healed traditional tattoo

Tattoo Healing Process And Stages

After months of thinking and choosing what tattoo to get, you have finally decided to get inked. So the next thing to prepare for is the healing process. Surely your tattoo artist will give you aftercare advice but it is always better to get informed.

When you get a tattoo, you are inflicting wounds on your skin. You are opening your skin to bacteria and you need to treat it like how you would when you get wounded. The healing process of the tattoo can affect the final outcome of the artwork.

Here is the complete guide on your tattoo healing process to help you with your tattoo journey.

Tattoo Healing Stages and Timeline

Day 1 to 3

fresh tattoo covered with cling wrap

Like we said earlier, getting a tattoo is inflicting a wound on your skin. It is normal if you see redness, swelling and bleeding just like a normal wound on your fresh tattoo. So do not panic when you see oozing blood or ink from your tattooed skin.

Day 4 to 14

tattoo skin heal, recover and regrow

This is the time when your tattoo starts to heal. There may be itchiness, scabs, and tattoo flaking but these are normal. You might be tempted to peel off the scab or scratch your skin. Try to avoid touching your skin to avoid infection.

Day 15 to 30

fresh tattoo covered with cling wrap

By this time, the surface of your skin has healed but the deeper layers are still in the process of healing. The colors may look dull and not as vibrant when it is fully healed. The new skin is also starting to form on top of the tattoo and the itchiness will start to disappear.

How long does it take for a tattoo to fully heal?

It depends on the placement of your tattoo. Normally it takes one month for a tattoo to completely heal. Rubbing, scratching, and peeling the scabs will only prolong the tattoo healing process so avoid doing these. Tattoo with more saturated colors also tends to heal longer as it requires more needle pricks. So, while the healing process is estimated to be 2/3 weeks, a colored tattoo may take between 4 and 6 weeks to have at least the surface skin healed. And of course, a bigger tattoo means a bigger wound so it will take more time to heal compared to a small one.

Tattoo Aftercare Tips

After getting your tattoo, your tattoo artist will give you tips and advice on how to make your tattoo heal properly and in time. It is important to follow this advice for a better and more vibrant tattoo. Although you can find many tips on the internet, it is still best to listen to the advice of your professional tattoo artist.

1. Immediately after tattooing

You often see fresh tattoos wrapped in plastic. The plastic protects the open skin from getting bacteria and germs. After tattooing, the artist will clean and sterilize the skin. Then they will wrap it in a plastic film. Some artists recommend keeping the tattoo covered in plastic film for a few hours, while some artists recommend keeping it covered overnight. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how long you need to keep the plastic film. Just follow the advice that your tattoo artist will give.

2. Use a breathable bandage for a week

Our skin needs to breathe, even our wounds. After removing the plastic film, wash your tattooed skin with gentle soap and lukewarm water. Then wrap it in a clean bandage. The bandage, like the plastic film, will protect the healing skin from bacteria and germs. But the bandage will allow the skin to breathe.

3. Wash with gentle soap

Clean your new tattooed skin twice a day. Use antibacterial soap and lukewarm water to remove germs and to keep the wound clean. After washing, take a clean towel and pat dry your skin.

4. Apply moisturizer

After cleaning your tattoo, apply a moisturizer to your skin. The moisturizer will keep the skin from dryness, scabbing, and irritation. You can use a gentle lotion to keep your skin moisturized. Dryness can cause the layer of the skin to crack and bleed.

Do’s and don’ts with a healing tattoo

  • Do not rub or scratch your healing skin
    • Hands off from your healing skin to keep the bacteria away. 
  • Do not peel off the scabs
    • Scabs are protective tissues that form when your skin gets damaged. These scabs act as a protective layer on your skin. Let them peel off naturally to avoid prolonging the healing process.
  • Protect it from direct exposure to the sun
    • Protect your tattooed skin from direct exposure to the sun. Use sunscreen to protect the layer of your skin. Sunlight will make the colors of the tattoos fade and discolor. Wear a physical blocker sunscreen with at least 7% zinc oxide sunscreen during the daylight hours and/or cover it up (with clothing, a bandage)
  • Avoid shaving the area around the tattoo
    • Let your tattoo heal completely before shaving the skin around your tattoo. When the shaved hair gets into the healing skin, it might cause irritation. Using shaving creams are also a no-no on your tattooed skin.
  • Avoid swimming
    • Avoid soaking your skin in water for a long period of time. Water contains bacteria and germs that can get inside your skin and cause irritation.
  • Drink lots of water to hydrate your skin
    • Hydrate your skin from the inside by drinking lots of water. Your skin needs much hydration from the inside and out.

How do you know if the tattoo is completely healed?

After a few weeks, a tattoo should be healed properly. When there are no more scabs or patches of dry skin on your tattoo, then your tattoo has already healed. Another sign that your tattoo has already healed is when the tattooed skin feels the same as your regular skin. And the best sign that your tattoo has healed is when the colors look vibrant and alive.

How to know if your tattoo is not healing properly?

There are physical signs to know if your tattoo is not healing properly. If you are experiencing itchiness and redness, then it’s a sign your tattoo is irritated. If you see liquid oozing from your skin, then that is another sign. When you feel that there is something unusual with your tattooed skin, consult your physician immediately.


After getting your tattoo, it is important to let them heal properly. Letting your tattoo heal can ensure that your artwork will look its best. It might take some effort and patience, but it will all be worth it in the end. Follow the advice of your tattoo artist. The colors of a fully healed tattoo will be vibrant and alive.

Image source – All the images are from Instagram and the source is mentioned in the caption. Featured image @modoink_vivi

Disclaimer: This tattoo collection is for inspiration only. Please do not copy the artwork. If you love these tattoos, follow artists and show them some support

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