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by Paul Koutras May 29, 2017

Not so long ago tattoos were thought of as the label of the rougher circles in society. Much has changed in a short period of time and tattoos have not only become more accepted they are part of people personal style and identity. To many it speaks of something personal and important to them and is a way to subtly share that story by making it a permanent part of themselves. There are many different styles but the one constant is that the tattoos are the art and the skin the canvas.


While it sounds like a fairly straight forward and simple process there is a lot that goes into the tattooing itself and the tattoo care needed afterwards. Lets break it down and take a better look into modern tattoos, how they are done, and what to expect during the healing stage.


Tattoo Design


This is one of the most important aspects of getting a tattoo as it defines what you want the finished project to say, and how it says it. Things to consider are:

  • general design
  • budget (obviously the larger and more complicated the tattoo the larger the monetary investment)
  • how big will it be?
  • on what part of your body will it be placed? (different places can be more uncomfortable to endure than others)
  • is it going to be just black or have colour. If colours are involved how colourful/bright is best for what you envision?


Now there a few ways you can go about the design. If you are good artist you can sketch out what you want and take that to the tattoo artist to work with. If you aren't a capable artist you can fire up the internet and look around at tattoo designs and take something close to what you want with you for the artist to use as a starting point. Or you can have the tattoo artist design something for you. Most tattoo shops have some premade designs that you can choose from which is a great option if you aren't as fussy or just want to speed things up.
Now that you know what you want, its time to get the work done.


What is actually happening during the tattoo process

 

I'm not going to go into details in regards to the start to finish experience of getting your tattoo as each and every tattoo artist will have their own method and will likely want to explain and walk you through it. If you have specific questions ask them early and they'll be able to explain how it fits into their unique process.
What we can talk about is, what is a tattoo and what actually is happening during the process. This will help with understanding the healing process that inevitably needs to occur afterwards.


Modern tattoo artist create their art by injecting ink into an individuals skin. They do this using a tattoo machine that mechanizes the needle so it can puncture the skin between 50-3000 times per minute. The 2 most common types are rotary and coil. They both work well and essentially do the same thing but use different technologies to do it.
In order for a tattoo to be permanent it needs get under the epidermis which is the outer layer of skin and have the ink deposited in the dermis which is the second layer of skin just below the epidermis. The dermis is far more stable so the ink will stay in place with minimized dispersion and fading over your lifetime. The needle will prick the skin and drag insoluble ink down to be deposited. Its only about a millimeter in depth under the skin and happens very quickly. So in reality you are seeing the ink through the epidermis as it resides underneath.

 

Tattoo Healing Time


A very common question is "Why doesn't the body naturally try to heal it and get rid of the ink?" This is a great question and the answer is that your body does try to get involved. Since you skin is being damaged by the needle your body sends out specialized white blood cells called macrophages which try to absorb the ink droplets and get rid of them in the blood stream. Your ink stays put because the pigment particles are far too big to be absorbed by the white blood cells so they remain there, intact.


How long does a Tattoo take to Heal?


To give a very general answer, as long as everything goes well, by appearance your tattoo should look healed up within a few weeks. The skin underneath takes much longer and can take a few months. Now keep in mind that everyone is different and healing rates can vary greatly between people. There are also many variables during the healing process that can influence the time-frame. These are just an overview and a generalized look at the process and for any given circumstance you should refer to and follow you tattoo artist’s guidelines and advice.
Now lets take a look at what happens in the days and weeks after you leave the tattoo studio.


Stages of Tattoo Healing


Week 1


As soon as your tattoo is completed you are left with what is technically an open wound. Your skin will start producing plasma to initiate the repair process. Your tattoo artist will likely clean the area with a gentle soap and wrap it. How long the wrap is left on will vary from artist to artist so listen to whatever they suggest but it is usually around 3-12 hours.


You’ll likely have a mix of blood and plasma on the area which you’ll want to wash off. We recommend using a natural soap since they are much gentler and don’t contain any chemicals that could further irritate the area. Something like Primitive Outposts Ink’d Tattoo Soap is ideal.

 




During this time-frame the area will ooze fluids, appear red and swollen, and feel like a severe sunburn with some mild bruising. Toward the end of the week as things start to heal up you'll likely get some scabbing.

 

  • oozing (Days 1-2)
  • redness, pain, swelling then scabbing (Days 3-7)
  • keep it clean
  • don't pick off scabs that have formed as it could lead to longer tattoo healing times, it can also pull ink


Week 2


This is generally viewed as the worst part of the healing process. It's where scabs have formed and things start to badly itch and flake. The best way to deal with the itch is to keep it moisturized with a tattoo aftercare product like Ink'd.

 

  • flaking skin (days 8-14)
  • your scabbing will start to dry out, flake and fall off, you shouldn't pull any of this off
  • due to the drying out your tattoo will likely itch, don't scratch it 
  • moisturize the skin to relieve itching
  • you will experience a lot of skin peeling off for several days, its normal and nothing to worry about


Week 3+


The tattoo will likely looked healed at this point but will still need an additional few months for the deeper layers to completely heal.


How to reduce Tattoo Healing Time


Like already mentioned, people heal at different rates but by following some basic proven tips everyone can use that help speed along their recovery time.


Use Tattoo Aftercare


Ink'd tattoo aftercare products come in either a balm or an oil. These are made with all natural ingredients. The ingredients found in Ink'd have been carefully selected to moisturize (reduce itch), reduce pain and inflammation as well as speed up the healing process.

Your aftercare product should become your best friend as it will help make life much more comfortable. That might sound like a bold claim but it really is just common sense. The most common things that cause discomfort are:

  1. Inflammation and swelling. Ink'd aftercare products contain Calendula and Arnica Oils. These are incredibly potent ingredients that are well known to be an effective anti-inflammatory, as well as an antibacterial and pain reliever.
  2. Itching. The dreaded itch is caused by the tattooed area being dry. By keeping it moisturized you'll keep the itch to a minimum. Pretty much every ingredient in our Ink'd aftercare is a very effective moisturizer.
  3. The not knowing if it'll get infected. Infection obviously is a bad thing and something you want to avoid at all costs. Keep it clean and apply Ink'd aftercare and the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of the ingredients will drastically reduce the chances of infection.

By applying your aftercare product after you clean your tattoo or if it ever seems really dry, you will dramatically decrease your healing time and make things much more comfortable in the process.

 

Ink'd Tattoo Healing Balm


Avoid Submerging your Tattoo


When cleaning your tattoo, cup and gently pour small amount of water onto it.
When you go in the shower keep you ink out of the direct spray pattern of the shower head.
Avoid baths, and swimming of any kind for at least 3-4 weeks. Chlorine, salt water and bacteria are not your friends while healing up.


Don't Pull off Scabs or Flaking Skin


This is a big one. The temptation is certainly going to be there but you can't pull or pick at scabs and flaking skin. The scabs that are forming are in contact with where the ink was deposited. These need to heal completely and then come off on their own when ready. Pulling them off early will slow down recovery and can also take ink with it causing a need for touch-ups.


Choose Appropriate Clothing


When you get a new tattoo your body is desperately trying to heal up the area. Because of this you want to avoid irritating it. A commonly overlooked area of irritation is clothing. You aren't going to be able to completely eliminate the contact with your clothing but you definitely can minimize the impact.
Tight fitting clothing is not a good idea, nor is heavier materials like denim or leather, especially if they are also tight fitting. Instead opt for lighter, softer materials that are loose fitting. This will minimize the rubbing and allow the area to breathe.


Avoid Physical Activity


For the first few days after your new ink it's recommended to sit back and relax. Your body is trying to recover and heal so it needs all the energy it can get. Overdoing it at this stage can definitely slow down your healing time.
Excessive movement either at work or at the gym will also cause increased friction and rubbing with your clothing. If the tattoo is in an area where body parts by nature rub against each other (inner thighs, inner arm to torso, underarms, etc.) all this extra motion will undoubtedly further irritate the area and slow down recovery.
Gyms and certain work sites can be dirty so it might be a good idea to make sure the tattoo is covered while there and that it gets a good cleaning once home.


Avoid going out in the Sun


When you get a new tattoo your skin is extremely sensitive to UV rays. Even just 5 minutes of sun exposure can irritate and sunburn your already irritated skin. Best to just play keep away for a few weeks, it'll help speed the healing along for sure.

Tending to your new tattoo is really just a short list of common sense things.
You want to:

  • keep it clean with a gentle and natural soap
  • keep it moisturized with a good aftercare product
  • minimize rubbing or irritating it in any way 
  • avoid picking at it. Let it scab, flake and heal all on its own


By investing just a small amount of time and effort into creating the best possible healing environment for your new tattoo you will get; better healing rates as well as great results. This takes the stress out of things and allows you to just sit back, relax, and enjoy (and show off) your new ink.

Paul Koutras
Paul Koutras


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