Lip Liner Tattoo Gone Wrong – Why It Happens & What to Do

By Emily M.| Last updated on October 17, 2022
lip liner tattoo gone wrong
⏱️ 6 min read

Permanent lip liner used to be a huge trend a few years back. People used to get just the outlines of their lips tattooed to make their lips look fuller, more symmetrical, and to shorten their lip makeup routine.

Now, most people go for the full lip blush, which gives a better enhancement in general. But many of those lip liners that were done with outdated techniques are starting to emerge as lip liner tattoo gone wrong scenarios.

So, in case you find yourself with your lip liner tattoo looking not so great after a few years, here’s what may have happened and how to fix it.

How Can a Lip Liner Tattoo Gone Wrong Situation Happen?

Just like with any permanent makeup tattoo, there are 2 major groups of risks – immediate ones, like reactions to the treatment, and those that emerge after months or years in the form of weird fading and discoloration.

Let’s focus on the second scenario first, as this is the most common case of lip liner tattoo gone wrong.

Your Lip Liner Tattoo Hasn’t Faded and Its Color Turned

Here’s the thing – no lip tattoo should ever go outside of the vermillion border, the edge where the skin of the lips meets facial skin. These two types of tissue have different properties, and pigments fade from them differently.

In the past, when lip tattoos only started gaining popularity, artists didn’t really know how their work would look years down the line. They thought it was fine to go outside of the lip to make the pout look fuller and add symmetry.

Well, many of those works turned to lip liner tattoo gone wrong scenarios.

The pace of pigment fading on facial skin and the skin of the lips is different. They don’t even retain the same amount of pigment upon initial healing (a lot more pigment is lost on the lips than of facial skin).

So it’s virtually impossible to get the 2 tattooed areas to blend and have an even color.

Years down the line, there is a very high chance that the pigments have faded from the lips, while the line around them is still very visible and has turned color, looks unnatural and is impossible to cover up with makeup.

This is the most common lip liner tattoo gone wrong scenario. If the lip liner tattoo was done with traditional tattoo ink rather than PMU pigment, the situation is even worse.

lip liner tattoo gone wrong
Image source: Instagram @juvessentials

Solutions to Lip Liner Tattoo Gone Wrong

Fortunately, if you’ve found yourself with a lip liner tattoo gone wrong, there are now very effective ways to remove it. Unwanted or botched lip liner tattoos around the lips can be removed with either laser or non-laser PMU removal.

Laser Removal

The go-to for tattoo removal, lasers can remove your lip liner tattoo gone wrong very effectively within a couple of sessions, but there’s a catch.

Lip tattoo pigments often contain titanium dioxide, a white pigment used to formulate brighter pigments. When touched by a laser beam, titanium dioxide darkens to gray.

From there, it can be further removed by laser or non-laser removal, but you have to go around with the gray outline for several weeks between sessions.

While laser removal is generally the safest option, with minimum risk of scarring and tissue damage (when used right), most clients just don’t want to deal with this complication. Which is understandable.

Read more about laser PMU removal here.

laser lip tattoo removal
Image source: Instagram @zeiva_laser

Non-Laser Removal

Luckily, there’s an alternative. Non-laser pigment removal methods imply having the skin above the unwanted pigment opened with the same technique that was used to implement them, so a PMU machine with a needle.

But once the skin is opened, a special pigment remover solution is deposited into it. It can either be a saline solution or a different pigment remover. The solution lifts the pigments, and as the injuries to the skin heal and form scabs, a portion of that pigment is extracted.

As you can imagine, this takes time. Depending on the color and the saturation of the pigment in the skin, it can take 2-10 sessions to remove the lip liner tattoo gone wrong.

Non-laser removal entails no discoloration issues, but since it works through scabbing, your lips won’t look too attractive for a few days after each session. It also entails a higher risk of tissue damage, so be very careful when choosing a removal technician.

Read more about saline removal here, and glycolic acid removal here.

non laser lip liner tattoo removal
Image source: Instagram @dana_depta_pmu

Other Lip Liner Tattoo Gone Wrong Situations

Of course, a lip liner tattoo can go wrong in other ways, not just discoloration down the line. Just like with other PMU treatments, there’s the risk of allergies immediately or after a while, infection, and you just not liking it.

Let’s go through each point real quick.


Pigment allergies are not common, but they can happen. They can manifest themselves as burning, stinging, rashes, and other skin irritations.

You can also be allergic to numbing and any other product used during the treatment.

But these allergic reactions can be prevented by doing a patch test before the treatment, where all products are tested on a small patch of your skin, behind the ear or in the crease of your elbow.

However, pigment allergies don’t have to emerge immediately. There have been cases where some sort of disturbance, like a laser treatment, can trigger an allergic reaction even if the pigment has been in the skin for years without a problem.

This is extremely rare, but it’s good to know about this possibility.

patch test before lip liner tattoo
Image source: Instagram @thedrjenniclinic


Since the skin is broken, there’s a risk of contamination and subsequent reaction, either during the treatment or in the days after, while the lips are healing. Infections go from mild to severe, and they are manifested in pain, burning, pus, etc.

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your artist.

Infections are avoided by going to a certified, licensed artist who adheres to health and safety protocols, and by following the aftercare routine.

We have to note that apart from bacterial infection, there’s also a possibility of a cold sore emerging as a consequence of the treatment, even if you’ve never had one before.

This is not uncommon and it’s not considered an issue – the cold sore should be treated, but it shouldn’t affect the results of the treatment.

Here’s more info on lip tattoo infections.

Dissatisfaction with the Results

Finally, there’s also the possibility of you just not liking how the results turned out.

If you regret getting a lip tattoo immediately, we suggest you give yourself a few days to get used to your new look and your lips some time to heal. Chances are you’ll end up loving the healed results.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to situations where it’s clear the tattoo was done poorly. If it’s an obviously botched job where the liner went outside the lips, you might want to look into emergency PMU removal with saline which can be done within 48 hours of the procedure.

Otherwise, you have to wait for the skin to heal completely before you can get removal.

But prevention is the best medicine, so:

  • Get familiar with the treatment beforehand so you know what to expect
  • Research artists carefully and find a licensed, experienced one whose work you like. Here’s a how-to on finding the right artist.
  • Be vocal about your wishes, but consider your artist’s recommendations

Final Note – Important!

If you want to get a lip liner tattoo outside of your lips and make your mouth look fuller, we have to disappoint you – this is a bad idea and no experienced artists will agree to do it. Even if you find an artist who will, we strongly discourage you from going through with it.

Seriously, you don’t want to end up with a lip liner tattoo gone wrong!

Cover image source: Freepik



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