Lip tattoos: Here’s what you need to know

Lip Tattoos: How it Works? Does it Hurt? Before & After - Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Luscious lips coming right up, but be prepared to pay for it

We’re the first to admit we are lipstick hoarders. We have more shades than there are days in the year. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure and we have no intention of changing. But, that’s not to say we wouldn’t love it if our lips looked like they naturally had the perfect shade of nude lipstick already applied from the minute we woke up.

Essentially, you can have just that, if you're willing to get a lipstick tattoo.

We agree, it sounds scary, and it definitely shouldn't be a treatment undertaken without knowing all the facts, which is why we wanted to fill you in on all the need-to-know details.

What is lip tattooing?

Not to be confused with the lip tattoos people get on their inner lip (why, Kendall Jenner?!), this is a cosmetic beauty treatment that enhances your natural lip colour and can even make your lips appear fuller. 

“Lip tattooing is a semi-permanent cosmetic procedure whereby you can have the effects of wearing lipstick without the hassle of applying it, smudging it and reapplying it throughout the day,” says Amy Jean, founder of Amy Jean Brow Agency and beauty vlogger Chloe Morello’s go-to girl for her own lip tattoos.

Known by a couple of names, such as lip tint tattooing, lip staining, lip blushing and ombré lip tattooing, it’s more about enhancing lips to give them the illusion of fullness, rather than adding actual volume into the lips like fillers do. “An experienced lip artist can create balance in asymmetrical lips and extend the colour discretely past the natural lip line to give a fuller appearance,” explains Amy Jean.

How long has lip tattooing been around for?

“It began to surge in popularity in the 1980s, however the results were very harsh and solid,” says Amy Jean. Think overlined lips that weren’t fooling anyone. “The technology has advanced greatly with regards to tattoo machines and the pigments. We now use organic pigments that don’t run the risk of changing colour over the years,” says Amy Jean. The results are more like a sheer lip stain that looks natural. 

Who is lip tattooing best suited to?

It is a fuss-free alternative for someone who isn’t big on applying makeup,” says Amy Jean. Doesn’t sound like you? Us either. “We can also apply stronger definition around the lip line and graduate the colour into barely noticeable towards the centre of the lips; this is known as a ‘lip blend’ or ombré effect.” This approach is for those who wants their lips to look bigger and more prominent, without them looking fake. “Some women are afraid to turn to injections because of the dreaded ‘duck lips’. Lip tattooing can give definition and fullness without the need for cosmetic fillers.”

How do you choose the colour of the lip tattoo?

“It’s all about a conservative approach. You want a shade that is wearable during the day and at night. Subtle colours can always be gradually enhanced over time but we never tattoo statement colours such as deep red. The most requested colour is a soft rose or peachy pink,” shares Amy Jean.

How long do lip tattoos last?

“Depending on the depth of colour and the amount of pigment used, it can generally last three to five years without requiring any retouching,” says Amy Jean. Imagine all the time you’ll save over those three plus years! 

What affects how long it lasts?

“The colour retention will depend on exposure to the elements, lifestyle, skin care, etc. Usually oily skin clients will require more regular visits to refresh the vibrancy of the pigment.”

Do lip tattoos hurt?

Surprisingly, no. Well, not surprising given a numbing cream is applied to the area, but still, we’re talking an hour of needles on your lips, so consider us relieved.

What's involved in the lip tattooing process?

“Topical anaesthetic is applied to the lips to pre-numb the area,” Amy Jean explains. “We then do a thorough consultation and design the shape using ultra fine pencils. The tattooing itself can take 45 minutes to one-and-a-half hours. You feel pressure on the lips and buzzing from the machine, but some clients have been known to fall asleep! Once the anaesthetic wears off you will not be in pain. You will feel as though the lips are very stimulated.”

Note: If you’re prone to cold sores, you should take anti-viral medication before your procedure. The stimulation of the needles may potentially cause cold sores to appear, which can negatively impact the healing process.

Is there any aftercare required?

“Yes, one week to follow you will need to apply a balm once or twice daily to nourish and heal the skin,” says Amy Jean. She adds, “You will need to be careful with consumption of food and beverages. Only drink through a straw for two days and no spicy foods”.

Is there any downtime post-tattoo?

Amy Jean advises allowing “three to five days downtime where you aren’t required to be in a public setting or in close proximity to having people talking in close range. It’s generally fine, but psychologically you may think your lips are entering the room before you do!” She also notes that the colour is extremely rich for two days before the lips start to shed the excess dead skin. Afterwards, the colour beneath becomes about 50 per cent less intense.

How much do lip tattoo cost?

Brace yourself… it will set you back a cool $1000+. Yes, it’s pretty steep, but here’s something to think about: that’s about the same cost as say, 25 or more lipsticks. And considering you don’t need to wear lipstick after having a lip tattoo, and the results last more than three years, you’re the one coming out on top.

Lip tattoo before & after photos

One of Australia’s leading beauty vloggers, Chloe Morello, is a client of Amy Jean’s, and has documented her lip tattooing experience on her social media in the past. Here’s her post-lip tattoo results:

Married At First Sight’s Clare Verrall also took to Instagram recently to show the world her transformation from meh lips to a semi-permanent lip colour tattoo. She captured the whole process on video!

'Kissable lips' cosmetic lip tattoo experience make sure you scroll across ➡️. Ok, as many of you know I am lazy AF when it comes to make up. I wish to retain a natural look, without having to apply 'natural' looking make up. So I had my lips tattooed with the AMAZING @queenbrowsmelbourne!! I will admit I was very scared going in. I had a frightening image of 90's style hard drawn on lip liner in my head 🙅🏼‍♀️. What I ideally wanted was the lip colour I naturally get when I have a cold (my lips go the prettiest colour when I am sick! Anyone else find this?) anyway, so I visited the incredible @queenbrowsmelbourne. I was scared. Lip tattoo? Oh god. I thought this would hurt like hell & had the potential to be a total disaster. Despite my reservations, I put my lips in the capable hands of Heidi as I was seeking a 'fuller look' without fillers. I used to throw some lipstick on in the car on the way to work, sometimes. That is it. I am simply too lazy to maintain it, so within an hour the colour is gone, as has my care factor to apply more. The procedure did not hurt AT ALL (if you watch the time lapse you will see me doze off a few times.) it doesn't even bleed (unlike other cosmetic tattoos I have had done like eyebrow microblading etc) immediately afterwards I will admit I was like holy crap, that colour is INTENSE & maaaaay have freaked out a bit. The final photo is 2 weeks later, fully healed. I ADORE my lip colour now. No one would have any clue they were tattooed unless I told them. In addition to my brows (@ira_phibrows), lashes (@jadorebrowsandlashes) & amazing @ldl_international hair. I honestly don't need any make up as long as I continue to focus on my skin care regime. Which means MORE SLEEP!! I can't recommend @queenbrowsmelbourne & her 'kissable lips' more highly. Especially as this colour will last 5-8 YEARS rather than 5-8 minutes ❤️. In the final photo I am wearing ZERO 'make up' that is how I look now when I wake up (ok, after coffee. Morning are not my time!) #CosmeticTattoo #LipTattoo #SkipTheFiller #LessMakeUpMoreNaps #FauxNatural #Confidence

Are there any risks?

As you can imagine, this is the type of cosmetic procedure where you want the best of the best tattooing your lips because a skilled professional will be the difference between your lips looking natural afterwards, or things potentially going wrong. And while it's not permanent, three years is a long time to be unhappy with the end result. For a little insight into the potential risks, this is an unfortunate story of lip liner tattoo gone wrong. Australian beauty vlogger Stephanie Lange revealed her less-than-ideal experience in this Youtube video:

 

If you like the idea of simplifying your daily beauty routine even more, eyebrow feathering is the semi-permanent version of a lip tint tattoo, but for brows.

Would you ever try lip tattooing? Have you tried it before? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below.

Main image credit: Getty
Inset image credits: @amy.jean.brow.agency; @clareverrall
Inset video credit: Stephanie Lange

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.