Does Tattoo Shading Take Longer To Heal?

Have you ever wondered why some tattoos seem to take forever to get finished? The line work of a tattoo can heal in a matter of days to weeks, depending on the person but does tattoo shading take longer to heal?

Tattoo shading does take longer to heal compared to linework tattoos. The reason is that the tattooing needles continuously deposit ink in the same area for extended periods to create the shading. The trauma to the skin is greater than with linework, and the scabbing is more significant.

How Long Do Shaded Tattoos Take To Heal?

Typically, shaded tattoos take 7 to 14 days and six months to heal fully. The healing process of tattoos is unique to each individual and their physiological make-up. More prominent healing will be noticeable at around six weeks from the appointment.

Some skin types may take longer to heal, and a typical healing timeframe cannot be considered if the client has a condition that slows the healing process. The increased inking rate on the skin in a particular area traumatizes and irritates it much more than for line work.

Sensitive body areas with thinner skin like the neck, face, chest, shins, hands, and feet will be more bruised and traumatized with shaded tattoos, and the healing will be more prolonged. A shaded tattoo will begin to itch during the scabbing and healing process, and the shaded areas may be redder for longer.

What Is The Healing Process Of A Shaded Tattoo?

Similarly to the initial linework tattoo, the shading of the tattoo follows a similar healing process as follows –

The First Day  – Fresh Tattoo Wound

A new tattoo is considered an open wound and is usually wrapped in saran wrap after the session. Although a tattoo is a cosmetic alteration or modification of the body, it is still a medical procedure and should be treated as such. 

The correct aftercare procedure the tattoo artist recommends is crucial to ensure good scabbing and lowers the risk of infection. It is vitally important that on the first day of the tattoo, it remains wrapped and does not get wet.

The saran wrap can usually be taken off 4 to 6 hours later. It should never sweat.

The 2nd and 3rd Day – Still A Fresh Tattoo Wound

On the second day, the saran wrap is off, and the wound can breathe. At this stage, it is still considered to be a fresh wound. It will be swollen, red, and warm. There may still be a bit of plasma and blood that seeps from the wound, which is normal in the healing process.

On days 2 and 3, you can wash the wound with the recommended soap – usually anti-bacterial – without soaking it, tap it dry and apply the ointment the tattoo artist sold you.

The 7th Day  – Scabbing And Other Healing Signs

On the 7th day, the scabbing on the shaded tattoo will be more noticeable and may be thicker in some areas. On the edges of the tattoo, you may still notice some redness and scab flaking, and it may become itchier.

The shaded area will need to be moisturized more often to keep it supple and prevent it from becoming too cracked. Never pick the scabs, as that may cause the tattoo to bleed. The tattoo may be damaged as the ink can lift out with the scab, and it may become infected.

Wash the tattoo as normal, preventing the area from getting soaked.

The 7th to 14th Day – Beginning Stages Of Healing

From the 7th day, you should notice the scabbing becoming drier and peeling by themselves. Do not try and help the process along or pick at the scabs, even if it’s hanging by a thread. You can end up damaging the tattoo and your skin.

The itching will significantly reduce, and you may notice that most redness has disappeared. This indicates that the healing process is in full swing and that a new layer of skin has formed. Some areas may still have thick scabbing where the shading may have been more prominent.

At this stage, you should still be wary of soaking the tattoo in the bath or shower for too long. The idea is to wash it with anti-bacterial soap and pat it dry. Moisturizing the tattoo a few times per day should be a priority at this stage.

The One Month Mark – Half Way To Full Healing

One month after the shading of your tattoo, most areas should be completely healed. If at this stage you still experience any pain or the skin is still red, please make an appointment to see your GP as there may be an underlying infection.  

The surface layer of the skin should be fully healed, and most of the scabbing has now disappeared; however, the deeper layers will take longer. You should notice the areas of shading may appear ashy, and the colors are not as vibrant as on the day of the tattoo.

The ashy or dull skin is perfectly normal, which means there is still a layer of skin that will peel off, revealing the fully healed tattoo. The moisturizing of the tattoo is still crucial, leaving the remaining scabs to peel naturally.

The 6 Month Mark

Between 3 to 6 months, your tattoo shading should fully heal through all the skin layers and look vibrant and clear. All the itching and redness should be gone, and your aftercare routine should be replaced with a normal day-to-day routine.

At this stage, you may notice shading areas that need a touch-up, and now would be a good time to make a follow-up appointment with your artist. They can take a closer look and recommend areas for touching up.

If you go out into the sun, always protect your tattoos with a good quality sunblock or sunscreen lotion with a high SPF and UV protection. If possible, do not spend too much time in the sun exposing your tattoos to harmful UV.

Around the six-month mark, you can swim and bathe without concern. Remember, if you do go for a touch-up on the shading, the healing process will start again in that area.

Does The Color Of The Shaded Tattoo Affect The Healing Time?

Typically black and grey tattoos will heal faster than full-colored shading or black-out tattoos. Black and grey tattoos need less intensive shading than other colors. Black-out tattoos may take the longest to heal.

Black And Grey Shading

Black and grey shading on a tattoo design will typically heal faster than full black or color. The reason is that the shading approach is usually less intense and doesn’t cause much trauma to the skin unless the shading is in sensitive areas such as the chest, inner bicep, under-arm, or neck.

Full-Color Shading

Injecting full color into the skin for shading is usually quite intense. The ink must be deposited evenly to get the correct effect. Different colors of tattoo ink are harder to work with and may require more than one deposit. Again, sensitive areas will take longer to heal.

Some factors that may influence the healing of a shaded tattoo are –

  • The tattoo style
  • The tattoo size
  • The tattoo placement on the body
  • Whether the tattoo artist is hard or soft handed
  • The tattoo color
  • How soon the tattoo is wrapped after the session
  • The type of ink and needles used
  • The health condition of the client

How Can You Promote Faster Healing Of The Tattoo Shading?

It is possible to promote faster healing of the tattoo shading by following the tattoo artist’s instructions on aftercare and adding some DIY steps.

  • Always use the correct anti-bacterial soap and moisturizing lotion.
  • Never touch the shaded tattoo areas with dirty hands
  • Do not let any person or animal touch your tattoo while it is healing
  • Do not soak the shaded tattoo area
  • Always tap dry the tattoo with a paper towel, not a cotton towel, until it has fully healed.
  • Do not apply any lotion on the day of the tattoo shading.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Never pick the scabs
  • Avoid drinking liquor three days before and after the tattoo shading
  • Eat immune-boosting foods or drink immune-boosting smoothies
  • Drink lots of good quality water


Always plan ahead when getting a tattoo shaded, as the prolonged healing process may interfere with activities you didn’t consider when getting the tattoo. Summer holidays and trips to the beach or even bulky clothing in winter can become hurdles.

Getting a tattoo shaded can take several sessions, and the healing process will be the same, although the timeframe will differ from one person to the next.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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