What Happens To Your Skin?

Let's get into the science and process of how tattoos work on a cellular level!

Tattoos are injuries to the skin.  Your bodies immune system only has a finite amount of energy to dedicate to healing itself and so it is very helpful to healing a tattoo if you are otherwise in good health.  If you have recently suffered injury or illness, it may be best to avoid getting a tattoo until you have fully recovered from the previous incident. Avoid exertion, intoxicants, and stress.  Rest and eat a nutritious diet to give your body the best possible conditions to heal the tattoo as quickly and as easily as possible.

Once the pigment has been placed, the skin will be slightly swollen, hot, tender, and may be weeping blood plasma.  This is due to the fact that the skin has been subjected to many hundreds of thousands of tiny punctures.  The swelling is due to the bodies immune response of an increased blood flow to the area.  The warmth is due to the increased blood flow, as well as the immune system cranking up the temperature in order to fight off infection.  (the more often you wash a fresh tattoo, the faster it will heal).

Some of the pigment is flushed away in the capillaries and deposited in the lymph glands.  As the body gets to work repairing the damaged tissue, it creates a mesh of platelets to stop fluid loss.  Much of the tattoo pigment gets caught within this mesh, which later will become the scabs, or flakes of the peeling tattoo.  Any pigment grains which are too large to be washed away in the capillaries will be encased in collagen to isolate them from the blood.

Over the course of a week or two the body will be repairing the skin where the tattoo has been applied.  This includes a sloughing off of the dead or dying layers of skin that the tattoo was placed beneath, and repair of the layer of skin that will contain the tattoo itself.  The process of tattooing the skin is thought to interrupt the skins natural production of oils, which is why it is very important to moisturize the tattoo regularly.  Don’t over moisturize as this will clog the pores, cause rashes or pimples, dissolve the delicate platelets and re-open the tattoo causing the oozing of more plasma which will result in more severe scabbing.  Try to simply maintain a moisture level consistent with the parts of you that are not healing a tattoo.

Once the newly healed tissue is ready, the scabs will begin to fall away, revealing a shiny, almost cellophane-like tissue beneath.   This shiny skin will eventually return to normal, healthy looking skin after it has settled back into the natural process of exfoliation, which can take another week or so.  When a tattoo is fully healed you will actually be looking at it through a layer of dead and dying skin that is not tattooed (otherwise you could scratch color off of a healed tattoo).  It is this layer of dead and dying skin cells that make skin appear to have a matte finish.