How long should a new tattoo be red?

How long should a new tattoo be red?

So, you’re thinking about getting a tattoo but are worried about some of the potential side effects? There’s no need, for a new tattoo will be red and perhaps irritated for anytime from a couple of days to a week.

Today, tattoos are more popular than ever, but there are still several health issues you need to be aware of if you think it’s right for you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first tattoo or your 100th.

In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about the length of time that your tattoo might be red, as well as some of the other side effects and the best ways to minimize them.

What is a tattoo?

Tattooing is when you insert ink, dye, or pigment into the skin. It can be permanent or temporary, and it usually ends up with a specific pattern, design, or picture.

Tattooing had been practiced for thousands of years. The earliest tattoo that we know of belonged to a man named Ötzi, who lived in the Ötzal Alps on the border of Austria and Italy sometime between 3350 and 3105 BCE.

How does tattooing work?

Our skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis which is the top layer, the dermis below it, and the subcutaneous layer of fat below that which is attached to muscles and bones.

When you get a tattoo, the needle penetrates the upper epidermis and injects ink directly into the dermis below.

Why does a tattoo cause the skin to become red and irritated?

When you get a tattoo, the ink is dispersed throughout the skin that is damaged by the needle and this causes an autoimmune response in your body. This is why a new tattoo causes your skin to become red.

The tattoo ink is permanent because tattoo particles are much larger than your body’s white blood cells which will come to the site of the injection and try to eliminate this foreign material from your body. This is your immune response.

While your white blood cells will be able to eliminate smaller particles, most of the ink will stay and you will be left with skin that is red and irritated – the signs of your body’s attempts to get rid of the ink.

How long does it take a tattoo to heal?

Tattoos heal in stages. For some people, this process will last just a few days. For others, it will be much longer.

Stage 1: Oozing and redness

After your tattoo is complete, your tattoo artist will bandage it for you. You will be instructed to remove the bandage from anywhere between a few hours to several days later.

Once the bandage is removed, your skin will have fluid oozing from your tattoo. This is known as weeping.


Your skin will most likely also be red and irritated from a couple of days to around a week or two.

Stage 2: Itchiness

Wounds often itch as they heal and tattoos are no different. Within the first couple of weeks, you will probably have a very itchy wound and your skin may also start to peel and flake.

To treat the itchiness, you can use an ice pack over your clothes to numb the irritation or take an antihistamine to slow your body’s reaction to the ink.

You can also apply a gentle, over-the-counter lotion to soothe your skin.

Stage 3: Peeling

Within three weeks from the time you got your tattoo, your skin will probably have started to peel. But don’t worry, your tattoo won’t go anywhere, as the skin is only sloughing off from the top epidermis layer above the tattoo.

This is a good sign; it means your skin is healing.

Stage 4: Caring for your tattoo in the long term

If all goes well, your tattoo will look clean and healthy around four weeks from the time it was inked. At this point, you need to keep your tattoo clean, apply lotion and take an antihistamine as you see fit.

What are some of the side effects of tattoos?

No tattoos are completely painless, but some people have bad reactions that need medical attention.

Allergic reactions

Some people have allergic reactions to the pigment that gives tattoo ink its color. It is usually recognizable as a red, bumpy and itchy rash.

While the reaction can happen immediately, for some people it can take weeks, months or even years.

The best way to treat an allergic reaction is with a steroid ointment that you rub into the skin.



Some people who get tattoos can also suffer from an autoimmune response called sarcoidosis. It is usually shown as swollen and itchy skin.

You can treat it with a soothing lotion on the skin but if the problem persists, your doctor might prescribe immunosuppressant medication.


Although not a common side-effect of tattoos, infections do happen to some people. The most common reason is because the tools used to create your tattoo – the needle and ink – was not clean enough.

It’s extremely important that you use an accredited tattoo artist who practices the highest level of hygiene.

Not all tattoos are the same

Some tattoos take longer to heal than others and a lot depends on a person’s own healing properties and how well they care for themselves after the tattoo.

The most important factor is your tattoo’s location. If it is near a joint such as your hand or ankle or anywhere that moves a lot, it will take longer than a place that is immobile like your back or chest.


Also, if you have chosen to get a large and colorful tattoo, this will generally take longer to heal than a smaller or simpler tattoo.

So, is a tattoo right for me?

Tattoos might be commonplace but they are by no means without risk and you will usually suffer redness for at least a couple of days after your tattoo.

However, if you’re diligent with your aftercare and are healthy and happy, there’s no reason why you should not be completely healed within a month.

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