It takes about three to four weeks for a tattoo to heal completely. However, tattoo healing is not the same for everyone. It also varies on which part of the body has been inked.
Basically, there are three stages of tattoo healing.
The first stage starts soon after you step out of the tattoo studio with your fresh ink. In this initial stage, the tattoo is remained covered with a plastic wrap for at least 24 hours. During this time, the tattoo may bleed and the bandage may need to be changed if it gets soaked up. Be sure to handle the fresh tat with clean hands. After keeping it covered overnight, you can remove the bandage. You can now expose your tattoo to fresh air to allow it to heal well. This phase may be accompanied by slight pain and stinging sensation on the tattooed area. Minimal swelling can also be seen for the first 48 hours. Typically, this stage of tattoo healing lasts for about a week or so.
The next stage is characterized by the onset of itching. The skin around the tattoo area may start to feel dry. Scabs that have formed now start to flake off. It is important to leave the skin alone. Do not peel off the scab and never scratch the area. This period lasts for another week.
The last stage of tattoo healing happens at about three to four weeks later. Most of the scabs have fallen off at this phase. This is the stage of final healing. In some individuals, the area may still be sensitive because the skin continues to heal completely.
Remember that having a tattoo is quite similar to having minor surgery or any skin break. Utmost care must be taken to keep the area as clean and moisturised as possible. This is particularly important during the first four to five weeks after the procedure. Although the stages of tattoo healing may differ with each area of the body and with each person, the general rule is to keep it hygienic and protected during this time.