Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tattoo Healing Process

 Something I get asked a lot is, "what happens while a tattoo heals?".  It had been a while since I had gotten a tattoo, so when Kyle Giffen was kind enough to tattoo me this last July, it seemed like an opportune time to document the process.

 Now, I titled this post "A Tattoo Healing Process" instead of "The Tattoo Healing Process" because everyone has a different body chemistry.  Some people heal faster, some go through more scabbing, etc.  I would consider my experience common to what should happen if you take good care of your tattoo while it heals.  Kind of a base-line example.

 Day 1.  Beautiful, isn't she.  Kyle did a fantastic job, putting his own spin on one of my designs.  This tattoo ROCKS!  See all that redness in the green?  That is normal.  Just a mix of some seeping blood-plasma barely coming to the surface and irritation from the tattoo process.  A tattoo, done properly, should not bleed.  The needle doesn't go deep enough to actually draw blood.

 Day 2.  Still have some redness.  The tattoo is still an open wound.  The seepage isn't as bad, and is probably more noticeable contrasted against the green ink.  The first layer of skin has yet to grow over the tattoo.  Something I forgot from my last tattoo was how much direct sunlight HURTS!  There is a reason you are told to keep your tattoo out of the sun as much as possible, and during these early stages, my tattoo reminded me.  

 Day 3.  I've been showering like normal, but avoiding scrubbing the tattoo.  Instead, I get a lather going in my hand and pat the suds on my tat.  I dry the tattoo the same way, patting instead of wiping.  What little redness remains at this point is from irritation, and she is starting to take on a faded look.  That first layer of skin is getting ready to peel. 

 Day 4.  The redness is almost completely gone at this point.  It is still warm to the touch. Direct sunlight still hurts.

 Day 5.  Starting to see a little bit of scabbing and the slightest beginning of a peel.  

 Day 6.  Now the skin is really starting to loosen up.  I am apply lotion at least 3 times a day after every wash.  These pictures have been taken after the tattoo has been cleaned and moisturized.

 Day 7.  More scabbing and peeling.  You want to keep the tattoo moisturized to avoid the skin peeling off too soon or the scabs cracking and falling off early.  If the skin peels too soon or the scabs crack badly, you might bleed, and along with the blood ink will be carried out leaving a faded area in your tat.

 Day 8.  The peeling is really going at this point.  

 Day 9.  Here is a picture of the tattoo before I clean it and apply moisturizer.  You will be tempted by the look of the tattoo alone to pick at it, let alone the itching of your skin encouraging you to scratch.  DON'T DO IT!  Better to suffer through a little itching than to suffer through the condemnation of your artist AND the pain of a touch-up.  If you thought getting the tattoo hurt, try re-applying it!

 Day 10.  Most of the first peel has completely fallen away.  There is still some peeling going on, and the hard scabs where the skin was really worked are beginning to form.

 Day 11.  As you can see, her right arm was really worked.  Not over-worked, but the healing is rougher there than anywhere else.  This is because Kyle was really working a color blend in a very tiny space.  

 Day 12.  Starting to look bright and shiny again!  You have to love Eternal Inks.  Years ago, the hardest part of my tattoo to heal was the black.  This tattoo though, the black hardly scabbed at all.

 Day 13.  The scabs have fallen off on her right arm, and there is a little redness from the irritation and the fresh skin underneath.  However, no bleeding, which is awesome.

 Day 14.  As expected, the redness under that scab all but faded away, leaving a nice, vibrant color behind.  The tattoo looks as good, if not better than the day it was applied.

 15.  This shot was taken about a month later.  My hair is finally growing back over the tat, which makes it look a little more faded than it really is.  The skin feels completely normal, though it can take up to six months for the skin to be fully healed.  The two-week rule is generally how long it takes to be healed enough to safely touch-up the tattoo.

 So, there you have it.  This is what a tattoo healing process should look like for most people if the tattoo is cared for properly.

Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him a message at https://www.facebook.com/tattoonerdz/