This may not surprise you to learn that the healing stages of a tattoo are not ones you can set an alarm clock to, but how long does it take for a tattoo to heal? Some will take longer to heal than others. There are a few variables that affect the healing of a tattoo. If the tattoo is placed near a joint like the ankle, knee or elbow, or anywhere that flexes (like a wrist), then it will take longer to heal than ones that are placed in an area of the body that moves less. Also, larger tattoos and those with lots of complex color will not heal at the same rate a much smaller or less intricate design.
Your own body chemistry will play its part as well, and of course, how good you are to your new tattoo and the aftercare you give it.
Most authorities agree that a tattoo goes through 4 recognizable stages as it is healing.
Tattoo Healing Stage 1- typically lasts about a week, and no, it’s not so pleasant. What happens during this time is just a lot of oozing and redness, possibly some inflammation, and maybe even some burning around the area of the tattoo. During this stage, your tattoo is an open wound and it needs to be treated as such. You’ll need to follow your tattoo artist’s specific instructions for immediate care and how long to leave the bandaging on. During this stage, while it’s still an open wound, the opportunity for infection is great and it’s essential to follow all the steps provided to insure you are off to the best start possible for optimal healing and a great looking tattoo.
Tattoo Healing Stage 2 - Itching (and Flaking) - Way to go! You’ve made it to stage 2, the time where you just may feel like you’re crawling out of your skin. The good news, is that while you may experience intense itchiness and see lots of flaking of the skin, it usually only goes on for about a week, and even if it looks like the tattoo is flaking right off—but don’t stress, it’s all part of the process and it’ll be fine. Whatever you do, DO NOT SCRATCH! Scratching is probably the worst thing you can do because if you pick at the scabs that are forming, you could again introduce the possibility of infection and affect the end results of the appearance of the tattoo as well.
Using a high quality moisturizing tattoo cream as often as possible will deliver tremendous relief at this stage of healing.
Tattoo Healing Stage 3 - Peeling - For the next 2 weeks or so, the most noticeable thing that will be happening to your tattoo during this stage is lots and lots of peeling. The tattoo itself may look duller than it did when it was first done, but this is only a temporary change in appearance while the layer of dry skin over the tattoo starts to exfoliate and peel off. As tempting as it may be, there’s no need to scratch and peel to help it along, and in fact, it’s really not good for the tattoo if you do. Don’t risk a setback now and possibility of scarring, just let it ‘do it’s thing’.
Tattoo Healing Stage 4 - Aftercare - Congratulations! You made it to the 4th and final, though longest healing stage of your tattoo. By now, your tattoo probably LOOKS fully healed, and all the annoying stuff is over. But don’t be fooled, there’s still several months of longer term healing taking place, and you need to do your part by avoiding direct exposure to the sun, keeping the tattoo and surrounding skin clean and properly moisturized. Even though you cannot see any clear healing occuring by now, these are the things that will insure the best possible long-term results for your tattoo.
Patience is the key, because the bottom line here is that complete healing usually takes up to 6 months.