Tattoo Healing: How Long It Takes and What You Should Do

Patrick Belk
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How long do tattoos take to heal?

The healing time of a tattoo is particularly important for those who have a sedentary job and can’t afford to take breaks when the skin on their wrists starts itching.

Even more so if they have been getting tattooed recently. But how exactly does the process of healing work? And how long must you wait until you can get back to work?

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the different steps of the healing process and what you can expect during the first 12 weeks.

Tattoo Aftercare: Tips and Tricks

Getting a new tattoo is a special and exciting moment for almost every person. The idea of getting “inked” gets your adrenaline going. However, it is a well-known fact that the experience can be painful, and you need to be prepared for it. Once it is done, how do you maintain the quality of your new tattoo and how long does it take to heal? This article will help you mitigate the risks of getting a tattoo. It is built upon an extensive research about tattoo aftercare.

First of all, the tattoo will hurt, no matter what.

In fact, you can feel all kinds of sensations, like itchy, burning, hot and cold. The intensity of the pain will depend on a few factors. For example, the density of the tattoo, its size, and the place where it is located.

Also, the graver the artist uses, the more discomfort you will experience. Now, the area in which you typically keep your tattoo will also affect your healing, as some areas are more prone to infections.

The ink is injected into your skin, and it is crucial to care for it to avoid infections, redness, and scabs. Doing so can help you establish new and better skin layers than your previous ones.

Post-Tattoo Session Care

Like a fresh wound, a new tattoo should be kept covered for the next 72 hours. This allows the tattoo to heal without being exposed to outside contaminants, and it also keeps your friends and co-workers from asking you what the heck that is on your arm. Keeping the area elevated while resting will also minimize the likelihood of fluid build-up.

After the first 72 hours, there are several things you can do to help the healing process along, though the most important thing to remember is to keep it covered. Your body is not likely to reject the tattoo, but for the first 10 days or so, it’s susceptible to being pulled at by your underclothing. Keep it covered.

Once you’ve gotten passed the 10 day mark, you can peel off the bandage and/or take a nice, hot shower to help abrade away any scabbing, dead skin, or excess ink. Once per day throughout this period, you can apply a little *iodine tincture over the tattoo to help sterilize it, though it’s not necessarily a necessity.

Tattoo artist Rose Baxter recommends applying a thin coat of zinc oxide ointment to your tattoo to keep it moisturized and encourage the healing process. Most tattoo inks contain propylene glycol, which is a humectant and will draw moisture to itself.

Week Two Care

If you looked forward to getting tattooed during your first visit, this week when you are getting tattooed, you may be dreading it. Don’t worry. You have made it this far on your journey. You have made it through several hours of tattoo work. And you will get through the next few days and that last session as well.

All that week, and next week, the artist is going to be working to reduce any discoloration, eliminate blurry areas and close the gaps in the design.

To speed that along, follow the directions for care and feeding during these difficult days.

Lose the deodorant. And wear loose-fitting clothing, ideally shirts with long sleeves.

Don’t sit too long in one place without moving around. Take breaks where you stand up and stomp or shake your arms and legs. Roll your wrists and then stretch them out.

You want to eliminate any pressure on your newly inked skin, reduce inflammation and minimize swelling. Every time you put pressure on the inked area, you risk damaging that new skin before it has a chance to heal.

Reducing swelling will help to reduce injury and ensure a more pain-free healing period.

Remember, you’ve started a project that will now encompass your entire life.

Weeks Three Onwards

From weeks 3 to 4, you can begin to wash the tattoo as you would like, but with only cool water and 1 % saline to reduce the chance of infection.

During this time period your tattoo should begin to fade to a pale yellow color. It would be normal for it to develop small bumps, flare up a little and peel here and there throughout the healing process. Typically, the skin underneath your tattoo will darken and thin a bit.

Make sure you sleep on a clean pillowcase every night to prevent your pillow from abrading your tattoo. With normal sleep, general activity, and time, you can expect a fresh tattoo to be healed in weeks 3 to 4.

Other Things to Remember

If you go with a flash design, which is a pre-drawn tattoo, your artist won't have to spend as much time on the tattoo itself. The best place to find flash designs is the internet.

You can find flash artwork online by searching for tattoo design websites and checking out their flash galleries. The best flash galleries are very high quality.

If you decide to go with an original design, have a check at their portfolio and see what they've done in the past. Make sure they have experience in the style you want.

Hiring an artist without the right experience may be an expensive mistake. The healing time for a tattoo varies by size of the tattoo, where it is on the body and the materials used.

In general, you can expect a medium sized tattoo to take between 10 and 14 days to heal fully.

If the tattoo is over a bone, such as the hand or foot, it's even harder for the tattoo to heal completely and this may prolong the healing time by a week or so.

Studies have shown that hydration, nutrition and the use of a proprietary skin care oil are key to a tattoo's healing process.

Also, you need to start taking care of your tattoo immediately after getting a tattoo. You need to keep it really clean, especially if it is new.