A Day To Day Guide To The Tattoo Healing Process

Last updated: February 19, 2019
Published 12:00 am

Congratulations on your new tattoo! If you thought the hard part was over though, I have some unpleasant news. The tattoo healing process can be just as stressful and uncomfortable as the days leading up to or the day of your tattoo session.

But fear not. This guide will walk you through the different stages of healing so you can start enjoying your tattoo sooner than later.

Week 1

The first week after getting your tattoo is filled with a variety of symptoms. You’ll experience:

  • Oozing
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Scabbing

A tattoo is essentially a large, open wound. The healing starts as soon as the tattoo is finished.

You’ll want to make sure that you’re keeping the area as clean as possible. Wash it with an antibacterial soap and avoid touching it. If possible, keep clothing away from your freshly tattooed skin and bandage or wrap it according to the directions you were given at your appointment.

Don’t be alarmed if you notice oozing from the area. You’ll notice blood, fluid, and ink, all of which is completely normal during the tattoo healing process. Gently wash any liquids away, making sure to use your fingers while moving in circular motions. Don’t use a cloth or loofah in the shower.


You’ll most likely feel quite sore during the first week after getting a tattoo. The discomfort feels like a sunburn. Your skin might also feel warm when you touch it.

Again, this is all normal, along with redness, raised skin, and bruising. If any of these symptoms are extreme, having the area medically evaluated for an infection isn’t a bad idea.

Towards the end of the first week, you’ll notice a bit of scabbing. Don’t be concerned if your tattoo begins to look dull or cloudy. The brightness and sharpness will come back as it heals.

Week 2

You’re past some of the worst. The second week of the tattoo healing process involves:

  • Itching
  • Flaking
  • Scabbing

The second week of healing is about self-control. You’re going to experience a lot of itching, thanks to scabbing and flaking skin.

As much as you might want to scratch your tattoo, avoid doing so at all costs! This can completely ruin it. If you absolutely can’t stand the itch, use lotion designed for tattoos or tap the area instead of scratching it.

Make sure you’re keeping up on moisturizing during the second week. Your tattoo artist should have given you some direction, but essentially, you’ll want to apply a fragrance-free lotion several times each day to minimize the flaking and itching while speeding up skin rejuvenation. If you’re still struggling with discomfort, click here for information on tattoo numbing cream.

During the last few days of the week, you’ll probably notice skin hanging from your tattoo. This is a good sign of healing. Don’t peel the skin as this can damage your tattoo.

Weeks 3 & 4

During the final weeks of your first month after getting a tattoo, you’ll finally be able to start showing it off. You should notice:

  • Less scabbing
  • Brighter appearance
  • Slight cloudiness

Most of your scabs should be gone. Even though your tattoo is probably a bit dry still, you should be noticing a drastic improvement in its appearance. Don’t worry if it still looks a bit dull or cloudy.

Keep up with the moisturizing, even if it looks better. Make sure to inspect your tattoo during this timeframe. If you notice any fading or issues with your tattoo, a touch-up appointment with your tattoo artist should eradicate the issue.

You might notice a bit of flaking for the next few weeks or even a glossy appearance to your tattoo. This is a sign that you’re entering the final stages of healing.

What Is the Average Healing Time?

For most people, they can resume their normal activities two to three weeks after getting their tattoo. After this timeframe, you should be able to swim or take a bath without issues. You also won’t have to worry about clothing irritating the area. But for a tattoo to completely heal, including the layers of skin beneath, you’ll usually need about 6 months of patience and care.

How Do I Know When My Tattoo Has Healed?

Everyone’s body heals differently. Depending on the size of your tattoo and location, yours could take longer to heal than someone else’s. But if you’re noticing that the color is beginning to come back (for example, black turns to gray during the healing process but then back to black once healed), and no longer experiencing flaking or scabbing, your tattoo is most likely healed.

Now that your tattoo is healed, you can start showing it off and explaining its meaning to your friends, family, and anyone who notices it. And now that you’re a tattoo pro and understand the tattoo healing process, it just might be time to start thinking about your next work of art!