The tattoo healing process can be divided into three main stages:
- Stage one, healing the open wound. Most delicate part of the process, this is when an infection or diseases can be contracted through the open wound.
- Stage two, scabbing or peeling process.
- Stage three, pigments resettling.
Overall, the healing stages of tattoos stretch out over a three to four week period up to two to three months, and taking special care of the tattoo during this time is essential to preserve the wonderful work the tattoo artist has created. If you experience any symptoms beyond those mentioned here, contact your doctor (for medical advise) and tattoo artist straight away. Although your tattoo artist cannot provide medical advise, tattoo artists are very familiar with the signs of abnormal healing and the signs of a burgeoning infection. Remember that if in doubt you should always consult your doctor.
Stage one, healing of the open wound. Soon after the tattoo has just been made.
This initial stage of healing begins right after your tattoo is finished. At this point, you can consider the area, for what it is, an open wound, and it should be treated accordingly. Your artist will gently wash the area and bandage it to protect it from bacteria. Most artists recommend you keep the area covered for the first twenty-hours, although you will likely need to change the bandage because a fresh tattoo usually bleeds and can weep slightly. All fresh tattoos are temporarily covered bandaged to help prevent infection. This healing stage usually last about one week. If the bandage soak up too much fluid, it may wind up sticking to the newly tattooed skin, and this is definitely not good for the healing process.
- Figure 12. Fresh tattoos can bleed and weep like any other open wound which requires to heal. In this picture we can see a fresh tattoo slightly bleeding and weeping.
Many people describe a fresh tattoo as feeling similar to a sunburn. The area tends to sting, and it can become inflamed, a little raised and/or swollen. This is all a natural and normal reaction of the tattoo healing process.
As we have seen the tattoo is an open wound caused by the injury inflicted by the tattooing procedure, and after any inflicted skin injury the skin can become inflamed and swell. This is in fact a normal reaction to be expected in the normal tattooing process.
- Figure 13. This picture serves to show the immediate effects of the tattooing process. Tattooing involves not only deliberately causing a wound inside the dermis, but also impregnating the dermis with the ink necessary to make the drawing requested by the client. Sometimes swelling can be caused by both the injury caused by the tattooing needle and the dermis reaction to the new substance injected into the dermis.
Inflammation and swelling are to be expected because the tattooing process deliberately inflicts a wound (injury) into the dermis therefore they are a normal skin reaction which often occurs soon after the tattooing. It normally begins immediately after the area has been tattooed, it lasts up to one to two days and it subsides on its own accord. Additionally, in certain cases, the swelling can be exacerbated by the individual skin reaction to the new external agent injected into the dermis (the tattoo ink colour/s). The swelling will subside on its own accord and normally two days after the treatment it will have subsided. If the swelling does not subside, this can be a clear sign of infection or some other side effect which will likely require medical attention.
Scabs will begin to form over the tattooed area a four to five days after the tattoo had been first made. No attempt must be made to remove them, any scabs must not be picked and should fall off by themselves. Just gently wash the area once or twice a day with a very mild soap, pat dry with a fresh paper towel. Gently dab on a light amount of the moisturising after-care lotion only if your tattoo artist recommends it.
- Figure14. The fresh tattoo is an open wound that requires to heal. The scabbing process usually sets on 4 to 5 days after the tattoo have been drawn, provided that the area has not become infected. During this period avoid the use of any product not expressedly recommended by your tattoo artist as using unsuitable products on an open wound can cause unnecessary complications.
Do not apply any creams or product on the fresh tattoo other than those expressedly recommended by the tattoo artist as applying unsuitable products on an open wound, could easily lead to unnecessary complications. After all a fresh tattoo is an open wound which is trying to heal by its own accord.
Although people tend to heal at different rates, the first healing stage of a tattoo usually lasts about one week as long as an infection doesn't set in. Some people can experience some discomfort and even pain, in those cases the pain is more than expected, some over-the-counter pain reliever can be taken. In any case, if in doubt you can visit your doctor.
Stage Two Scabbing, Peeling and Itching.
The second stage of healing usually brings the onset of scabbing, peeling and itching. After the first healing stage, the scabs are well formed and just beginning to flake off. This process will continue for about a week. The skin around the tattoo may become a bit dry. Most people experience some peeling, just as they would with a sunburn.
- Figure15. Peeling effect of a tattoo after the scabbing has taken place. This process normally lasts for a week.
The client has to avoid both picking the scabs and peeling the flaky skin intentionally, doing so can jeopardise the final tattoo results. Just allow it to slough off naturally and, by all means, do not scratch your tattoo. Scratching can cause damage and ultimately spoil the look of the tattoo work by the time healing is complete. Applying more after-care lotion to the area should bring some relief to the itching, however please note that the itching is a natural reaction of the skin to the good healing of any skin injury (including tattooing).
Stage three brings the final healing of the area. By this point, most or all of the scabs have fallen away from the tattoo, although the area may still be slightly dry and mildly tender. At that point some mild itchy feeling can be still felt and the tattoo does not look as vibrant as it did when it was first finished, and this is normal. There is typically still a layer of dead skin over the tattoo at this point that obscures it a bit, but once that layer naturally and slowly sloughs away the tattoo will look as it should see what your new tattoo really looks like. If you have managed to avoid infection and scratching, it probably looks great.To keep reading please click here
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