Imagine getting the tattoo you’ve been waiting so long to get. You want to take pics, show your friends and rock it. But you notice that it’s not looking so great. It’s oozing, red and may even cause a burning sensation. What gives? Well, a tattoo, at least in the beginning is a wound. The body has to take time to heal it. So, that may leave you wondering how long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

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How Long Does it Take for a Tattoo to Heal?

According to Healthline, tattoo healing time is roughly 2 to 3 weeks. However, it can take up to six months for the skin under the tattoo to fully heal. 

Tattoo Healing Stages

This video shows day-by-day tattoo healing over the course of two months.

  1. 1-3 Hours – Within the first few hours, you’ll be able to remove the bandage placed on it by the tattoo artist. Remember how we mentioned it’s a wound? That’s why it’s important to keep the bandage on for a little while.
  2. One Week – After the first week, you’ll notice your tattoo will start flaking. Your tattoo will even start itching too. These are all normal parts of the tattoo healing process.
  3. One Month – After about a month, your tattoo may be dry and the itchiness should have subsided. Don’t worry about the dryness, it’s just a normal part of healing.
  4. 2-6 Months – According to Healthline, between two to six months, your tattoo should be fully healed. However, Healthline said scarring, excessive itching, and prolonged redness could mean that the tattoo is not healing properly and may be infected.

Factors that Slow Down Tattoo Healing

Even though your tattoo should heal well within 3 weeks, there are things you might do that slow down the tattoo healing process without even knowing. Some of these factors are:

Products with Fragrance

According to an article in the Dermatology Online Journal, scented lotions may cause scarring and premature fading of tattoos. Scented lotions do this because they cause allergic contact dermatitis. As a result, scented lotions may also prolong would healing.

The study says, “Tattoo artists should recommend avoidance of scented lotions and instruct clients to care for their new tattoo like a wound in their aftercare instructions.”

People have reported allergic contact dermatitis after getting tattoos. While some people have allergic reactions to the ink, many have reactions to products they apply to their tattoos. 

While it’s important to moisturize your tattoos, watch out for creams with fragrance.  

This rule applies to soaps too. Healthline suggests that depending on the location of the tattoo you may need to switch to fragrance-free products. So, if you have a tattoo on the back of your neck, you may need to use shampoo and conditioners without fragrance to avoid further irritation. 

Alcohol

Using alcohol soon after getting a tattoo may prolong the tattoo’s healing. Try to avoid alcohol for a couple of days after getting a tattoo so that it will heal well. 

There isn’t much information about smoking weed after getting a tattoo. However, it may help with pain but don’t mix it with other medications. In addition to that, while it’s relatively normal for a tattoo to feel sore afterwards, having pain may be a sign of infection. 

Cigarettes

In terms of cigarettes, there is evidence that using them may slow down wound healing. However, the study didn’t specify tattoos. What we do know is that cigarettes can potentially cause pigment to leak out of tattoos. 

Swimming & Baths

Swimming leaves your skin very vulnerable and should be avoided for at least two to three weeks, if not longer. From chemically treated pools, to bacteria from lakes and excessive sun exposure, your healing skin is much more prone to infection and delayed healing.

Even baths are risky business until the tattoo is fully dried because the skin needs time for the ink to set. Once the flaked skin and scabs have completely fallen off and the old skin is replaced with new, you can swim and bathe again.

Leaving Bandage on for too Long

Yes, your tattoo artist will place a bandage over your tattoo when it’s done. However, after a couple of hours, the bandage should be removed. 

According to Healthline, it’s best not to cover the tattoo. They said, “Wrapping it may result in extra moisture and a lack of oxygen, which can cause scabbing and slow healing”

How to Take Care of a Tattoo

Your tattoo artist should provide you with after-care instructions. But if they didn’t or you forgot, you can follow ours.

  • Clean with sterile lukewarm water daily. 
  • Cover the tattoo with clothes when going out in the sun. Avoid tight clothing and wool. 
  • Avoid swimming for two weeks after getting your tattoo. 
  • Moisturize the tattoo with a fragrance-free (and alcohol-free) moisturizer.
  • Stay hydrated so that your skin stays hydrated.

According to Healthline, if you have fever or chills, then maybe the tattoo is infected and you should see a doctor. In addition to that, after about 2-3 days, you shouldn’t have oozing. Fluid or pus may be a signs of infected tattoo and deserves a doctor’s attention. 

Conclusion: Time Heals all Wounds 

How long does it take for a tattoo to heal? Tattoos take about 2-3 weeks to heal, however complete healing can take months. Your tattoo will heal at a great pace if you take good care of it with proper cleaning, moisturizer and hydration. At the same time, there are also things you may do unknowingly that slow down healing. Avoid those those activities as much as you can during the healing process. If you sense that the tattoo is infected, please see a doctor. Finally, remember to get the tattoo care instructions from your tattoo artist.

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