Tattoos are a beautiful way to show off your individuality. They can be fun and colorful, dark and somber, or anywhere in between. The tattoos you get will be a reflection of your unique personality and style. While there are many wonderful things about tattoos, they don’t come without their set of challenges and risks. Tattoos are amazing works of art but they are also open wounds.
So How Long do Tattoos Take to Heal? Depending on the size of the tattoo, the surface of the skin should be healed within two or three weeks. Complete and total healing of the rest of the tattoo beneath the skin will take around six months.
When getting a tattoo it is important for you to know exactly what you are getting into so you can be prepared. One of the most important parts of a tattoo is its healing process. Healing a tattoo is just like healing any other cut or wound. It needs to be cleaned regularly and monitored for infection. The healing period can be unpleasant and inconvenient but it is not something to be ignored.
There are a lot of precautions you must take while your tattoo is healing. The first few weeks are the most important and it is imperative that you follow all after-care instructions and guidelines very carefully. Once the initial healing of the skin’s surface is complete, many activities may be resumed as long as you keep in mind that the deeper layers are still healing.
Keep Healing Time to a Minimum
Two to three weeks for initial healing is typical, though some may have a different experience simply based on varying skin types. There are also a number of instructions you will receive after finishing your tattoo session. There will be several steps you need to follow a few times throughout the day to ensure your tattoo is well cared for and heals properly.
Following your given instructions carefully will ensure the fastest possible healing times. Neglecting to care for your tattoo will likely result in a more difficult healing process as well as possible infection. Different tattoo shops will vary slightly in their specific details and product recommendations, but the aftercare process is pretty universal.
The first week or so after you get your tattoo, you should consider the area an open wound and treat it accordingly. Your artist will clean and bandage the tattoo when they are done and it is usually recommended that you keep the bandage or covering on for around 24-48 hours. Some excess blood, ink, and plasma seeping out is perfectly normal.
How to care for your new tattoo
Once the bandage is removed, you will need to be diligent about cleaning it for the next little while. Depending on your lifestyle and how clean you keep the tattoo throughout the day, you should clean it between one and three times. It should be cleaned with scent-free soap and followed immediately by a thin layer of scent-free moisturizer. Your artist can recommend some good brands for you to purchase, or the tattoo shop may sell some themselves.
In addition to proper and regular cleaning, there are many other things you can do and not do in the first several weeks that will keep your tattoo protected and keep the healing on track:
- Do not expose the tattoo to direct sunlight.
- Always wash your hands before touching your tattoo or even the area around it.
- Do not submerge the tattoo in water for extended periods of time.
- Do not pick off scabs or peeling skin.
- Wear clean and loose fitting clothes around the area.
- Wash your sheets often during the healing process.
- Resist the urge to scratch the tattoo. Lightly tap it instead to relieve the itching.
Beyond Surface Level
Once you have reached that two or three-week mark where your tattoo is starting to look healed on the surface, You can relax a little bit. If you’ve experienced no complications and taken care of everything properly, there are some things that you can resume doing.
While it may still be a good idea to be cautious and limit your time in the water after those first few weeks, a little swim or bath should be safe. Once it is completely healed on the surface, it should be safe to take it out into the sun a little bit – just don’t forget sunscreen! Too much sun exposure without sunscreen is bad for a tattoo of any age.
Even though the tattoo will appear healed and certain things are safe again, don’t forget that your skin will still be healing underneath for another few months.
Things That can Prolong Healing
There are things you can do and some precautions you can take that minimize your tattoo’s healing time, so it should come as no surprise that there are also things you can do that will prolong your tattoos healing! Unfortunately, a lot of people rush into getting a tattoo without doing enough research or asking enough questions. They get their tattoo, hear the aftercare instructions, but don’t realize how many normal, day-to-day things can damage a tattoo and interrupt proper healing.
Before getting your tattoo make sure you are informed and knowledgeable, and don’t make these dire mistakes:
- Washing it with a loofah. It may sound counterproductive in theory, but you don’t want to rub the tattoo hard at all. A gentle wash with soap is all it needs. The scabbing and peeling you will experience are normal and necessary parts of the process. If these are picked or peeled off too early it may damage the tattoo’s appearance.
- Rubbing dry with a towel. After you’ve cleaned your tattoo, do not rub it dry! Using a clean, soft towel or even paper towel gently pat the area.
- Going overboard on the lotion. It is important to keep the tattoo moisturized, but you need to find a balance. A thin layer after each wash is all that’s required. Too much lotion will suffocate your tattoo and can cause the growth of bacteria.
- Too much exercise. Even if you are on a strict workout schedule, make sure you plan to take some time off immediately after getting your tattoo. Excessive and intense movement can cause the tattooed skin to crack and get irritated. This will only delay the healing.
- Touching it. You should only touch the tattoed area if absolutely necessary. Unless you wash your hands thoroughly immediately before, don’t touch it. Hands pick up a lot of germs throughout the day that you don’t even realize. Don’t let anyone else touch it either. Everyone will want to admire it and get a nice close look, but make sure they know hands off.
- Shaving over it. Wait at least two weeks, possibly up to four, before shaving over your new tattoo. This relates right back to the all-important scabs that need to fall off on their own, and keeping bacteria away from the wound.
New Tattoos and Water
It is fairly common knowledge that you should avoid submerging your tattoo in water, but not everyone knows the details and specifics. Sometimes you can’t avoid getting it wet – like in the shower. Different types of water pose different risks to a new and healing tattoo.
- Showering. You need to continue having showers, even with a brand new tattoo. A quick shower won’t harm the tattoo – try keeping them to about five minutes. This prevents the heat and steam from sweating out the ink. Also, try to keep the tattoo out of the direct spray of water.
- Bathing. Avoid sitting in a bath for at least two to four weeks. After being in the water for only a few minutes, it will be harboring a lot of bacteria. Bacteria is dangerous for a new tattoo.
- Swimming. While the chlorine in a pool will kill any bacteria, the chlorine itself can dry your skin out and even cause a rash on a fresh tattoo. It may even fade the ink or draw it out of the deeper layers. The sea salt in the ocean can have a similar drying effect. Lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water are crawling with bacteria that will be harmful to your tattoo. Avoid swimming anywhere for the same two to four week period as the surface of your tattoo heals.
Many often wonder if the size of the tattoo will have any impact on the healing process. Size can make a difference but it is not dramatic. It’s true that a very tiny tattoo will probably heal faster than a huge, colorful design but the process will very much look the same. The scabbing, peeling, and itching will be on a smaller scale but it will still be very much present. Larger tattoos are at a bigger risk of irritation, infection, and other potential healing deterrents simply because they cover a larger surface area and require more effort to cover and protect.
As long as you are prepared for the requirements of caring for and healing a larger tattoo, you shouldn’t experience any additional issues simply because it is larger.