What Are The Three Stages Of The Recovery Process For A Tattoo?

One of the most crucial aspects of getting inked is a tattoo recovery process. Along with ensuring that the tattoo looks fantastic, aftercare protects overall health. Every fresh tattoo must go through a complex recovery procedure. This tattoo recovery process may often be divided into three distinct steps. Then, these stages might be divided up even more on a daily basis.

recovery process for a tattoo

Check out our guide to learn what to anticipate throughout your tattoo recovery process. It is ultimately up to you to understand how to take care of the skin and the tattoo itself, even though the artist will assist in informing you about appropriate tattoo care during the recovery process.

You must guard against hazardous infectious organisms until a fresh tattoo can regrow its natural protective membrane, just like you would with any other kind of open-skin lesion.

When a tattoo heals, it goes through a process called regeneration, during which the skin returns to its pre-tattoo state with the exception of the hundreds of minute pigments of ink that have since been injected into it.

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recovery process for a tattoo

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Process Of Recovering A Tattoo

Everyone recovers from getting a tattoo in their own way, although most tattoos are considered recovered within a few weeks of being inked. Different people recover at different rates. The variation in this is caused by maintenance and aftercare. So, always remember to follow the guideline on the recovery process of your tattoo.

Over the course of four to six weeks, the visible portion of the tattoo will progressively heal.

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However, the deeper layers of skin will continue to heal more slowly after a few months. This chronology will change depending on the artist’s method, style, and design.

Your tattoo will recover more quickly if you carefully follow the aftercare guidelines in the early going. This will allow you to get back to your usual activities without unintentionally harming the region.

Additionally, there are several techniques for tattoo recovery. Some tattooists advocate using unscented soap to carefully wash the tattoo twice a day, pat it dry, and then apply a thin coating of aftercare.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit: suhanovsky_tattoo 

Other tattoo artists wrap their customers’ tattoos with flexible, sticky bandages (like Saniderm or Tegaderm), which typically last 4–7 days and eliminate the need for regular cleaning.

Whatever method the tattooist chooses, you should always follow their instructions and get in touch with them personally if you have any questions or concerns.

Tattoo Healing Stages

The stages that tattoos move through while they recover are typical and crucial to the process. There are three primary stages to the recovery process:

Credit: siyeon_tattoo

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Stage One (Days 1-6): Each day sees a progressive improvement in the oozing, swelling, and redness. The region starts to develop scabs.

Stage Two: Itching And Peeling Start (Days 7–14). Once all of the scabs and patches of dead skin have peeled off, these symptoms will still be present.

Stage Three (Days 15–30): Although the tattoo appears entirely healed, it may temporarily appear hazy. Continue to take care of the tattoo while the deeper layers of skin are still recovering.

Initial Stage: Oozing And Pain

Recovery starts as soon as you get up from the tattoo artist’s chair. The body will begin to create plasma right away to get the scabbing and clotting procedure started since the inked skin has become an open wound.

At this stage, the area will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution by the tattoo artist. After that, they will bandage or wrap the tattoo to further protect it from germs until you can clean it at home.

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Although every tattooist has a distinct method for wrapping, many suggest leaving the wrap on for 12 to 24 hours. Plastic, fabric, or second skin are all acceptable materials for wrapping.

After gently removing the wrap, you will notice that the skin is dripping with blood, platelets, and ink, which is entirely normal and the body’s natural self-healing method.

You should carefully wash away as much blood/gooey/ink plasma as possible at this stage. By removing these chemicals, you are eliminating the “food” that germs seek.


How To Do It:

  • Use gentle, fragrance-free soap and boiling water.
  • Use clean fingertips to apply it in circular movements.
  • In order to prevent further injury to the wound, always make sure the water isn’t too hot.

Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid using harsh cloths or bath towels, as these might remove any scabs drying out and prolong the tattoo’s recovery process. To keep the ink clean, avoid putting unclean cloths over the area.

Credit: constanzatattoo

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Your tattoo will be quite painful at this stage of recovery for a few days, particularly if it is a large piece. It may feel very close to a modest sunburn.

For a few days, your body can also feel a little fatigued. You can have flu-like symptoms on a milder scale. This is the body’s method of coping with recent stress; remember that this normally only happens if you have a huge tattoo done over several hours.

For a few days, the region that has been tattooed will appear heated to the touch. Consult a doctor to make sure there isn’t an infection involved if the warmth continues for more than a week.

Credit: suzybearking

The tattoo will likely feel heated to the touch and be sore, as well as look red and elevated. Small quantities of blood collecting under the skin’s surface may cause bruising to occur.

Bruising is typically mild if the tattoo artist wasn’t overly aggressive or pushed the needle too far into the skin. Even so, you should anticipate at least some discomfort and swell in the places where the needle was repeatedly inserted.

These adverse reactions typically affect tattoos’ deeper ink or heavily shaded sections. You could also suffer more significant bruising if you take vitamins or medications that thin the blood, such as fish oil.

Credit: victorialeetattoo

The reactions above are typical and expected during the initial phase of tattoo healing.

However, you should visit a doctor if you see any severe bruising or redness near the tattoo, notably if it has been a few days since getting it done.

Infected tattoos can be identified by persistent soreness or bruising surrounding the tattoo. An infection is present if these symptoms get worse, especially if the pain gets worse as well.

You will start to witness the development of scabbing at the end of this phase. Scabbing shouldn’t be excessively thick or harsh as long as you’re wiping away any extra plasma and ink.

It’s typical for the tattoo to appear more drab and murky than it did at first. As the tattoo recovers, the sharpness will gradually return. It’s essential to keep in mind that during the recovery process, tattoos might continue to appear worse before they look much better.

You also need to think about sleep. Sleeping might be difficult if you have a tattoo in an uncomfortable place, such as on the side or shoulders. Due to the discomfort from the tattoo, you could have trouble falling asleep. Additionally, you’ll need to do your best to prevent the tattoo from rubbing against and clinging to the bedding.

Sleeping may be uncomfortable or unsettling depending on where the tattoo is, but as the region recovers, it should get easier after a few nights.

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Last but not least, you should avoid direct sunlight for at least 3 to 4 weeks while your tattoo recovers. Tattoos are particularly vulnerable to UV radiation damage while they are actively recovering.

It would be beneficial to exercise caution once the tattoo has completely recovered. Make sure you constantly use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to achieve this. UV rays have the ability to significantly fade a tattoo over time. When it comes to shielding the tattoo from UV radiation, clothing is considerably more effective than sunscreen.

Tip For Aftercare

Your tattoo’s flowing plasma—a transparent, gloopy liquid—helps the skin scab. Plasma levels should be kept as low as possible to avoid the production of the massive, ugly scabs that are typically seen on major wounds. Due to this, getting rid of as much plasma as possible in the initial days of having a tattoo is crucial.

Initial stage Roundup

  • Though everyone recovers at a different pace, stage one of the recovery process will persist for around a week. See how to hasten the recovery process by reading this article.
  • Refrain from removing any scabs that have developed. This may slow healing and remove the color from the region before the tattoo fully recovers.
  • Use your fingertips and a fragrance-free soap to gently wash the tattoo two to three times daily, then pat it dry. Minimize rubbing.
  • Expect some initial bruising, inflammation, or redness; however, consult a doctor if symptoms continue or worsen.
  • Until the tattoo has completely recovered, keep it out of the sunlight.

Credit: jorgefernandez_tattoo

Second stage: flaking and itching

Many people believe that this is the most challenging stage of the recovery process. This stage is well-known for its scratchy ink.

By this time, the scabs have developed into hard, well-defined structures, and some of the tiny sizes are likely prepared to begin peeling off.

The skin will proceed to flake for about another week, at which point it will become scorched and brittle.

While all fresh tattoos will eventually flake, some may do it so subtly that you might not even notice the procedure.

Credit: belmontetattoo

This is why you shouldn’t be alarmed if the tattoo doesn’t appear to be peeling. The procedure will still go a place; we can promise you; it will probably simply be on a lesser scale.

In comparison to darker tattoos, lighter tattoos—particularly those with a lot of white ink—will flake and peel much more delicately.

In comparison to darker tattoos, lighter tattoos—particularly those with a lot of white ink—will flake and peel much more subtly.

By this point, the injured and dead skin’s roughness brings a significant amount of flaking. The itching that everyone dislikes so much is mainly caused by this flaking.

Keeping the skin hydrated is the key to preventing itching. Avoid picking at the tattoo. If you are careless, this is a crucial step that might damage a gorgeous tattoo. One of the most essential tasks to avoid while the tattoo is recovering is touching the area.

Credit: menfistattoo

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If you need to ease the itch, simply tap the region or rewash it. If you’re having a tough time, we have an excellent piece explicitly developed to aid with tattoo itching.

Whenever you clean the tattoo throughout stage 2, you should e it with fragrance-free moisturizer. Any excessive dryness or irritation should be avoided with a good moisturizing routine.

Experts’ personal favorite tattoos lotion is an aftercare item made of vegan ingredients named After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. In addition to maintaining the tattoo well-hydrated during recovery, this product also works wonders in relieving itching and discomfort.

This lotion can assist shorten tattoo recovery timeframes and eliminate any leftover roughness and scabbing if used right at the beginning of the recovery process.

Before using lotion, make sure the tattoo is totally dry. Your scabs may get gloopy as a result of water soaking into the tissue and lotion interface. This increases the likelihood that the scabs will be peeled off by being caught on objects like bed linens or clothing.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit dexterkay

If you accidentally apply too much lotion, remove it with a clean towel until just a little sheen remains. The tattoo requires breathing during recovery; therefore, you do not want to strangle it with lotion.

As this phase comes to a close, substantially more of the skin will begin to flake off and peel. Riping these skin fragments off will be extremely attractive, but resist the urge since they will come off when the time is right. Excessive tugging might remove ink from the skin’s deeper layers, which could result in discoloration and fading.

Your tattoo will appear quite ugly for several days if there are partially peeled bits of stretched skin from it and there is additional dryness. Fortunately, the severe peeling normally lasts about 2-4 days.

Don’t Stress!

You could see some colored skin flaking off after cleaning the tattoo. As long as you’re not being overly rough, this is totally natural as you clean the region. Most of the peeling skin was indeed removed in this manner, and all the tattoos have recovered nicely.

Additionally, the skin around the tattoo may feel tight. It is normal for skin to become rougher than usual while it recovers, which is what is causing the tightness. If the skin begins to appear tight, you can loosen it up by putting lotion on it.

Credit: inkjectiontattoostudio

Second-Stage Roundup

  • The likelihood is that this period will persist for about a week, although each person recovers differently.
  • The skin/scabs on the body will begin to dry, flake, and come off. Avoid prematurely removing any flaky skin fragments.
  • Don’t really scratch the tattoo, even if it itches. Applying lotion to soothe irritation and hydrate the region is a wonderful aftercare suggestion.
  • It’s typical for the skin near the tattoo to begin to appear constrictive. Lotion can be used to ease tightness.
  • For several days, the tattoo will resemble an unsightly scrap of snake skin that is shedding. Suffer through it and allow for the dead skin to fall completely off.

Third Stage: Dark And Cloudy

Almost there! The third and last step of the recovery process is where you are now. By now, the majority of scabs and flaky regions should be gone, but one or two larger scabs could still be present.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit: quality_street_ink

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The inked region will likely remain a little flaky and uncomfortable to the touch. Anytime the skin starts to feel or appear dry, keep moisturizing.

The tattoo may still appear hazy, lifeless, or scaly at this point. In some lights, it may even appear slightly glossy or shiny. It might be frightening when a recovering tattoo seems dull or discolored, but we are sure this is typical.

Usually, at this point, the tattoo is covered by a very thin layer of dead skin. As the skin recovers entirely within the next couple of months, this will gently flake off. Your newly-regenerated skin will eventually arrive at the surface, which might take a few weeks, and the purity and attractiveness will return.

Because of this, a black tattoo may occasionally appear to be becoming grey as it heals. However, after time, the dark, distinct blacks should reappear.

This is the ideal moment to sift through the tattoo for any issues. Patchy areas, fading, or tattoo blowouts are potential complications. Then, if required, get in touch with your tattoo artist to schedule a touch-up.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit: tophtat2

When Does A Tattoo Completely Heal?

After the initial 2-3 weeks of recovery, the skin should once again return to normal. However, it’s beneficial to understand that the hidden layers of skin will continue to work on their own restoration.

As a result of their ability to block infection-causing germs from entering a wound, the higher layers of skin usually recover more quickly.

Usually, it takes 3–4 months for the dermal layer of skin to recover fully, but the tattoo will begin to seem much brighter and clearer well before then. By this point, most healing-related issues will also have been remedied.

In conclusion, since everyone recovers differently, it can be challenging to determine whether a tattoo has completely healed. Additionally, it depends on the artwork’s size and the tattoo artist’s quality.

It is reasonable to assume that the tattooed region should be completely healed if 4-6 months have gone by since the last time it was touched up.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit: suhanovsky_tattoo

Which Tattoos Recover More Slowly?

The area of the tattoo will determine how long it takes to recover. For instance, a tattoo placed close to a joint (such as the wrist or ankle) or in an area that moves will take more time to complete than one placed in a static location.

Longer recovery times are also required for bigger tattoos and those with complex color work. However, bear in mind that each person’s body also plays a significant role in the recovery process.

Guidelines For Tattoo Recovery And Aftercare

You must practice the appropriate aftercare techniques. It reduces the chance of infection and guarantees speedy tattoo healing.

recovery process for a tattoo

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Clean Up After The Tattoo

It’s crucial to keep the tattoo as hygienic as you can to avoid contamination during the recovery process. To clean the region, use a sensitive, fragrance-free soap at least once or twice a day. If the water from the faucet is unsafe to drink, heat it first and let it settle before using it to clean the area.

As a substitute, you can also utilize distilled water. Before putting any lotion on the tattoo, let it dry fully.


The region will benefit from using a suitable lotion to keep the body’s skin moisturized and nourished. This will also assist in relieving any itching.

Avoid using goods that are inappropriate or that include artificial coloring or aroma. These components may aggravate the skin that is healing and result in a response.

Stay Away From The Direct Sun

During the recovery process, maintaining a fresh tattoo concealed with appropriate clothes for the first several months after receiving the tattoo is crucial. Use a high-quality, chemical-free zinc oxide-based sunscreen if this isn’t an option.

Tattoos will eventually fade from exposure to direct sunlight, necessitating a return visit to the shop for a touch-up. EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion is the preferred and most suggested sunscreen to use on tattoos.

recovery process for a tattoo

Credit: laneedrak.tattoo

This broad-spectrum lotion possesses all the qualities necessary to keep your tattoo looking fresh and vivid and protect it incredibly effectively. It has an adequate SPF rating of 50 and can withstand water and perspiration for up to 80 minutes.

Most importantly, EltaMD does not really contain any scents, oils, or preservatives and is incredibly tattoo-friendly.

Do Not Touch Scabs

During the recovery process, the tattoo will probably start to burn and scab excessively. Avoid picking or scratching at the scabs as much as you can. Your fingernails can spread bacteria to the wound while you scratch, harming the ink and leaving scars. Regularly applying lotion will help to reduce any irritation.

What Are The Signs That Show That Tattoo Is Not Recovering Properly?

Make an appointment with the specialist as quickly as you can if you discover that the tattoo is not really recovering as you believe it should. Indications of poor recovery are as follow:

Fever Or Chills: Although feeling a bit lightheaded after having a large tattoo is very typical, experiencing flu-like symptoms while the tattoo is recovering might indicate infection. It can also mean that the ink is causing an allergic response to the skin. If this is the situation, get medical assistance as quickly as you can.

recovery process for a tattoo

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Redness: A tattoo often remains red for a couple of days after the first session. If the redness does not go away or worsens, it becomes a source of concern. Obtain medical help if this occurs to you. Concerning symptoms include redness and escalating discomfort.

Oozing: It’s advisable to contact a doctor if the tattoo starts to ooze after a few days. This is certainly relevant if the fluid has an unpleasant smell or is colored greenish to yellow. These indicators of infection are typically present.

Long-Term Swelling: While the tattoo might initially be puffy, this swelling ought to go down over the course of a few days. Consult with a doctor if any inflammation lasts since you may suffer an allergic reaction to the ink.

Hives Or Persistent Itching: See a specialist if the skin gets extremely itchy or if you experience lumps or hives after receiving a tattoo. These indicators of an allergic reaction are indicators. Sometimes ink allergies develop months or years after obtaining the tattoo.

recovery process for a tattoo

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Final Words

Overall, the tattoo may appear to be changing a lot after the first sit or even at the recovery process. It could seem overwhelming to have so many directions to follow. But keep in mind that it’s only temporary.

During this crucial time, the recovery process, take good care of the tattoo and pay close attention to the artist’s aftercare recommendations. Your body should have a lovely ink imprint that will last the duration of its life after the treatment is complete.

recovery process for a tattoo
Megan Ivy