Tattoo Healing: How Long Does It Take For A Tattoo To Heal is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Tattoos are on the rise in the US. Currently every 1 in 5 Americans have at least one tattoo and among younger people the percentage is even higher. 

If you are considering getting one yourself, one of the questions you are probably wondering about is – how long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

In short –  it may take about 3 weeks in total, but there is more to it. 

Keep on reading and we’ll tell you all about it.

The Healing Process of a Tattoo: Tattoo Healing Stages

How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

Dermatologically speaking, and getting right to the point, you can expect a fresh tattoo to be fully healed after about 3 weeks.

To get to a more in-depth explanation, the healing process starts immediately. By immediately, I mean even while you are getting a tattoo.

To break down the tattoo healing timeline. 

The first thing that happens after the skin is punctured is swelling, as well as light bleeding. 

This is the immune response of your body attempting to close the wound to prevent foreign bodies from entering the wound. 

You can think of it and the body attacking the wound, like a breach in the defenses from a military standpoint. Platelets will rush to the location to close the wound, and working together with red blood cells are responsible for clotting. It is a natural way for your body to start the healing process. 

Once your tattoo is complete, the artist will wrap it. It might continue to seep but it’s perfectly natural as this is a continuation of the body attempting to seal the wound. This is why your artist will tell you to leave it covered for up to 24 to 48 hours after the tattoo is done.

Remember, that leaving the tattoo-covered is crucial to prevent infection during this time.

tattoo healing process

After Your Uncover the Tattoo

The body has been around for a long time, and the healing process of a tattoo is really no different than many daily injuries people have.

After removing the wrap the scabbing process has started to set, meaning that those little holes that the tattoo needles punched into your skin have been effectively sealed.

This is where the instructions from one tattoo artist to the next will differ on aftercare. Some will tell you to start immediately moisturizing the area with non-scented lotion or vaseline. 

I, however, used to be an EMT and CNA before I really just dove headfirst into the tattoo world. So my advice is that it is not going to hurt the tattoo to give it another full 24 hour period to let the scabbing process set it and solidify.

Once the scabbing process has set in thoroughly though, you are safe from infection. 

The biggest reason you want to moisturize your tattoo at this point is to prevent the drying and cracking of skin and scabs because that is what will mar the image of whatever tattoo you have gotten.

If your skin dries it is also going to itch and you may subconsciously find yourself scratching your tattoo. This is also something you want to avoid.

Scratching away or pulling off the scabs that form will permanently scar your skin, and remove ink from the tattoo itself.

You want to give your tattoo as long as possible to heal because this will ensure that as much ink will stay in your skin, so those vibrant pinks and yellows will be just popping.

It takes about 2 and a half weeks for the scabs to fall off naturally on their own. And this is where a lot of people get confused because the tattoo will seem a little dull.

Also, perfectly natural. 

In the industry, this is what we call the ‘ Silver Sheen,’ This is the fresh layer of cells that have formed above the tattoo.

Many people get concerned that the tattoo isn’t as bright as they expected at this point, but if they give it time, this layer of skin will also peel away, exposing the tattoo underneath to the world in all its bright and majestic colorful glory.

The silver sheen can sometimes take a few days or a few weeks, depending on the person and the size of the tattoo.

And congratulations! Your tattoo has officially healed and you can now go show it off at parties to your friends and family.

Not So Scary: Last Thoughts on How Long Does it Take For a Tattoo to Heal

Overall you can expect your tattoo to take around 3 weeks to heal. Right after your tattoo is done, you will have to patiently wait for it to heal in a wrap for about 24 or 48 hours.

After the wrap is removed the scabbing process starts. In about 2 – 3 weeks you can expect the scabs to be off and the tattoo will be fully healed.

However, don’t worry if it looks a bit shiny or waxy for a few more weeks. That’s a completely normal part of a healing – it’s the new skin you’re seeing. 

The tattoo healing process is not that scary after all. Just follow you tattoo artists’s instructions and you will soon be able to enjoy your new tattoo design.

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