We constantly receive questions from people who are concerned about their tattoo’s healing progress. It is totally normal to be concerned, and I like to adhere to the “better safe than sorry” principle and encourage everyone to get as much information as possible. While nothing is a replacement for quality medical advice from a licensed practitioner such as your neighbourhood medical clinic, we hope that this article will help provide some clarity on the tattoo healing process. It is important to understand when a tattoo is fully healed, and what steps to take to ensure no injury or damage occurs.
What prompted me to write this post was this message I saw on Reddit:
“I just got my first tattoo on Friday night (it’s Monday morning), and I know that it’s way early to talk about healing and stuff.
My artist is fantastic, and did a great job of talking me through the pain of the outline, and was super awesome about clean up. Even gave me some bandages for the next day when I needed to wear a bra (the top of it is right in my bra line).
First time I had to clean it, I almost passed out. You know the hangover where you have to sit down in the shower so you don’t pass out/throw up? Yeah, I had to get out of the shower TWICE. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so sensitive 18 hours later.
But I powered through, and cleaned it up.
Dab on some ointment, let it breathe. Since she gave me some bandages, I’ve been lightly wrapping/covering with gauze when I have to wear a bra (for work and anything outside my house, can’t just let the girls swing free all the time. Totally NSFW).
I’ve figured out how to clean it without feeling sick, and I’m putting Aquaphor on it after I clean it. Very small amount, and spreading it thin, not coating it.
When should I expect to see some scabbing/flaking? My tattoo is a mermaid, with some text. The text actually flaked a little bit yesterday, but I haven’t had any from the girl yet.
Just curious! I’ve been lurking around in this sub for awhile, and read the sticky about Aftercare.
It is totally normal for many people to experience a significant amount of pain during the healing process, as this commenter did. To answer her main question, scabbing and flaking will usually occur from around the 5 day mark, right through to the end of two weeks. Many artists recommend stopping Aquaphor use after 3 days and switching to a gentle, unscented lotion.
Even after a tattoo appears to have healed, it can take a significant amount of time longer for things to fully “settle”, and care should be taken with the tattoo to prevent any ink loss or risk of damage to the tattoo. Below is a little picture illustrating the position of ink in the skin over time. Most people consider a tattoo to be fully healed at around 2.5 months. As always, if you have any concerns we strongly recommend seeing a medical professional, as no online advice is a substitute for an accurate assessment by a professional!