How Long After Surgery Can I Get A Tattoo?

Written by: Pete

Post-surgery, your body is in a very vulnerable state as it works to heal the wound and fight off infection in the area. In the same manner, getting a tattoo is similar to a medical procedure that causes a wound and requires the same attention from your immune system. Surgery can often be planned, and getting a tattoo after surgery needs to be planned out, as well.

The Body After Surgery

Your body is in an extremely traumatic state following surgery. Your immune system is hyper-focused on repairing this area and helping your body heal. Rushing into a tattoo would be a grave mistake for your recovery. In fact, there are a few mistakes that are done after surgery that can slow your recovery, including:

  • Doing too much too quickly
  • Being overly cautious and spending all your time in bed
  • Not taking your medication as prescribed
  • Not getting enough nourishment or hydration
  • Avoiding the rehabilitation period recommended for your injury

Your body goes through three big steps following surgery.

Step One: Surgical Wound Healing

Your body’s primary focus during this stage is to heal and close that open wound or scarred area. They do this by fighting the infection and keeping bacteria clear from the area. Your immune system is running on overtime during this stage, which can last as long as a week. It would not be safe to get a tattoo during this stage.

Step Two: Growth and Rebuilding

Similar to when you get a tattoo, your immune system’s second response is to send blood cells to the area to repair and rebuild the wound, creating new tissue and closing up the open wound area.

If you get another tattoo during this stage, your immune system will be divided, needing to fight and rebuild two separate wounds. Consider your red blood cells as fighters in a war; if you start another battle in a different region, you are forcing your “militants” to be scattered.

Step Three: Scarring and Strengthening

This is similar to the stage of healing in a tattoo when you have scabs in their final stage of formation and starting to fall off, because the tissue underneath is strengthening and no longer needs a barrier of protection.

While your wounds are closed at this stage, your scarred skin is hyper-sensitive and certainly shouldn’t be tattooed at this moment. Most people recommend that even if you’re being tattooed elsewhere on your body, it’s best to wait two months or more before choosing to get a tattoo.

Surgery Healing Times And New Tattoos

Of course, along with each body healing and having different immune system responses, different surgeries take significantly different amounts of time to heal. In general, doctors recommend allowing yourself at least six to eight weeks to recover from surgery.

Along with needing significant time for your body to get back to its original state, you certainly won’t feel like being tattooed after you’ve just had surgery. You will feel sluggish, weak, and under-the-weather, making the secondary trauma of a tattoo session feel like a nightmare.

You also have to consider that most reputable tattoo shops will not tattoo you if you are currently taking medications. This could severely complicate both your awareness to agree to the process, but also the healing process of your tattoo. Most surgeries require antibiotics to fight off infection, and you absolutely should not get a tattoo when you are on antibiotics.

What If the Tattoo Location is Different From the Surgery?

If you want a tattoo that is far away from where you had surgery, if you are not on medications, and if you are feeling okay, then you can discuss your appointment timing with your artist. They will either recommend you reschedule if you are not fully healed in the operating area, or tell you it’s safe to proceed.

Can You Get a Tattoo Over a Surgery Scar?

There are many circumstances you should consider before tattooing over a scar, including the age of the scar, the color of the scar, and how you want to incorporate it in your design, just to name a few factors. Have a look at our article which covers everything you need to know about tattooing over scars.

Our Final Thoughts

You have your whole life to get a new tattoo, but your body just needs a little bit of time to recover properly from your surgical procedure. It is best not to introduce your body to more trauma and to make it work overtime by fighting to heal two wounds if you can help it. You could put yourself at a high risk for infection or healing issues, so it’s best to give yourself a few months to heal fully before jumping into the artist’s chair.

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