The PMU industry has evolved a lot and it now offers permanent solutions that can replace almost any makeup product and recreate your favorite makeup look, whatever that may be.
The permanent lip tattoo comes in many styles. One of them is lip liner, a treatment that outlines the lips and gives them definition, perfecting asymmetry and adding an illusion of more volume. It’s a great choice for anyone who likes their lip makeup on-point – just imagine how much time you’d save if you didn’t have to outline your lips every morning.
The semi permanent lip liner can be done on its own or combined with other lip tattoo styles.
We give you all you need to know about permanent lip liner.
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What Is Permanent Lip Liner?
Permanent lip liner is a form of modern-day lip tattoo that recreates the look of wearing regular lip pencil but lasts for months, or even years. The color is injected into the skin, so it doesn’t wash off or smudge.
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Image source: Instagram @bebeautifulbyshannonjade
How Is Permanent Lip Liner Done?
Permanent makeup treatments are very similar to tattooing, but there are some crucial differences. Primarily, the fact that permanent makeup is done with pigments and fades after a few years, while tattoos done with ink last forever.
Permanent makeup doesn’t go as deep into the skin as traditional tattoos – only into the border of the surface layer of the skin and the dermis.
So don’t be confused if you come across the term lip tattoo – it’s actually permanent makeup, but for most people, it’s easier to just call it a tattoo.
Permanent lipliner is done by coloring the edges of the lips and creating either a defined line, or a line crisp on the outside and shaded on the inside.
The treatment is done with a PMU device very similar to a tattoo machine. Pigments of natural origins are inserted into the skin, and they stay visible for 1-3 years. Over that time, they gradually fade as the body breaks them down.
It’s usually done in 2 sessions. After the initial implementation, you will probably need a 6-8 week touch up that makes sure the pigment color is even and solid enough.
Does the Treatment Hurt?
We won’t lie to you – it’s not a walk in the park. Since the skin is pierced over and over again, there is some inevitable discomfort involved.
That said, a topical anesthetic is used during the treatment which numbs the area, so there shouldn’t be any actual pain. You will probably feel pressure, pinching, and some stinging, though.
How Long Does a Permanent Lip Liner Last?
Although they’re called permanent, all lip PMU treatments fade after a certain time. The pigments used are formulated in such a way that the body can break down the components and extract them, while the shallow implementation allows the natural cycle of skin cell turnover to gradually shed the pigmented cells.
For most clients, permanent lip liner lasts around 1 year, at which point most of them need a color-boosting touch up. But for some clients, it can last out up to 3 years, or even longer.
How long does a lip liner tattoo last depends on many factors, primarily on how closely you follow the aftercare routine and your lifestyle. Sunlight exposure, frequent swimming and sweating, smoking, skincare products you use, and how often you get facials can all cause your permanent lip liner to fade faster.
What Styles of Permanent Lip Liner Are There?
The lip liner tattoo can be done in two styles, the basic one, and the shaded version.
Basic Permanent Lip Liner
The well-known, 90s style semi permanent lip liner. It’s basically just contouring. A thin line is drawn along the edge of the lips, where they meet the skin, and it’s made very crisp and defined. It’s done in a shade slightly darker (or significantly darker, if that’s what you’re into) than the natural color of the lips, or the color of lipstick you most often wear.
Image source: Instagram @permanentlyperfectmakeup
Lip Liner + Lip Blush Combo
If you want to get your entire lips colored, and not just the edges, you can combine the semi permanent lip liner with the pop of color lip blushing provides. In fact, the lip liner tattoo is hardly ever done on its own.
Lip blush is a lip tattoo treatment that colors the entire surface of the lips. It’s done the same way as the permanent lipliner, only the whole surface of the lips is saturated with pigment.
Shaded Lip Liner
Also called lip contour with shading.
The shaded version or permanent lip liner is a bit more subtle. It blends the color more and looks more natural. It’s done by creating a defined outline of the lips, and then shading the area under the outline a bit, so the color seamlessly blends into the lip.
Image source: Instagram @inkedbeautybymaria
Shaded Lip Liner vs Ombre Lip Blush
The ombre lip blush is a style of lip blush that involves coloring the outer edges of the lips in a darker shade, and gradually lightening them towards the center.
Sounds a lot like the shaded lip liner, right?
The two styles are similar, but the difference is that, in the case of shaded lip liner, only about one-third of the lip is colored, while with ombre lip blush, the entire surface of the lips is saturated with pigments, only in varying degrees.
So the shaded lip liner is something like a more subtle version of the ombre lip blush.
What Colors Are Available?
You can get the semi permanent lip liner in any shade of pink or red you want, or even in nude shades. Just make sure the shade complements your skin tone and works with your undertone – your artist can help you with that.
If you don’t wear lipstick every day, it’s best to go for a shade slightly darker than your natural lips. If you do, pick a shade that best complements the color of your go-to lipstick. If you’re getting lip blushing too, the outline can be in the same shade as the rest of your lips, or slightly darker.
Image source: Instagram @yokototalbeauty
What’s Lip Liner Healing Like?
After every lip tattoo, the skin needs some time to recover from the micro-trauma inflicted and the wounds made during the application process. Lips heal quite quickly, so it should be over within 10 days.
Here’s what you can expect during the lip liner healing process:
Day 1 – Initial Side Effect
Right after the treatment, your lips will be swollen, red, and sensitive. They may hurt a bit when the numbing wears off. You can relieve these symptoms with an ice pack and a mild painkiller.
Your lips will also ooze lymph and you’ll need to clean them often.
The color will look very dark.
Day 2 – Side Effects Subsiding, Scabs Forming
The swelling should be subsiding, but don’t be surprised if the area is still irritated.
You will probably start experiencing extreme dryness of the lips, so keep them moisturized.
Scabbing will probably start.
Day 3 – Heavy Scabbing
Even though the needles only pierces the surface layer of the lip skin, the area will go through a scabbing process. It will be worse for shaded lip liner than for basic permanent lip liner because a larger area is treated.
Heavier scabbing will form on day 3. Remember not to touch and pick at the scabs – you can pull out the pigments and ruin the results!
The area will still feel dry and tight. It’ll also probably be itchy.
Day 4 – Peeling Starts
The scabs formed will start flaking off.
The area will probably still be itchy.
The pigments will probably look very light at this stage. This is normal, they need some time to settle.
Days 5 to 10 – Secondary Peeling Possible
After the initial scabs flake off, some clients go through another cycle of peeling.
Once this ends, you can consider the primary healing over. Internal healing takes another month or so.
The color may be lighter than you want it, but it will gradually darken over the next 3-4 weeks.
Day 42 – Time for a Touch Up
After 6 weeks, the area has healed completely and it’s time to get a touch up. The touch up is necessary for getting maximum effects. The artist will add more pigment if any area heals patchy.
After the touch up, you’ll go through the healing process again, but it will be less intense.
What to Avoid During Permanent Lip Liner Healing
Here’s what you should avoid until your lips stop flaking:
- Don’t touch your lips or pick at the scabs.
- Don’t get your lips soaking wet.
No long, hot showers, no swimming, no extreme workouts, no saunas or steam baths. Drink through a straw.
- Don’t eat or drink anything too hot or too cold. This will cause discomfort, and heat can trigger more swelling.
- Don’t drink alcohol – it will dry out your lips further.
- Don’t eat spicy food. It will sting.
- Don’t expose your lips to sunlight.
- Sunlight can cause the pigments to change color.
- Don’t wear makeup or any products other than the prescribed aftercare.
What’s Lip Liner Aftercare Like?
After the treatment, you need to follow the aftercare routine your artist prescribes. The treated area needs some special attention in order to heal properly and for the pigments to settle. Here are some general guidelines, but if your artist prescribes something slightly different, follow that.
- On day 1, blot off the lymph with a damp, sterile cotton pad as frequently as your artist advises – usually every 30 minutes. The less lymph is built up, the thinner the scab will be.
- From day 2 until the peeling is over, you don’t have to clean your lips so often, it should be enough to just clean them after eating and drinking, or at least once a day. Wash them with a very mild soap that doesn’t contain alcohol. You will, however, need to keep them moisturized with the prescribed ointment. Reapply the moisturizer whenever you feel the area is getting tight.
- Once the scabby film has peeled off completely, you can start using other lip makeup and care products. It’s advisable to get fresh tubes, though – your old ones may be contaminated with bacteria your freshly tattooed lips can’t fight off.
NOTE: The routine described above is the so-called wet healing. The alternative version is called dry healing, and it excludes moisturizing. However, hardly anyone prescribes this version anymore, because it doesn’t give such good results.
Is Lip Liner Tattoo Removal Possible?
If the lip liner was done outside of the vermilion border, so on the skin around the lips and not on the lip tissue, yes. You can remove the pigments with saline or glycolic acid removal (laser doesn’t work very well on reddish pigments). Be prepared for a long process with 2-10 sessions priced at around $300.
But if the unwanted pigments are on the pink skin of the lips, no. Unfortunately, there is no safe method for removing the pigments from the skin of the lips.
However, permanent lip liner is not that hard to cover up until it fades. A swipe of lipstick and you’re good to go, so removal may not be necessary.
Image source: Instagram @_beautyenhanced
NOTE: Some artists do offer removal treatments on the skin of the lips. However, this takes a special skill and products specially formulated for this purpose, so do your research and make sure they know what they’re doing before you book lip liner tattoo removal.
How Much Does a Lip Liner Tattoo Cost?
Semi permanent lip liner costs a bit less than full lip color or lip blush. The average price is somewhere around $400, but it can vary a lot from one artist to another.
Permanent Lip Liner – Main Takeaways
The semi permanent lip liner treatment is a great option for anyone who’s tired of outlining their lips with regular makeup. It’s waterproof, doesn’t smudge, and it lasts up to 3 years. The permanent lipliner outlines the lips, but it’s usually combined with lip blushing. It’s done by implementing PMU pigments into the skin of the lips, so it entails about 10 days of healing and aftercare. But after that, you’ll have defined lips without any makeup!
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