The Science of Tattoo Healing

Stage 1

Stage 1 of Tattoo Healing
Stage 2 of Tattoo Healing

Stage 1

Day 1-10


This is the part right after the tattoo. It oozes, swells, and hurts. The scabs will begin forming.

During this stage

The skin acts as an open wound immediately after getting a new tattoo. It also needs protection from inflammation and pain. The inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth, and pain, so taking care of inflammation knocks out many of the unpleasant symptoms.

  • As the oozing and seeping give way to the inflammation, you may feel a strong ache or tightness.
  • The skin will not tolerate sun exposure and cannot protect the tattoo pigment from UV radiation while in its current condition.

This stage ends

This phase ends once the tattoo has started to scab and begins to itch. (Yes, that itch)

This phase takes your skin from the needle to the scab. Keep it clean and out of direct sunlight.

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Stage 2

Day 8-21


This is where the surface layer of the skin is healing itself under cover of scabs. Don't pick or disturb them; the body will do that when needed.

During this stage

During this phase, there will be a reduced immune response, and the sensation of the scabs can fuel a deep itch. Despite the scab layer, the skin is still a healing wound underneath.

  • Continue to minimize sun exposure at this stage. The skin is still very vulnerable to irritants and UV light.
  • Your Skin requires a lot of moisture, between the scabs and the healing layer. It will go a long, long way to alleviating the itch.
  • The skin needs: soothing, structural support, as well as protection from microbes.

This stage ends

This stage ends once all the scabs have fallen off and left behind a thin layer of fresh skin.

You'll be dealing with a little less inflammation. Thank Goodness. This stage is characterized by the formation and flaking off of scabs. It may be darker. Underneath, the skin is healing itself a surface lyer that will be capable of handling the elements as you finish healing.

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Stage 3

Day 21-180


This Phase is after the scabs fallen off to reveal a new surface of the skin. The time frame varies on the amount of maintenance and personal health.

During this stage

During this phase, the skin is still dealing with some inflammation and may be warm or feel sore. The skin is repairing all of its structure and beginning to function normally again. The tattoo may appear cloudy or hazy. This is because the skin is still healing.

  • The tattoo may now be exposed to incidental sunlight (but no tanning or sunbathing!). It must still be shielded with a sun protectant.
  • This phase requires a lot of moisture and rebuilding support. While no longer an open wound, the infection must still be watched for. An infection in this stage can be just as devastating as the previous two.

This stage ends

This phase ends when the tattoo is no longer cloudy or sore, and the underlying skin has healed fully.

Large pieces could take six months to heal in this stage. The skin looks healed, but only the surface actually is. The tattoo is still to be treated like a wound.

Stage 4



During this stage

During phase 4, the tattoo is healed and looking long as you keep it that way!

Every day, the sun, wind, and time will wear down your tattoo until it fades and fogs. While not an acute concern, infection risk is a long-term concern, and infection prophylaxis can save you a lifetime of a scar from the time you got MRSA.

  • Your skin still needs protection from the sun and aggressive antiaging and pro-regenerative aid. UV rays WILL destroy ink pigment over the long term if allowed to.

The bottom Line

Your skin still needs protection from the sun and aggressive antiaging and pro-regenerative aid. UV rays WILL destroy ink pigment over the long term if allowed to.

The most crucial thing in this stage is preserving the skin in which the ink is embedded. Subtle tattoo elements like smoke or gentle clouds can wind up distorted, and looking like smears or smudges as colors seem to run into each other. This is because as the skin turns over, the ink shifts and can slowly travel while riding the slow waves of growing and dying skin cells.