Every tattoo goes through the healing process, and it can be split into three stages. Just like any “wound” inflicted on the body, the skin attempts to protect itself from bacteria and regenerate itself to full health. Regeneration is what a tattoo does as it heals.
The healing processes three stages:
Stage 1, from days 1 through 6. You will may experience swelling, oozing, and redness during these days- but it improves daily and scabbing begins.
Stage 2, days 7 through 14. This is when the flaking and itching starts- it will continue until all of the dead skin and scabs have fallen off.
Stage 3, days 15 through 30. The tattoo may look fully healed but will still be slightly cloudy- the deeper layers of skin are still under repair so continue looking after the tattoo.
It starts the moment you get up from the tattooist chair. The tattoo area is now an open wound and the skin will start to produce plasma immediately. The artist will clean the area the antibacterial soap and wrap the tattoo. While every artist may offer different advice, most suggest you keep the wrap on for between 12 and 24 hours.
Once you carefully remove the wrap the area will be oozing. You want to gently wash the area with fragrance free soap and warm water- don’t use a towel or a wash cloth, just use your fingers. The clear gloopy liquid is plasma and it helps your skin scab. Keeping the gloop to a minimum will prevent unsightly scabbing. So, washing this off as frequently as possible is important.
The tattooed are may be red and sore during this stage- no worse than mild sunburn. The skin there will also be warmer- it’s normal. At the end of this stage you will see scabbing, and provided you have washed it regularly it shouldn’t be too heavy. The tattoo will look dull, but this is normal.
This is often regarded as the worst stage- because with this stage comes the itch. The scabs are formed, and the smaller ones will begin to flake off. As your skin becomes dry the flaking causes the dreaded itch.
Do not be tempted to scratch, instead keep your skin well moisturized. If the itch is taking over, try washing and moisturizing the area. Moisturize as often as possible, and as often as needed to keep the tattoo moist.
Your skin must be totally dry before moisturizing, trapping water between the skin and lotion will result in gloopy scabs. Additionally, too much lotion can suffocate the tattoo- so blot off any excess using a paper towel- you want to create a faint shine.
Towards the end of the stage more skin will hang from the tattoo- do not peel them off. Just accept that your tattoo will be ugly for a few days. Don’t panic if you see colored pieces flaking off as you wash it- provided you’re being gentle.
It’s the final countdown and by this point you will be mostly scab free. The tattooed area may be sore and slightly dry- just moisturize when it feels dry. Expect the area to look dull or cloudy. This is because of a dead layer of skin over the area, this will flake away and your tattoo will be clear.