PMUHub brings you a comprehensive guide through the lip tattoo procedure. Find out all you need to know about the treatment, techniques, aftercare, cost, and more.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019. Updated in September 2021.
Enhancing your lips with some type of makeup is something many people never leave the house without. Whether it’s full-on lipstick or a sheer lip gloss that gives a your-lips-but-better look, enhanced lips look great – until they don’t. Regular lip makeup is notorious for being very short-lasting, no matter what the ads promise.
That’s why so many people are getting lip tattoos. A form of cosmetic tattooing, permanent lip color will give you a long-lasting lip enhancement that doesn’t come off.
Keep reading for all the info on the lip tattoo.
A cosmetic lip tattoo is a treatment that involves inserting pigments beneath the surface layer of the skin of your lips. It can be done in several styles, from the opaque permanent lipstick, shape-perfecting permanent lip liner, to the sheer pop of color through lip blushing or aquarelle lips.
It can also lighten dark lips and give them a warmer color, and even camouflage scars.
Since permanent makeup isn’t done with tattoo ink anymore but rather PMU pigments, the lip tattoo does not last forever. The semi-permanent lip color gradually fades and it requires occasional touch ups to stay fresh.
Want to find out more about the semi-permanent lip tattoo? Follow the links:
Image source: Instagram @minkcosmetictattoo
Anyone who likes wearing lipstick but doesn’t like the hassle of applying it several times a day. Also, women who want to add some volume to their lips. The lip tattoo won’t do as much as lip fillers, but it will definitely make your lips look fuller.
A special technique called lip neutralization was designed to warm up the color of melanin-rich lips and even out their tone.
Permanent lipstick is also great for uneven lips. It will hide any shape imperfections and make the lips more symmetrical.
Getting PMU lips is not safe for you if you:
PMUHub Note: If you have ever had cold sores or herpes on the lips, you will need to take special antiviral medications in the period leading up to your lip tattoo treatment.
These have to be prescribed by your GP. The most common prep therapy is Zovirax or Valtrex for about 2 weeks. Otherwise, the tattooing will make your herpes flare up.
The PMU lips treatment is a process of micropigmentation, AKA cosmetic tattooing, which means that an electric needle device is used for inserting pigment into the skin of your lips.
It consists of the following steps:
You need to see the artist who will be doing your treatment beforehand to discuss the look you want, and for them to assess your lips. You need to disclose any conditions you may have and let them decide whether it’s safe for you to get the treatment.
You should also do a patch test that will reveal any potential allergies to pigments.
Out of all permanent makeup lips offer the widest range of color possibilities. You can go for whatever shade you normally wear, but bear in mind you’ll be wearing it for months and even years.
When it comes to shape, the lip tattoo can make the lips look fuller by clever color choices and correct some minor asymmetry, but it’s never advisable to tattoo outside of the lip edges.
The artist numbs the area with a topical anesthetic. The tattooing process isn’t exactly comfortable, but it won’t be painful.
Once the numbing kicks in, the tattooing process starts. The artist will use an electric PMU machine to pierce the skin of your lips in numerous tiny dots and deposit the pigments into it. The color has to be built up gradually, so they will probably make multiple passes.
Just like all permanent makeup lips tattoo is a 2-step process, at least. It takes several sessions to build up the color, and the more opaque you want it, the more sessions you’ll need. After each appointment, the body rejects a bit of pigment, and it needs to be replenished.
So, after your lips are healed, which usually takes 4-6 weeks, you should book a follow-up appointment. The artist will make some adjustments and add more color.
Everyone’s system works differently, so some people need more sessions than others.
The lip area is very sensitive and having a needle pierce your lips over and over might sound a bit scary. However, a numbing cream is applied before the needling starts in order to eliminate the pain. Most clients report that it’s uncomfortable, but not painful.
Choosing the right PMU artist is crucial to getting satisfactory results and staying safe and healthy.
It goes without saying, never go to an uncertified artist who wasn’t trained properly – they can do serious damage to your lips.
Look for an artist whose portfolio looks good, who’s been trained by an acclaimed academy, who works in a sterile environment and uses high-quality products. Of course, it’s best to get a recommendation from someone who’s had the treatment, but online reviews should also help.
The permanent lip color can be done in any shade of red, pink, or orange, but since the results last up to 5 years, you want to be sure you’ll like wearing the color for all that time.
That’s why most clients go for subtle, flesh-toned shades that are suitable for any occasion and match any makeup look.
Your artist can help you with the color choice, and you should take their recommendations seriously. They have a sharp eye and an extensive knowledge of PMU color theory, so they’ll be able to match the pigments to best complement your skin tone and undertone.
Image source: Instagram @sarajusticepmu
Note: Having the lip tattoo treatment during your menstrual cycle may increase your sensitivity.
First of all, it’s very important to find a reliable artist. So, do thorough research in order to find a good tech who works in a sterile environment, and has a lot of experience and positive reviews.
In order to prepare for the treatment, avoid taking the following medications, substances, and vitamins that cause your blood to thin:
Also, avoid exfoliating skincare products and any medications that thin out the skin.
It is vital to take anti-viral medication before your procedure if you’re prone to cold sores. They can appear due to the trauma of tattooing and affect the healing process.
If you have any conditions or diseases, consult your doctor and check if you are a candidate for the PMU lips treatment. Do not have Botox or fillers at least 6 weeks before the treatment.
After the treatment, your lips need some special attention to heal properly.
They’ll go through several stages including swelling (you can relieve it with an ice pack) and peeling, and they’ll fade into a shade 50% lighter than right after the treatment. The severity of the symptoms depends on how saturated in pigment the lips are.
In any case, you will need to follow an aftercare routine prescribed by your artist for about 10 days.
There are 2 general types of aftercare – dry and wet healing – the second one being more popular.
Whichever you’re prescribed, avoid the following for 10 days:
Basically, you have to keep your lips dry – no getting them wet, no products of any kind. You just let them heal on their own.
This may sound easy since you don’t need to do anything at all, but without any moisturization, your lips scab more and thus lose more pigment, plus they can feel tight and itchy. That’s why dry healing isn’t very popular anymore.
This is the basic aftercare routine that can be adapted slightly to suit the needs of your lips.
Wet healing implies blotting away the lymph from the treated area as frequently as your artist prescribes for 3-5 days after the procedure, and keeping the lips moisturized with a special aftercare ointment that aids healing until the peeling ends.
Sticking to the schedule may be a bit annoying, but it’ll give more even results and better retention.
You mustn’t wear lip makeup until the scabbing or peeling stage is over – you risk getting an infection.
Once all the scabs have fallen off, you can wear lip makeup as usual, although you won’t need to enhance the color anymore.
It’s a good idea to get fresh products, as the ones you used before may be contaminated with bacteria your freshly treated lips may not be able to handle.
The healing period lasts around 7-10 days.
Your lips will be swollen for a couple of days and some scabbing will appear after that. Also, the color will look too intense, but 50% of it will fade during the first week. It takes a little bit longer for the color to settle.
During this period, you should religiously follow the tips your artist gave you, in order to avoid any discomfort during healing and get maximum pigment retention.
Image source: Instagram @inbeaute_
In general, permanent lip color is applied in 2 sessions to achieve a satisfactory pigment build-up. That’s why the 1st touch up is considered mandatory and is often included in the initial price, but if you’re going for a light, transparent touch of color, it may not be necessary.
But when it comes to its longevity, the lip color tattoo requires touch ups in order to stay fresh and last longer.
The frequency of touch ups depends on your skin type and your lifestyle. Annual touch-ups are recommended if you want to maintain the color as long as possible. Also, you can change the shade of your permanent lip color at the touch up appointment.
People with oily skin should have a touch up a bit more often, about every 6 months. Also, people whose skin is very often exposed to the sun and saltwater might need to retouch their lip color tattoo more often. The color on these types of skin is prone to faster fading.
The semi permanent lip tattoo can be done in several styles that recreate the look of wearing different lip makeup products. The most popular and versatile is the lip blush, but here are all the options.
The permanent lip liner is just an outline. It frames your lips in a color slightly darker than your natural lip color, or in a shade of lipstick you normally wear. It gives the lips definition and can help make the lips look more symmetrical.
Image source: Instagram @permanent_makeup_by_lela
The shaded version of permanent lip liner adds a blended shade from the outline to about ⅔ of the lips. It gives a subtle volumizing effect.
Image source: Instagram @salonhighbrow
The most popular lip tattoo style. It gives a diffused, transparent dose of color to your lips that looks more like a sheer lip stain. It gives a subtle, yet distinct contour.
It can be done with an ombre gradient for a volumizing effect.
Image source: Instagram @johana_samuel1
Similar to a lip blush in the sense that it gives a sheer pop of color, but it’s more subtle since there’s no contour. Your lips maintain their natural outline.
Image source: Instagram @claudiabortolozzo_academy
The most opaque and dramatic style of lip tattoo. It recreates the look of wearing matte lipstick. It usually takes more than 2 sessions to achieve and requires more frequent touch ups to stay fresh.
Image source: Instagram @softinkstudio
Designed to give melanin-rich lips a warmer shade that cancels out the purple, this style does not give the lip makeup effect per se, but rather makes the lips look like they’re naturally rosy.
Once the purple shade has been neutralized with warm pigment, the desired shade can be added on top.
Image source: Instagram @luxelipstudio
Yes, the lip tattoo procedure is safe if you choose a trained, certified artist who works in sterile conditions, and if you follow the aftercare routine. Proper aftercare prevents the possibility of developing an infection.
You also need to inform your artist about any conditions you may have.
There’s a possibility that you’re allergic to the pigments, or to the numbing agent, but this is very rare.
Still, it’s advisable to do a patch test, which will show whether you will have an allergic reaction to a certain pigment or not. Better safe than sorry!
Luckily, lip tattoo side effects are only short-termed and they usually involve:
This should all disappear within a week. If you notice your lips aren’t settling down even after 10 days, or you feel like these side effects are unusually severe, contact your artist.
In case you are not satisfied with your lip tattoo, it is possible to remove it. The two options are laser removal and saline removal, both of which can take several sessions and get pricey. Plus, they entail periods of healing after each session.
So, before you decide you want to get rid of your lip color tattoo, see whether it can be fixed. If you don’t like the color, it can be changed at your next touch up appointment. If the situation is not hopeless, maybe you can just wait until the color fades and use products that speed up fading (retinol, vitamin C, or hydroquinone).
In the meantime, you can cover it up with regular makeup.
The average permanent lip color cost is around $590 per session. The price depends on the style (lip liner is the least expensive), location, the popularity of a salon, the expertise of the artist, and the quality of the supplies used.
Some artists include the 1st touch up in the initial price, but most don’t, since more transparent lip blush effects – the most popular style – often don’t require one.
The touch up pricing practices vary a lot from salon to salon. Some charge annual touch up sessions the full price, some charge 50% of the full price, and others have a separate touch up fee that ranges from $100 to $350. A universal rule is, the more you let your lip tattoo fade, the more expensive the touch up will be, since there’s more work to be done.
The lip tattoo is a great permanent makeup treatment for anyone who wears lip makeup on a regular basis or has some lip imperfection they want fixed. It comes in several styles, and it can be done in a variety of colors, so it can work for anyone.
Just make sure to find a trustworthy artist who does good work, and follow the aftercare routine to make sure your permanent lip color heals properly.