How Do I know When My Tattoo is Healed?

The tattoo healing process is crucial to avoid infections and ensure a fast and smooth recovery. You might follow the right aftercare procedure, but you still don’t see any difference and want to know if your tattoo is healing nicely.

First, you need to understand that tattoo healing is not a one-day affair- it takes weeks to heal. Also, different people heal at varied rates, so don’t compare yourself to a friend.

As long as you take care of the wound as recommended, you have nothing to worry about, even if the wound takes longer to improve.

Tattoo Healing Stages

How Do I know When My Tattoo is Healed

The tattoo healing process is painful, and it usually gets worse before getting better. The process can be split up into four stages to track the progress easily. You wouldn’t want to participate in activities that will scar the tattoo or increase its healing time because you assumed it is healed before it actually is. Here is how a tattoo heals.

Initial Stage

Stage one takes about a week. In this stage, you face the most significant risk of infection since it is still fresh. So, you must be extra careful while nursing your wound. The tattoo is usually sore, swollen, reddish with some oozing, and highly sensitive. The healing process starts immediately after you finish the tattoo session.

The tattooist will likely clean the wound with anti-bacterial soap and warm water to prevent the initial infection stages before bandaging it up. You usually are advised to wait at least 12 hours before you unbandage it. Once you remove the bandage, clean the area gently with water and non-perfumed soap. Doing this will remove any accumulated germs in the area. While at this, you should avoid being too rough as this will remove any scab formed on the area.

This stage is very uncomfortable and will usually give you sleepless nights due to the soreness, mostly if the tattoo is located in an angled location. The good thing is the swelling and soreness reduces as days go by. Oozing also stops after two to three days, since by now scabs have fully formed on the open wound.

Don’t expose the tattoo to direct sunlight during this stage. Always cover it up when leaving the house. It is advisable not to use sunscreen at this stage as the wound is still fresh. UV rays from the sun fade the tattoo quickly, especially if it is still fresh.

The Itching and Flaking Stage

By now, most of the swelling has reduced, it is less sore and slightly reddish. This stage is the worst that your tattoo will ever look.

Scabs are forming all over your tattoo, and it is incredibly itchy. While you may be tempted to scratch and pick at the tattoo scabs, please don’t do it, as this will lengthen the healing time. Let the scabs fall off by themselves.

Flaking also happens at this stage. This is the peeling off of the dead skin. The skin will fall off on its own once the wound has healed well. You should not be worried when you see skin falling off with bits of ink. It is all part of the healing process.

To reduce the itchiness and dryness you are experiencing, you can moisturize the skin by frequently drinking lots of water and applying a fragrance-free lotion to the area. Only apply lotion once the wound is completely dry to prevent water molecules from getting stuck in the skin, leading to the tattoo not healing correctly.

This stage lasts for around a week. However, do not rush the process if yours takes longer to heal.

 The Inspection Stage

This stage is in weeks three and four after getting a tattoo. By now, there should not be any swelling or redness in the area. Most of the scab has also fallen off, and you can now start seeing a faint outline of your tattoo. It is still dull and cloudy as the deep layers of the skin are yet to heal fully. Do not panic about it, and focus on moisturizing your skin when dry and follow the aftercare procedure. Color should return as the skin heals.

Swelling, redness, and oozing should have already stopped in week one and latest, the second week for the swelling. If the symptoms are persistent, you might be having an infection. You should see a doctor immediately.

Returning of Color to your Tattoo

This is the final stage, between week four and six, and it is where you get to see your tattoo. The vibrancy and color of your tattoo should be visible now. Most of the dead skin has fallen, and the skin is fully repaired. It might look completely healed on the outside, but the dermis takes a couple of more months to heal fully, and it is why it is essential to continue your aftercare routine. In case it is still sore, red, or full of scabs at this stage, you should go to a doctor ASAP.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not do when your tattoo is healing?

There are a few things one can do to ensure the tattoo heals fully and avoid infections. Within the first week of tattooing, avoid covering it with sunscreen, swimming, or soaking the tattoo in water. It is also brilliant not to wear tight clothing or expose the tattoo to sunlight.

How do I speed my tattoo healing?

The tattoo healing process should be allowed to move at its own pace. However, there are things you could do to ensure it is faster than expected. You should not scratch the scabs formed, and avoid sunlight and scented products. Cleaning it daily will also help prevent infection and speed up the healing process.

Can one shower with a fresh tattoo?

Yes, you can shower with a fresh tattoo as long as you do not soak it. Getting the tattoo wet is okay but don’t spend too much time in the water. If water droplets get stuck in between skin, it could lead to an increased healing time.


Getting a tattoo is a process that starts even before you enter the tattoo parlor and will only end months after the inking as the dermis takes long to heal. You are responsible for taking care of the wound as well as monitoring it to avoid infection. The pointers mentioned above should help you tell if it is healing nicely.

Also read: How to Remove Eyebrow Tattoo Completely

About the author

I’m S.R Bhuiyan, a proud Tattoo artist. I will share the body art journey with you here in PrettyJust. I have 10+ years of experience in the field of tattoo, piercing, nail art, and skincare. Check out my bio which has my tattoo studio/cat/travel pics!

Leave a Comment