Tattoo Healing Stages

Tattoo Healing Stages

Your tattoo goes through multiple stages of healing. Understanding these stages helps you to know when something’s gone wrong or right like it should be! The healing process takes a predicable route and usually finishes within 3-4 weeks depending on size of the art, color used and the location. Any interruptions in healing stages will make it difficult for your tattoo to heal properly. Here is a bit more about the three healing stages:

Stage 1: Pain Stage - Up to One Week

When you get a tat, your skin is pierced hundreds, if not thousands, of times. This creates a series of minute puncture wounds that need to be cared for and protected if they are to heal without scarring or becoming infected. You can consider the tattooed area an open wound, and you'll need to treat it accordingly. 

After the placement of pigment, your skin will swell a bit and you will notice some tenderness and hotness around the affected area. The swelling is mainly because your immune system reacts to an increased flow of blood to a particular area. The warmth is also due to the increased blood flow. Your white blood cells will also come to rescue and fight any microbes and other foreign bodies around the area. It is due to this process that getting a fresh tattoo often looks like a sting or sunburn.


  • Avoid picking the scab or it will affect the healing.
  • Wash your tattoo area a couple of times at least with mild soap and water.
  • Never rub the affected area.
  • Apply some mild moisturizing lotion on the affected area.

Stage 2: Itching Stage - Second Week

The tattoo starts to be itchy. The stage is also annoying and indicates the skin naturally recovers. It takes about a week for the skin to start regenerating. About four days after the start of the itching the skin will start to peel making the itch to worsen. Dealing with the itch varies from person to person, but remember: the worst thing you can do at this stage is pick off your scabs. You can help yourself to deal with itching: just gently hand wash the area once or twice a day with a very mild soap, pat dry with a fresh paper towel and gently dab on a light amount of the moisturizing aftercare lotion your artist recommends.

You will notice some tightness in the tattooed area mainly because the protein fiber called collagen will soon grow within the tattoo. This will make the edges of the wound to shrink a bit and close. Small blood vessels will supply blood to the new skin cells.


  • Never try to peel off the skin that is flaking off.
  • Do not graze or scratch your tattoo to relieve itching,this may destroy tattoo.
  • Make use of moisturizing lotion for relief.

Stage 3: Healing Stage - Weeks Two to Four

This is the final stage of the tattoo healing process. The tattoo appears mostly healed.

At this stage you will see that almost all of the scabs fall way from your tattoo and the ink should be settled. The main tattoo is however, deep in the skin.

Your body continues to add more collagen to the tattooed area, which in turn refines it. You may still notice some dryness and tenderness, but that is normal. Your tattoo has not healed completely at this time. You may notice the tattoo is less vibrant as compared to when you have it finished fresh. That is mainly because there is still another layer of dead skin that needs to fall off. After this happens the tattoo will start to look very vibrant and that will be the completion of all tattoo healing stages.  


  • Protect your healing tattoo from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid swimming if you think your tattoo has not healed completely.
  • Avoid soaking in a tub or it may affect the natural healing process.
  • Never pick, scratch or rub the tattoo.

It can take a month or so for it to completely heal and for the scabbing to be done.

Tattoo by: Rebecca Priest 



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