What is lip blushing? A cosmetic tattoo artist explains

Long lashes and bushy brows have been all the rage for a while, but these features barely hold a candle to pouty lips, at least as far as what’s popular on social media right now is concerned. Long before Instagram and TikTok existed, options for that plump, just-kissed look were more limited. Loadouts existed but weren’t as widely available or customizable as they are now. Maybe you’d put on a swipe of DuWop Lip Venom gloss, which temporarily flushes lips, and call it a day.

Now, there are a host of lip augmentation options available, including non-surgical procedures that require minimal downtime and provide semi-permanent results. One such offering is lip blushing, which is essentially a “tattoo” for your lips that can enhance the color and contour of your mouth.

If you imagine a very painful procedure with not so subtle results, you are going to be surprised. Permanent makeup has come a long way in the past two decades, and you might be shocked at how natural the results of lip blushing can be – think of your lips, just slightly fuller and slightly more shapely. Before embarking on this type of procedure, it is a good idea to explore the essential facts, because not all treatments are suitable for everyone.

Read this primer on lip blushing so you can decide if this tricky lip augmentation method is right for you.

What is lip blushing?

Imagine rolling out of bed with a perfectly pouty kiss, pigmented to your exact taste every morning. Like a favorite lipstick shade plays and draws attention to your mouth, lip blushing will make your lips appear slightly more pronounced, shapely and fuller.

“Lip blushing is a form of cosmetic tattooing in which pigment is deposited into the skin to enhance the shape, symmetry, and color of the lips,” says Randi Davis, a licensed cosmetic tattoo artist who specializes in the lip blushing procedure. “The technique can also be used paramedically to conceal scars.”

Essentially, this procedure uses a very small needle to implant pigment into your lips, Davis explains, creating a lovely layered wash of color. The shade selection is also super customizable, as Davis has matched her lipstick ink to her clients’ favorite lipstick shades or worked with their skin tone to find a custom complementary shade.

“Colors range from nude and natural to bright and bold,” she says. Pigmentation from lip blushing can also be corrective, Davis says, either to camouflage scars or to compensate for the uneven tone or asymmetry of natural lips.

According to Davis, lip blush is a great alternative to lip fillers because the technique can be used to define the outline of the lips to create the illusion of volume. Think of lip blushing as getting a semi-permanent liner and all-over color on your lips combined, so you can expect this type of look and effect from this treatment.

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How permanent is lip blushing?

A long list of things can affect the lifespan of your lipstick pigment, from sun exposure level and skin type to immediate and long-term post-processing. “Results typically last three to five years,” says Davis.

If it looks drastically different from what you’ve heard about other similar cosmetic tattoo procedures, it’s because of the placement, relative to the eyebrows or eyes, for example. “The skin on our lips doesn’t contain sweat or oil glands, so lipstick tends to last much longer than permanent makeup on other areas of the face,” Davis adds.

Certain health and lifestyle factors can also affect the longevity of lip blush. “Frequent smokers or those with iron deficiency anemia may see results fade,” says Davis. In this and other cases, it is possible to get touch-ups, which are recommended every few years anyway. Like a regular tattoo touch-up, the purpose of these appointments is to refresh your color to make it stand out a little more.

How much does lip blushing usually cost?

According to Davis, a lip blushing service from a reputable technician is usually between $500 and $800, perhaps even in the lower to mid-four figures, depending on the market you’re in.

“Often, an eight-week refresher appointment is included to assess color healing and make any necessary adjustments,” says Davis. If adjustments are made to the overall shape of your lipstick or if certain areas need to be refilled, these adjustments should be included in the initial cost of the procedure.

What are the potential side effects of lip blushing?

Because lip blushing uses a small needle to “open up” your skin for pigment deposition, Davis points out there will always be a risk of infection. “That being said, if you carefully select a reputable technician, the risk will be minimal,” she adds.

Also consider your medical history before undergoing this procedure. Specifically, people prone to cold sores should consider taking a prophylactic antiviral for a few days before the appointment, Davis says, and a few days after; lip blushing can trigger an outbreak and hamper your healing results.

According to Davis, you also shouldn’t try lipstick if you’re pregnant, have a blood-clotting disorder, have used Accutane in the past year, or are prone to keloid scars/ hypertrophic.

As with any procedure, it is always important to consult your doctor to avoid any complications. Do your research: Make sure you’ve chosen a reputable supplier and know their job and all aspects of the procedure well before you sit down in the chair, ready for color.

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What can you expect on a lip blushing appointment?

Davis recommends her clients keep their lips well hydrated for a week before their appointment, finishing their pout prep with an exfoliating lip scrub three days before the treatment. She also advises avoiding anything that will thin the blood, such as ibuprofen, alcohol, and excessive amounts of caffeine, before the appointment. “You should wait until you have lip blush if you have active acne, cuts/sores, or chapped lips,” says Davis.

When you arrive at your lipstick supplier’s office, you can expect to be numb, which will help offset whatever you may be feeling during the tattooing process. “Levels of discomfort vary depending on each individual’s pain threshold and sensitivity,” says Davis. “To ensure maximum comfort during the procedure, a topical anesthetic (usually lidocaine) will be applied.”

Once you’re numb, you’ll go over your outline and color choice with your artist before any tattooing. Then your provider will begin and processing usually takes less than two hours.

After treatment, the lips may be swollen, and ice and ibuprofen may help reduce pain and swelling. According to Davis, it’s best to avoid salty and spicy foods for a few days after lip flushing to avoid irritation. Scabbing is the next step, and you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure the scabs fall off naturally.

What should lip blushing monitoring look like?

Hydration is key to the healing process – you don’t want that gorgeous color to fade sooner than you would like.

“I always recommend that my clients moisturize regularly for several weeks after their service because lipstick can temporarily compromise the lips’ natural moisture barrier,” Davis says. “Lip chap containing SPF can be used after lips have healed to prolong retention.”

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