How Long Does It Really Take For A Tattoo To Heal?

Before you get a new tattoo, you might find yourself focused on what kind of design you're interested in and how painful the tattoo might end up being. However, you also need to think about how to care for your new tattoo while it's healing. That might make you curious about how long it actually takes for a tattoo to heal. While everyone is different, tattoos typically heal within two to three weeks; but it can take six months "for the skin below a tattoo to truly heal," as per Healthline. Of course, there are a range of different healing stages along the way and factors that will affect your particular situation.

For instance, getting a tattoo can result in inflammation and "raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue," which can affect how long it takes to heal, according to the Mayo Clinic. On top of that, some places on the body will heal faster while others will need more time. Finally, your personal habits — including how well you care for yourself and your tattoo, if you pick at it, don't moisturize it, don't use sunscreen, or use the wrong products on it — will determine the true length of time that your newest addition will take to fully heal.

At the same time, pretty much everyone will experience common things during the overall healing process. That includes what happens during the first 24 hours, first week, and first few months.

The first stage of the tattoo healing process lasts about a week

As soon as the tattoo artist has finished their work, the healing process begins, according to Medical News Today. It starts when they wrap it to keep it protected while it's still a vulnerable open wound. They will also provide you with instructions on how to care for it over the next few days and weeks. After about an hour or two, you will likely be asked to remove whatever is covering the tattoo.

You may notice that your new body art (and the area around it) is red and tender and might be releasing some blood and excess ink. It might also be itchy, sore, and swollen. However, if your tattoo was done well and your body is reacting as it should, then you'll likely notice that these issues get a little better with each day that passes.

Although you'll experience the bulk of these initial effects during the first few days, the inflammation, swelling, and tenderness can last for up to six days or more, per Healthline. In fact, you should expect the first stage of the tattoo healing process to last for a full week. If things speed along and you find that things are healing faster than expected, then that's just an added bonus. It also means that you can get ready to experience the next part of the healing process, which lasts much longer.

It can take six months for your tattoo to truly heal

After the first week, you should find that the redness, tenderness, and oozing have gone away. Instead, your tattoo may have started to dry out, per Anatomy Tattoo. Lasting a few weeks, this may cause the area to become itchy and flakey. It's totally understandable if you want to scratch and pick at it, but it's important not to. If you do, you risk damaging the skin, which can ruin your tattoo and lead to a scar or an infection. During this part of the healing process, you'll want to continue to moisturize the area and do your best to keep it healthy and hydrated.

By the time you've made it to the second month, your tattoo should be well along the way to being fully healed. Frankly, by this point, it may look like it's completely fine. That's because the redness and swelling have likely gone away, and any issues with your tattoo being dry should have subsided. All of this points to the fact that the outer layer of skin where your tattoo is located has healed. However, it can take up to six months for the spot to heal all the way through. During this time, be sure to continue to care for your tattoo by keeping it moisturized and protecting it from the sun, which is something you should be doing for your skin anyway and at all times.