Tattoo Healing

Tattoo Healing

5 steps to perfect tattoos:

1. Remove the plastic wrap from your new tattoo. 
2. Wash your hands
3. Wash the tattoo down with warm water

4. Pat dry with kitchen roll

5.Once dry apply a small layer of aftercare. Repeat morning and night for 2-4 weeks. 

Do not itch, scratch or pick your new tattoo.
Do not re wrap. 
Do not bath, showers are fine.

Do not go swimming, use saunas/ steam rooms in the first 2 weeks. 

If you are worried or concerned about your new tattoo, speak to your tattoo artist as soon as possible.


Here’s the science:
Each and every new tattoo goes through a certain healing process. This process can normally be split up into about three different stages – and those stages can be split up further day-by-day.


Like any other type of open wound inflicted on the body, tattooed skin must protect itself from harmful outside bacteria and regenerate itself back to full health after any damage has been done.

This regeneration is what a tattoo goes through as it heals, right up to the point where the skin is back to how it was before the tattoo, minus the small fact that it is now filled up with thousands of tiny pigments of ink!

Tattoo Healing Process

1. Stage One (Days 1-6) – Oozing, swelling and redness that gets better gradually over each day. Scabbing begins to form over the area.

2. Stage Two (Days 7-14) – Itching and flaking begins, and this continues until layers of dead skin and scabs have fallen off.

3. Stage Three (Days 15-30) – Tattoo looks fully healed but may look slightly cloudy for a few weeks. Deeper layers of skin are still repairing, so continue to look after your tattoo.


This first stage of healing starts as soon as you get off the tattooist’s chair. The area in which the ink has been injected into is now a large open wound and the skin will start producing plasma straight away to begin the clotting and scabbing process.

At this point here at Cold Iron we will clean the area with an antibacterial soap and proceed to wrap the tattoo for protection against contact with bacteria until you get home. We advise to  keep it on for a hour or so or until you get home.

Once the bandage is taken off (carefully), it’s quite likely that your tattooed area will be weeping and oozing with blood/plasma/lymphatic fluid/ink – this is completely normal and is the bodies way of trying to repair itself.

At this point (which will either be later on in the day of your sitting, or the next day) you will want to very gently wash away as much blood/ink/gooey plasma as you can with warm water by using your clean fingers only in circular motions (no rough wash cloths or towels). Or the Thirteen Daggers Ink Sponge is perfect for this.

The oozing plasma (clear gloopy liquid) on your tattoo is what helps your skin to scab. By keeping plasma levels to a minimum you will help keep away the big unsightly scabs you normally see on a deep wound that can dry out and begin to crack if you’re not careful.

Therefore it’s important to try and wash off as much wet plasma as possible over the first few days of getting a tattoo.

After your skin is dry you can apply a thin layer of our Thirteen Daggers Ink Balm. It is soothing and moisturising.

At this point in the healing process your tattoo is going to be very sore for the first several days, especially if it’s a big piece. The feeling can be described as moderate-to-severe sunburn.

The tattooed area will also feel warm to the touch for a few days (if the warmness hangs around for more than a week, go and see a doctor to ensure that there isn’t any infection present).

Along with the soreness, the tattooed area will be red, probably raised above the skin slightly, and potentially bruised from some blood leaking underneath your top layers of skin.

Bruising is normally kept to a minimum as long as the artist isn’t too rough and the needle isn’t forced too deep – though you can sometimes also expect some swelling and extra tender areas where the needle has had to pass several times (usually on dark shaded areas).

The swelling around the tattooed area of your skin is mostly down to your body increasing blood flow to the area. This is in order to push more (immune system helping) white blood cells to the area to assist in fighting foreign bodies trying to enter the open wound. The warmness of the area is down to the increase blood flow.

All of the above reactions are completely natural and are totally expected to some extent or another during the first stage of the tattoo healing process.

Having said that though, if you start to experience any extreme bruising or redness around you tattoo, especially if a few days have gone by since getting the tattoo, go and see a doctor. Redness and/or bruising around the tattoo that is getting worse and not better can be the sign of a tattoo infection setting in.

Towards the end of this stage (after a few days) you will start to see the formation of scabbing. As said previously, as long as you’re clearing the plasma and excess ink off of your tattooed area occasionally (2-3 times a day initially), the scabbing shouldn’t be too thick and heavy. Your tattoo will start to look more ‘cloudy’ and duller than it initially did, and this is normal. The sharpness will come back slowly following all of the healing stages.

This stage can get irritating when it comes to sleeping if the tattoo is in an awkward location like on your shoulder or side. It will be difficult to get a good sleep in a lot of circumstances due to the soreness of the tattoo and the fact that you’ll want to keep the tattoo from rubbing and sticking onto bed sheets.

TOP TIP Blot/dab your tattoo dry instead of rubbing as this can pull the scabs off, removing ink in the process.


  • Stage one of the healing process will last for around 1 week, although everybody heals at different rates.
  • DO NOT pick off any scabs that have formed, this will delay healing and may pull ink from your tattoo.
  • Clean your tattoo 2-3 times a day with a mild fragrance-free soap using your fingers and BLOT dry. Do not rub.
  • Don’t worry about mild bruising, swelling or redness for the first few days, but seek medical advice if the symptoms don’t improve or get worse.



    A lot of people regard this as the worst stage in the tattoo healing process. This stage is infamous due to the dreaded itching.

    At this point in the process, the scabs are hard and well-formed, and a few of the smaller ones are probably ready to start flaking off. This is going to continue for around another week. Your skin is going to become very dry and very flaky.

    The secret to preventing itching is to keep the skin moisturised. DO NOT SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO this is very important and can ruin a beautiful tattoo if you’re not careful. If you MUST relieve the itch, instead of scratching, try lightly tapping the area or give it another wash/moisturise with our soothing Thirteen Daggers ink balm

    During stage 2, you will want to moisturise your tattoo as often as possible – Use Thirteen Daggers Ink Balm each time after washing should be enough to keep you tattoo moist enough to prevent extreme dryness and itching.


    Ensure that you tattoo is completely dry before applying balm. Water trapped between the lotion and the skin can cause your scabs to soak up water and become gloopy, making the scabs far more susceptible to being pulled off after sticking to something.

    If you apply too much balm, blot off the excess with a paper towel until only a faint shine can be seen on the surface – you don’t want to suffocate your tattoo with balm, it needs to breathe while healing.

    Don’t Worry!

    When washing your tattoo you may see some coloured pieces of skin flaking away, but this is completely normal during the washing process as long as you’re not being too rough. This is actually how I lost most of my peeling skin and all of my tattoos have healed perfectly well.

    Amongst the factors already mentioned, you may also experience some tightness in the skin around your tattoo – this is due to the skin becoming drier than normal as it heals and is normal. Applying lotion if the skin becomes very tight can lessen the problem somewhat.


    • This stage is likely to last for around a week (but again, everybody heals differently)
    • Your skin/scabs will start to dry up, flake and fall off, do not pull any off prematurely
    • Your tattoo may itch, do not scratch. Apply balm to moisturise the skin and relieve itching
    • The skin around your tattoo may start to feel tight, this is normal – apply balm to reduce tightness
    • Your tattoo will look like an ugly piece of shedding snakes skin for a few days – suck it up and wait for all of the skin to peel off naturally.


    Nearly there! You’ve made it to the third and final stage of the healing process. By this point, pretty-much all of your scabs and areas of flaky skin will have dropped off.

    The tattooed area will most-likely be slightly dry still and a little sore/sensitive to the touch. Continue to moisturise whenever your skin starts to look/feel dry.

    Throughout this stage your tattoo will continue to look slightly cloudy, dull and scaly – it can even look a bit glossy/shiny in the light at the same time.

    There is typically still a very fine dead layer of skin over the tattoo at this stage, but this will naturally flake away over the next month or two until your skin has completely regenerated back to normal – the clarity and beauty will return when your brand new skin reaches the surface.

    When Is a Tattoo Fully Healed?

    Although your skin should look pretty much back to normal after the 2-3 weeks of healing stages, the deeper layers of skin will still be busy repairing themselves.

    Your most upper/outer layer of skin will always heal the fastest because it’s the most important part to seal up and regenerate in order to block infection-causing bacteria from entering the wound.

    The lower layers of skin will most-likely take 3-4 months to completely heal, though your tattoo will start to look much clearer and sharper long before those 3-4 months are up.

    In conclusion, it’s hard to say when a tattoo is fully healed because everybody heals differently. It also depends on lots of various factors such as how large the tattoo is and how good the artist was (if he was rough and pushed the needle harder than needed, the tattoo will probably take longer than normal to heal).


    • Oozing (Days 1-2) – Straight after your tattoo is finished at Cold Iron, and for the next few days, your tattoo is going to be leaking all kinds of fluids. Blood, plasma, lymph and ink are all going to seeping out of the would. Wear baggy clothing where possible and clean with warm water and we recommend Thirteen Daggers Ink Balm
    • Pain, Swelling and Scabbing (Days 3-6) – The first several days will go by with your tattoo essentially still being a raw open wound. It will likely be painful during cleaning or when clothes/other body parts rub against it. Scabs will start to form towards the end of this stage.
    • Flaky Skin (Days 7-14) – After about a week your skin is going to start to peel and flake. This can get incredibly irritating and the temptation to pick at the skin will be strong. Resist this urge and don’t pick or pull when the skin starts to hang. Don’t scratch if you start to itch and apply Thirteen Daggers Ink Balm if the area starts to look/feel dry or tight.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published