How Long Do Tattoos Take To Heal?
After returning home, you know that tattoos take a fair amount of time to heal. However, as three days roll by, it seems like the tattoo barely improves! How long do tattoos take to heal, and is yours on a normal track for healing? This page goes over all the details on the tattoo healing process and provides a few resources for more information. On top of that, I included ways to speed up the tattoo healing process, ways to prepare the body for a tattoo, and ways to spot potential danger signs of an infected tattoo. This timeline applies to every shape and size of tattoo out there.
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|Hush Anesthetic Numbing||Tattoo Numbing Gel|
Tattoo Heal Time
So, how long does it take for tattoos to heal? This varies depending on the size of your tattoo, your skin health, your activity level, and so on. Just like every other ‘wound,’ tattoos heal based on their severity. How long for a tattoo to heal also depends on how well you take care of it, so use these guidelines to make an estimated guess.
First, your condition during the actual inking process affects the severity of your wound. If you recently consumed alcohol or take blood thinners, the tattoo takes longer to scab over (or simply close, as not everyone ends up with scabs). On top of that, keep your daily vitamin intake steady, since that affects how quickly your immune system deals with things. In particular, vitamins E, A, C, and D all work wonders on repairing your body and skin. These healing times assume you keep a healthy diet and walked in for your tattoo in top condition.
The healing process occurs over three stages, which I detail in the Tattoo Healing Process article. The first stage takes about three days. During this stage, your tattoo scabs over or closes. Lots of plasma, extra ink, and dead skin cells ooze out of the area. The area also swells up for a little while. When the swelling goes down and your tattoo stops leaking, stage two begins. Keep your tattoo cleaned properly (while avoiding any soaps that use alcohol as a disinfectant) and this stage passes quickly.
Stage two lasts from the end of stage one until the peeling and itching stop. Small tattoos take as little as two weeks to heal up, while huge ones take six weeks or more. In any case, this stage feels the worst out of all of them. While your skin recovers and pushes out dead cells, it itches and peels like crazy. Scratching causes damage to your healing skin, while pulling at the skin potentially peels off some of your ink with it! To painlessly pull through this stage, use tattoo moisturizers and keep the area clean. We recommend several on our Ultimate Tattoo Care and Tattoo Aftercare page.
Once you reach stage three, you escape the constant torment of itching and peeling! Many people assume that the smooth skin over the tattoo means they can stop caring for it and go about as normal. However, behind the scenes, your tattoo still needs time to form. The dull appearance of the tattoo shows that lots of scar tissue still blocks the view of your neat tattoo. To encourage skin healing, avoid sunny places and swimming for at least two months after you receive your tattoo.
In fact, during all stages, you should avoid sunlight, swimming (or submerging your tattoo in any water), and filthy environments. Risky places include swimming pools, rivers, lakes, and gym equipment or other tools accessed by the public. Even your own hands pose a risk if you never wash them! Once your tattoo heals, a bit of sunscreen goes a long way towards protecting your tattoo. Sunlight causes tattoo fading over time, so sunscreen negates that. Lots of transparent tattoo sunscreens exist to keep your tattoos looking bright and protected at the same time!
Tattoo Healing Problems
After asking ‘how long does a tattoo take to heal,’ something bothers you. Your tattoo not only takes longer to heal, but it also shows some strange symptoms! Obviously, you need to go to a doctor immediately when you suspect something bad. These rare problems show up from time to time and need serious attention.
First, infection! Everyone dreads the thought of an infected tattoo, and for good reason. An infection poses a serious health risk to you and it warps the shape and color of your tattoo. Both permanently affect you! Proper tattoo aftercare, which we describe in detail here, prevents the worst from happening.
If you do notice swelling past three days, excruciating pain in the area, a general sick feeling, or a fever, then seek a doctor’s att
ention. If you catch a cold or flu while healing, this prolongs your process. The most dangerous type of infection shows as streaks of ink that seem to accumulate in vein-like shapes outside of the tattooed area. This means a blood infection, and without medical attention, it’s deadly.
Second, allergic reaction! Like an infection, expect a lot of swelling, a fever, and so on. The swelling of an allergic reaction looks a little different, though. Instead of swelling throughout the wound, it usually affects individual colors. The skin puffs up around the specific allergen and leaves other areas untouched. Naturally, this needs immediate medical attention. Asking about the ingredients of your artist’s dyes helps prevent this. Many dyes use food coloring ingredients, which present a problem for sensitive people.
Tattoo Healing FAQ
So, how long does it take for a tattoo to heal? Clearly you already know the answer if you read this far! In this section, I go over the common questions that my clients ask during their tattoo healing. If you want to ask anything, then feel free to leave a comment or contact us!
Do all tattoos peel?
Sometimes tattoos peel, while other times they scab. Some tattoos both peel and scab! Everyone’s body heals differently, so of course not everyone will peel. With that said, I find that most people end up with peeling skin.
Is Aquaphor good for tattoos?
This depends on your definition of good. Aquaphor contains alcohol, which poses a risk to your tattoo ink. On top of that, the instructions say never to use it on puncture wounds or deep wounds (which both include tattoos). Nonetheless, many tattoo artists swear up and down that this stuff works better than anything else. I know plenty of stuff that works better, which I detail in our ultimate care guide, but Aquaphor certainly works better than nothing! If finding tattoo-specific products proves difficult, then try to grab one of these so your tattoo at least stays clean.
How do you know when a tattoo is healed?
Six weeks after your tattoo stops peeling, go ahead and start calling it ‘healed.’ However, I want to note here that tattoo care lasts for a lifetime. If you neglect your tattoo care by going without sunscreen or constantly changing your body composition, the tattoo will stretch and fade.
So, How Long Do Tattoos Take to Heal?
In the end, your tattoos reach their peak two to three months after you first receive the tattoo. The scar tissue fades away and the true colors of the tattoo reveal themselves! However, the care never stops there. Tattoos represent a lifetime commitment to your body’s health. When the tattoo loses its sharpness, ask your artist for a touch-up. As you carefully clean and dry your tattoo, keep in mind that sunscreen protects it better than anything else from fading and blurring. With ample care and a dose of responsibility, it barely takes any time at all for tattoos to heal! With that said, look forward to the day when you wear your tattoo proudly without worrying about your health!
For more detailed information on caring for your tattoo, check out our Ultimate Guide. No other site on the web gives more detailed or thorough directions on keeping your tattoo healthy. Until next time, may your tattoo shine!