Tattoos technically start healing right away but it takes about four months for your tattoo to fully heal. The outer layers of your skin will heal in about two to four weeks, while the deeper layers where the ink sits will take about 4 months to heal.
That’s the short answer! Mad Rabbit is going down the rabbit hole to give you a detailed timeline of what your healing process might look like.
Keep in mind that your tattoo is a wound and everybody heals differently. Our word is valuable but it’s not gospel! Talk to your tattoo artist or a doctor if you have any concerns about your healing process.
Freshly inked — congrats, friend! You sat through the jabbing and now you’ve got what you came for. A fresh wound! Kidding… well kind of. You do have a fresh wound and it will turn into an awesome tattoo, but you’ve got to treat it right!
Your artist hopefully covered up your fresh tattoo and gave you aftercare instructions that included how long you should wait before removing the covering or washing your tattoo for the first time.
You might see your tattoo oozing. This is the first part of the healing process. The wound is excreting excess ink and blood plasma. The blood plasma being trapped against the wound is going to help stimulate and speed up the healing. Thank your awesome body — it’s sending immune cells to your wound as reinforcements to help support the healing process!
2nd and 3rd Days
Within 24 hours, the tattoo should stop oozing and your skin should begin to produce some healthy scabbing. You’ll probably see your skin looking irritated and red — relax, that’s a normal response.
You might have been directed to wait until today to remove your bandage and gently clean your tattoo. Your new mantra: be gentle.
You don’t want to disturb the scabbing process when washing. This is where the gentle touch comes in. Just try to get the excess blood and ink off using a gentle antibacterial soap, lukewarm water, and clean hands. It’s okay if it looks a little less than ideal — your beautiful tattoo is in its cocoon!
Dry your tattoo off by patting with a clean paper towel, and apply a thin layer of a fragrance-free gentle mositurizer on the wound and surrounding area. You’ll want to keep the area moisturized until it isn’t an open wound, and while you shouldn’t be reapplying the bandage from before, the right moisturizer can serve as a breathable barrier between your wound and the outside world, including the bacteria and irritants in it.
Don’t use lotion to moisturize until your wound is closed. You’ll want to use a breathable ointment that is specifically made for wound healing.
Mad Rabbit’s Tattoo Soothing Gel is made of lightweight ingredients like aloe vera and argan oil that soothe and heal your tattoo without congesting your pores (the way other petroleum-based products might).
End of the First Week
Cleanse, moisturize with that breathable ointment-like soothing gel, repeat.
By the end of the first week, you should still see a bit of light, soft scabbing. No touching! The scabbing is good! Don’t mess up your art by picking. You just keep your tattoo clean, moisturized, and covered for now. It’s going to continue to scab as it heals, and that is A-okay.
The Second Week
Those light, soft scabs will harden and become flaky. It might even look like your tattoo is peeling off. If you didn’t get your tattoo done by a scratcher in someone’s living room, this shouldn’t be the case! You’re just seeing your skin and some excess ink coming off.
Your biggest issue at this point is probably “the itch.” You know that itching that happens when something is healing so good?
Resist! Don’t scratch the itch! If you scratch you are going to mess with the healing process and you could damage your tattoo, not to mention the risk of infection.
So instead, use some of that Tattoo Soothing Gel we told you about. It’s going to help relieve that itchy feeling and calm your tattoo down thanks to soothing aloe vera.
By the end of the second week, you should see your open wound transition to a closed wound. The scarring will get smaller and you’ll start to see what your healed tattoo will look like.
Keep your tattoo out of the sun for the first 14 days until you’re able to safely put sunscreen on it.
Third and Fourth Weeks
Still healing! The wound should be less wound-y more tattoo-y. You’ll still have some flaky skin and you’ll need to be diligent with moisturizing the area.
Typically by the fourth week, the outermost surface layers of the skin have healed. Your tattoo has gone from open wound to closed wound. This means you can transition from using a wound-safe moisturizer to a more general skin lotion, and you can start putting sunscreen on it.
Consider getting a nourishing lotion that’s good for not only your tattoos but your whole body. Our Daily Lotion is fragrance-free and safe for all skin types. It’s made with shea butter, vitamins A & E, and sesame oil to provide non-greasy, long-lasting, lightweight hydration.
Pair that with our mineral-based sunscreen and you’re ready to start showing that new tattoo to the world!
Both our Daily Lotion and Tattoo Sunscreen are formulated for daily use, so don’t be afraid to make it a regular part of your daily tattoo routine. The right aftercare can help nourish your tattoo both through the healing process and in the long-term!
After the Fourth Week
So close, but not quite there yet! The wound has closed, but the deeper layers of the skin are still healing. What does it mean when we say closed wound? The outer layers have closed up and healed so nothing can get into the wound.
But, the deeper layers of the skin, where the ink sits, are still healing. Those layers can take up to 3 or 4 months to heal. This means you can expect to see more accurate color and shading around 4 months after you get your tattoo.
Keep on moisturizing and protecting your tattoo with lotion and sunscreen until it’s fully healed. The sunscreen, you’ll want to keep using forever. Forever’s a long time but you knew that when you got the tattoo, right?
Pro Tips For Healing Your New Tattoo
Find a Reputable Artist
Always find an artist you can trust. We’re talking beyond style. Find a respectable artist that buys high-quality ink and sterilized needles, and keeps their equipment functional, clean, and maintained.
Moisturizing a Fresh Tattoo
There is an age-old debate over whether or not you should let wounds heal dry or wet. The answer lies in the middle – as it usually does.
A bit of truth to each side. You want to keep a thin layer of a breathable moisturizing agent over your wound. Too much or too thick and the wound will suffocate, and it won’t heal properly. None or too little moisturizer and the wound will dry out and shrivel up.
Don’t even get us started on petroleum products — even a thin layer of a petroleum-based product will suffocate your tattoo. Just don’t. Pretty please.
Cleaning a Fresh Tattoo
Get a good fragrance-free, antibacterial soap. Clean your hands. Run some warm water over the tattoo, and then put a bit of soap in your hands with some water and get a nice lather.
Gently rub that over the tattoo, then wash the soap away with water. If there’s a spot that’s difficult to get clean – just leave it for now and let it lift out of the wound in its own time.
Don’t wash too often. Twice a day and after any sweaty or dirty activity should be just right.
Covering Your Tattoo — No Bandages and No Sun
You’ll want to keep your tattoo covered with the wrap from the shop for as long as your artist recommends. After that, you’ll wash your tattoo for the first time, and you can start letting your tattoo breathe. If you’re going to be in a situation that could expose your tattoo to excess dirt, dust, or even friction, opt for breathable clothes that will keep it covered, but do not try to rebandage.
New tattoos should stay out of the sun for 14 days — this is where long-sleeves, hats, and full-length pants can help keep you covered.
After that first 14 days, you’ll still always want to protect your tattoo with sunscreen. We mentioned our mineral-based sunscreen earlier. It’s a 30 SPF formula made with Zinc Oxide to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, and paired with Vitamin C and carrot extract to protect you from environmental stressors and support healthy cell turnover.
Keeping It Young
Keep your tattoo looking forever young with our Tattoo Balm — it’ll help revitalize, replenish, and preserve your body art. Made with clean ingredients including shea butter, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and calendula, it gives your ink the nourishing it needs to stay vibrant and bold. Plus, it comes in three scents: Vanilla & Coconut, Frankincense & Lavender, and Cucumber. Looking young and staying fresh, what else could you ask for?