With cosmetic tattooing ever growing in popularity, clients are becoming more interested in semi-permanent lip pigmentation. Lip tattooing is a bit more complicated than other types, so I’ve written this post not to discourage clients from having it done, but to educate them about the process. If youthful, defined lips is something you’re interested in, please read ahead and be educated!

Your lips are a muscle, unlike the normal skin tissue on the rest of your face. Colour retention on the vermilion border – the edge of the lip near the skin – verses the fatter part of the lips, or the vermilion tissue, is very different. While lip liner tattooing on the border will retain colour well, the vermilion tissue does not hold pigment quite as well.

Your lips are a muscle – tattooing them is different

The inks used in lip tattooing are translucent and must be layered to build up the desired colour. This means that tattooing your full lips for that vibrant, defined look may take two to four sessions, depending on the level of saturation you desire.

For optimal results, it’s imperative that clients have healthy lip tissue to ensure colour retention. Scars on the lips from cold sores, sun damage, lip injections or other damage will not hold pigment as well as healthy lips, and may require another layer of colour so that the tattooing is even. Smoking can also impact the strength of the colour, as the lip tissue is firmer and residual nicotine can limit how the pigment develops.

In many cases, a client will lose up to 80% of the colour intensity on initial application, leaving a subtle lip tint effect. The retention will increase with subsequent sessions, which is why most clients need two to three appointments to reach their desired colour.

You may need two to three appointments to reach your desired colour

After care is a crucial step. You’ll be sent home with correct after care instructions, and it’s critical you follow them to assist the healing of your lips. If I notice your lips are prone to dryness, or perhaps weeping more than usual, I may give you additional after care advice, so it’s important you take note of this. You can always contact me if you have any questions.

Cold sores can be an unpleasant side effect during this time – if you’ve ever had them before, even if it was just once when you were a child, they’re likely to come back after your lips are tattooed. I ask clients to get an antiviral medication prior to any lip procedure to help avoid an outbreak. Avoiding any friction to your lips until they’re healed will also help, and while an outbreak can still happen, it will be far less intense.

A week after the tattooing, clients are occasionally concerned as their lips appear lighter and paler, as though they’ve lost colour. This is totally normal. When pigment is first inserted into your lips, a layer of colour is trapped in the top epidermis layer, making the lips very bright immediately after they’re tattooed. This layer peels off after the first week as your lips start to heal, and over time colour will become more visible as dead skin cells on the surface are shed.

Your lips can take a few weeks to heal, and will be dry during this time. Applying lip balm regularly is the best way to remedy this, and is a good habit to develop to protect your lips in the long run. The exact healing time varies between clients, but age is the biggest factor that can prolong the process.

Be patient – it is a process!

You cannot expect a true lipstick look. Lipstick is opaque and worn on the lips, whereas lip tattooing colour is under the skin and can create a powdery or dewy tinted look on the lip tissue. Depending on how you are feeling – such as your body temperature, the time of the month, whether it’s morning or night time – the colour can vary slightly, appearing softer, brighter, warmer or cooler. Being well informed about what this treatment can and can’t achieve is the best way to ensure you’re happy with the results.

This is the reality of lip tattooing, and unfortunately not all clients are good candidates. I will tell you if your lips aren’t suitable for the procedure or your expectations are unrealistic, as I always want to be candid with my clients. If you’d like to enhance your lips with a technician you can trust to be honest with you, then I’d love to see you for a consultation.

A well-educated client is a happy client