to take care of your new tattoo once you leave the parlor. 

The Healing Stages for Tattoos

Every tattoo is different, and there are many factors that weigh into the amount of time that they will take to completely heal.

If you were to have a simple, small tattoo that only consists of line work, that will heal much quicker than a large detailed piece with plenty of color and shading. 

Healing tattoos usually follow the same processes, but the timing may differ depending on the size and detail.

Day One

So, your tattoo is complete – hooray! Hopefully the pain was worth it, and you’re overjoyed with your new ink. 

You may want to remove the bandages right away so that you can take photographs of your new piece, or show it off to everyone you see, but you should leave the tattoo wrapped for at least an hour or two following the procedure.

Once this time is over, you may remove the bandages and gently wash the tattoo with warm, soapy water, patting it dry with a clean towel.

For the remainder of the day/night, wear light clothing that won’t irritate your fresh wound, and avoid touching it at all costs.

Week One

In the following week, you may notice oozing and redness around the area. Don’t panic! This is completely normal for the first couple of days: after all, your tattoo is an open wound at this point, and will need to heal overtime. 

You should avoid bathing or submerging this area in water, so if you take a bath make sure you keep the specific body part out of the water. Showers are usually recommended for the first week or two.

Wash the tattoo with warm, soapy water, and pat dry before moisturising with some suitable cream or ointment  – don’t rub dry with a towel as this can irritate the area. You may also notice that the wound will begin scabbing over during the first week after the procedure.

It is very important that you don’t touch or pick the scabs as this will not only prolong the healing process, but could also affect the quality of the finished tattoo.

Tattooed man
A tattooed man sitting and texting

Week Two to Three

After a couple of weeks you will notice that the scabs will begin to fall off on their own, and the itching and swelling may be reduced. 

This is a great sign! It means that the new skin is forming over the top of the tattoo, and the healing is well underway.

Avoid washing the tattoo at this point, but continue moisturising at least once a day. Don’t attempt to peel the scabs off yourself, even if they are falling off on their own. 

One Month Onwards

If you only had a small, simplistic tattoo mainly consisting of line work, the piece may have completely healed over at this point. 

If you had a bigger tattoo, however, the healing process will still be taking place, and may continue to take place for another couple of months.

This timeframe will differ for everyone, depending on the aftercare and the placement of your tattoo. Continue moisturising the area and taking care until the tattoo has completely healed.

How Can I Take Care of my New Tattoo?

Depending on where you had your new tattoo done, the artist will give you their own version of suitable aftercare.

Some parlors give away free tubs of cream to their customers after the procedure, while others will recommend suitable ointments. 

Most parlors will give their customers an aftercare guide to use during the following weeks, and these should be followed step-by-step to ensure that the tattoo heals as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

The main focus of the healing process should be keeping the tattoo clean, steering away from activities that may cause dirt or bacteria to enter the healing wound.

Having an infected tattoo is no joke, and is something you will definitely want to avoid at all costs.

The ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ for Healing Tattoos

These guidelines should be followed if you want your tattoo to heal as healthily and safely as possible, and these steps may also reduce the healing time overall. 

Here is what you should avoid while treating a healing tattoo:

  • DO avoid direct sunlight until the tattoo has completely healed over.
  • DON’T go swimming/submerge the tattoo in water for too long – chlorine may cause irritation to your healing skin.
  • DON’T rebandage a tattoo once you have removed the initial bandage.
  • DO contact your tattooist or a dermatologist at the first signs of infection. 

Final Thoughts

So, there we have it! Now you have all the information needed before your big day comes, giving you some time to prepare. 

While receiving a tattoo can be an uncomfortable experience, and is generally considered to be a medical procedure, it is important not to focus on that too much.

Instead, embrace the excitement! Having a tattoo done is an amazing experience, and one that you should be looking forward to. Just make sure you do your research beforehand, and you are ready to go.

Good luck, and have fun!

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