Lip Anatomy for PMU Artists: Shape, Nerves & Blood Vessels

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on August 17, 2023
lip anatomy
⏱️ 7 min read

Creating stunning lip blush requires more than just skill – it demands thorough knowledge of lip anatomy as well. From the pathways of blood vessels and nerves to the unique structural variations, each facet of lip anatomy directly influences the techniques employed by PMU artists.

But here’s the kicker – it’s not just about the looks. It’s about your clients’ comfort and safety too.

This article will guide you through the basics of lip anatomy – what you need to know to ensure a successful and safe lip blushing procedure.

What Are the Key Points of Lip Anatomy?

As a PMU artist, you must be familiar with several key anatomical landmarks of the lips to ensure safe procedure and gorgeous results.

Here’s what you need to be able to distinguish:

Elements of the Lip Shape


Image source: Instagram @pmuhub

Lip Anatomy Cheat Sheet

  • PHILTRAL COLUMNS – raised vertical ridges connecting the nose & lip
  • GLOGAU-KLEIN POINTS – peaks of the bow
  • LOWER VERMILLION BORDER – defines the upper lip shape
  • UPPER VERMILLION BORDER – defines the lower lip shape
  • ORAL COMMISSURE – the corners of the mouth
  • CUPID’S BOW – upper lip border that forms the curve
  • LABIAL TUBERCLE – fleshy bump

Vermilion Border

The most important thing for a PMU lip tattoo is knowing where to outline. The vermilion border of the lip marks the beginning or end of your lip tattoo.

The vermilion border is the border between the red or pink part of the lip and the adjacent facial skin. In other words, it’s the place where your skin and lip meet. As such, it’s an essential feature of the lips that contributes to their definition and shape.

The vermilion border of the lip ends where pores and hair begin – meaning the skin of the lip and the rest of the face aren’t the same texture and don’t react the same to pigments implementation.

Regular skin is much more porous. Pigments behave differently in it, so the lip tattoos must never go outside of the border.

Keep in mind that the color of the lips isn’t the same thing as the vermilion border and in some clients it doesn’t align.

For most people, there’s a stretch of skin-toned lip skin around the pink part, which can be tattooed as part of lip blushing, to improve symmetry or add an illusion of slightly more volume.

lip blush tips
Image source: Instagram @tesstattoo

Cupid’s Bow

An important lip anatomy point on the upper vermillion border is cupid’s bow. The cupid’s bow is that double curve of the upper lip, where the two philtral columns meet in the center. It’s a crucial feature of the upper lip that dictates the shape of the lip tattoo map.

Glogau-Klein Points

More pronounced lips have very defined peaks of the bow called Glogau-Klein points. Glogau-Klein points help determine the natural proportions and symmetry of the lips, guiding where the highest points on the upper lip should be.

Labial Tubercle

Another important point on Cupid’s bow is the labial tubercle, also known as the tubercle of the upper lip. It’s a small fleshy bump located in the center of the upper lip’s vermillion border.

It contributes to the overall contour and 3D shape of the upper lip so it’s also very important to take into account when creating a balanced lip look.

Philtral Columns

The philtral columns (also known as philtrum ridges) are the two raised, vertical ridges that extend from the cupid’s bow to the base of the nose.

Oral Commissures

The oral commissures are the corners of the mouth where the upper and lower lips meet. They play a significant role in facial expression, so enhancing them can affect the perceived mood and demeanor.

That’s why it’s crucial to do it the right way, as that creates a more youthful-looking and uplifter appearance while dragging them down too much ages the client.

This is also the point where you should pay special attention not to cross onto the actual skin, as that can cause pigment to migrate and the lip tattoo starts looking blurry. That’s why some artists tend to go lighter and do a softer fade in these areas.

Here’s an example of how these key points play into the lip mapping process:

Lip Structure

Now that we’ve gone over the points of lip shape, let’s talk about lip structure. Knowing which layer of tissue you’re hitting is crucial to getting good results. This is what dictates how PMU artists:

  • Choose appropriate shading techniques that consider the risk of hitting blood vessels
  • Minimize pain and discomfort for clients by avoiding nerve-rich areas
  • Enhance the precision and accuracy of pigment placement for natural-looking results
  • Identify potential areas of sensitivity or concern.

By mastering the skin composition and lip vascular anatomy, you are ensuring both better results and client satisfaction and safety.

The lips are composed of skin, fat, muscle, and mucous membrane, which are divided into the upper lip anatomy and the lower lip anatomy. So, let’s go over each layer separately:

Lip Skin Anatomy

The skin of the lips isn’t composed of the same tissue as the skin covering the rest of our faces. It’s much thinner and has fewer layers, does not have any sweat or sebum glands, but does have much more nerve endings.

The outermost layer of the lips is the epidermis, which is really thin and delicate. This layer acts as a protective barrier against environmental factors and it’s what dictates our natural lip color.

Beneath the epidermis lies the dermis, which contains blood vessels, nerve endings, and connective tissues. This layer contributes to the lips’ sensitivity and ability to feel sensations.

Then, there is also a distinct transition zone between the skin of the face and the mucous membrane of the oral cavity.

The mucous membrane, which is an inner layer of the lips that prevents drying out and facilitates movement. You should also be aware of the orbicularis oris muscle, which is a circular muscle that surrounds the lips and is responsible for their movement.

These distinctions are important because they help you understand just how much pressure you need to put to be able to implement PMU pigment into the lips properly – but not cause any complications.

PMU pigments should be implemented into the dermoepidermal junction which is the interface between the epidermal and the dermal layers of the skin.

Implementing the pigment deeper than that can cause skin damage and scarring. On the other hand, not implementing pigment deep enough will mean very fast fading.

lip skin anatomy

Lip Veins Anatomy

Tattooing process can cause lip and blood vessel trauma, potentially causing vessel rupture and resulting in localized bleeding and subsequent bruising.

You can read more about bruising causes and management here.

But essentially, this – and other complications – can be minimized if the artist has a solid understanding of the lip vascular system.

The most important veins you need to be aware of are:

  • Superior labial vein, which runs along the upper lip’s vermillion border and drains venous blood from the upper lip. It is a continuation of the superior labial artery, which supplies blood to the upper lip.
  • Inferior labial vein, which follows the lower lip’s vermillion border and carries venous blood away from the lower lip. Like its artery counterpart, the inferior labial vein originates from the facial artery.
  • Facial vein and internal jugular vein, which are larger venous networks where the blood collected by the superior and inferior labial veins drains into.

Here’s a visual of where those veins are located. But keep in mind – not everyone’s anatomy is the same, so take into account individual differences as well.


Image source: researchgate.net

Lip Nerves Anatomy

Understanding the distribution of nerves within the lips is a crucial aspect of performing a lip tattoo, as it prevents irritation of nerves, significantly reducing the likelihood of discomfort and pain.

When it comes to lip nerves, this is where it’s crucial to distinguish between lower lip anatomy and upper lip anatomy.

In the lower lip area, the mental nerve takes center stage. It starts from a part of the trigeminal nerve, which goes along the bottom edge of the jawbone and then splits into mental branches. These branches are responsible for providing sensations to the skin of the lower lip and chin.

In the upper lip, there’s the infraorbital nerve. This nerve goes through a bony hole under the eye socket called the infraorbital foramen, before branching out.

The infraorbital nerve is responsible for giving feeling to the skin of the upper lip, upper teeth, and even the lower eyelid. PMU artists need to be very careful about the path of this nerve to make sure procedures are done safely.

Important – Consider Individual Differences!

When doing PMU, you also need to keep in mind each client has some individual differences that can significantly impact the outcome of a lip tattoo.

Clients may have fuller or thinner lips, and their thickness dictates the differences in the composition of lip tissues. This influences how the pigments interact with the skin, as well as how sensitive and prone to bleeding and bruising during the tattooing process they are.

This, as well as lip shape and prominence of key anatomical points, can be very different among different racial and ethnic groups.

And different skin undertones not only influence the final color outcome, but can also influence the healing process, because of different skin characteristics.

These elements all collectively dictate how the PMU tattoo should be mapped and executed. Customizing the approach for each client’s lip anatomy is key to the best results and minimal complications.

Let’s Sum Up Everything About Lip Anatomy

Lip anatomy knowledge is pivotal for every PMU artist as recognizing the lip’s distinct anatomical features is crucial for achieving both a safe procedure and beautiful, long-lasting results.

It helps minimize any complications and side effects like bruising, as well as ensure fast and even recovery.

But you must also consider individual factors like lip size and shape of each client, as these differences go beyond mere aesthetics like lip asymmetry, and can also relate to the distribution of blood vessels and nerves, tissue composition, and skin undertones.

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