Tattoo Healing Process: What To Expect

Getting a tattoo, whether it’s your first tattoo or an addition to many, is an exciting and often meaningful experience. We’re all different as human beings and while the healing process for tattoos is pretty similar for most people, there are nuances that can affect the time taken for the tattoo to heal, and it’s important to be aware of the tattoo healing process to ensure your new ink looks its best and your skin heals to the best of its ability. 

Today we’re going to discuss what to expect during the healing process of a tattoo, as well as some little tips to care for your fresh piece.

Tattoo Healing Process

The First 24 Hours

What To Expect?

  • Swelling: and Redness: It’s normal for the tattooed area to be red, swollen, and slightly painful immediately after getting tattooed. This is your body’s natural response to the continuous needle trauma.
  • Oozing: You may notice some blood, plasma, and ink oozing from the tattoo.


This is completely normal and usually subsides after a few hours. 

Tattoo Healing Process


Aftercare Tips

  • Covering: Your tattoo artist will apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or a specialised ointment and cover the tattoo with a bandage, plastic wrap, or second skin. This is all to help protect the area from bacteria.
  • Cleaning: After a few hours, gently wash the tattoo with lukewarm bottled water and a mild, fragrance free soap. Pat dry with a clean paper towel and reapply a thin layer of ointment (it’s also important to consider where on the planet you are when getting your tattoo, if you’re in a humid country, be sure to read this additional guide for aftercare in hotter countries.

>> More article: Ultimate Tattoo Aftercare in Hoi An: Navigating the Tropical Climate

Days 2 to 4: The Inflammatory Phase

What To Expect

  • Reduced Swelling: Swelling and redness should start to decrease during this time.
  • Itching and Tenderness: The area may feel tender and start to itch as the healing process continues – resist the itch!!!!

Care Tips

  • Moisturising: Continue to wash the tattoo gently and apply a thin layer of a suitable aftercare ointment. Do not over-apply as this can suffocate the skin, also check out the link above if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it.
  • Avoid Scratching: To stress it one more time, please resist the urge to scratch or pick at the tattoo. Scratching can introduce bacteria to the area and lead to an infection or additional scarring.

Tattoo Healing Process

Days 5 to 14: The Scabbing and Peeling Phase

What To Expect

  • Scabbing: Small scabs may form on the tattoo – this is perfectly fine! It’s a sign of healing.
  • Peeling: The tattooed area will begin to peel off, similar to when you get sunburnt, then revealing the new skin beneath.

Care Tips

  • Gentle Care: Continue to wash and moisturise the tattoo. If scabs form, do not pick them off – let them fall off naturally.
  • Hydration: Keeping the skin hydrated is crucial during this phase, but avoid using heavy creams that can clog the pores, as this is where the risk of infection can increase.

Tattoo Healing Process

Days 15 to 30: The Final Stage of Healing

What To Expect

  • Dull Appearance: Your tattoo might look dull or cloudy as the new skin settles in, again this is a completely natural part of the healing process.
  • Complete Healing: By the end of this period, the surface of your tattoo should be fully healed. However, it’s important to note that deeper layers of skin can take several more weeks to heal completely. We also need to take the size of the tattoo into consideration.

The bigger the tattoo – the bigger the open wound – the longer it will take to heal.

Care Tips

  • Regular Moisturising: Continue to moisturise the tattoo with a fragrance-free lotion.
  • Sun Protection: It’s important to protect your tattoo from direct sunlight. Once your tattoo has healed, it’s critical to always use sunscreen to prevent any fading.

Long Term Care

  • Hydration: Be sure to keep your skin well-hydrated to maintain the overall vibrancy of your tattoo.
  • Sun Protection: ALWAYS apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on your tattoo when you are exposed to the sun.
  • Healthy Skin Habits: Be sure to avoid any harsh skin treatments and be mindful of the tattooed area during any exfoliation or using skincare products.

Signs Of Trouble

While most tattoos heal without an issue, it’s important to watch out for signs of complications, as well as spotting them sooner rather than later.

  • Infection: The symptoms of an infection include excessive redness, swelling, pus and severe pain. If you suspect you have an infection, seek medical advice ASAP.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may experience allergic reactions to specific types or brands of tattoo ink, if you’re having an allergic reaction you’d usually notice additional itchiness, redness and swelling of the area.
  • Scarring: Excessive picking at the tattooed area or neglecting proper aftercare guidelines can lead to scarring. The aftercare guidelines are there for a reason – listen to them!

Summing Up

If you’ve got this far, then you now know that the healing process for a tattoo is just as important as the tattooing process itself.

Adhering to proper care during each stage of healing ensures that your tattoo remains vibrant, and your skin remains healthy.

We hope that by understanding what to expect and following the correct aftercare practices, you can be a bit more at ease with the tattoo healing process.Remember that if you’re ever in doubt, consult with your tattoo artist or a medical professional to address any concerns you may have during the healing process.