"Lip Blushing" Is the Cosmetic Procedure You Didn't Know You Wanted

Move over, lip filler.

closeup of person applying lip gloss

@Sonja Lekovic / Stocksy

Lip blushing is the new semipermanent makeup procedure on everyone's, well, lips. Similar to other semipermanent makeup services like brow microblading and tattooed eyeliner, lip blushing allows you wake up with picture-perfect, beautifully flushed lips without applying a stitch of lipstick, balm, or gloss. Lip blush tattoos are expensive, for sure, but fans of the procedure rave about the natural-looking results and time-saving benefits.

We talked to top cosmetic tattoo professionals and skincare experts to learn more about this trending service—and why it's not what you may expect.

Keep scrolling to get the details on lip blush tattoos.

4 Facts About Lip Blushing
@cdbeauty_nyc//Design by Cristina Cianci

What Is Lip Blushing?

Lip blushing is a type of cosmetic tattooing that semipermanently enhances lip color by depositing colored ink into the lips with a mechanical needle. The resulting lip tattoo is subtle, not saturated, thanks to recent advances in semipermanent makeup.

"Lip blush tattooing is similar to the whip-shading or pepper-shading techniques seen in traditional tattooing," explains Shaughnessy Otsuji, cosmetic tattoo artist and cofounder of Studio Sashiko in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. "Using a single needle and a quick, consistent hand motion, we are able to create a series of dots as opposed to a solid line as the needle goes in and out of the machine, penetrating the skin."

The resulting tattoo, which typically lasts for two to three years, imbues lips with a flattering tint, like a stain or balm. After getting lip blush, you can still wear lipsticks and lip colors to switch up your look, if you like—but many lip blush clients are happy to go without lip makeup.

"For some clients... the goal is not having to apply a daily lip color or gloss," Otsuji says. "At the end of the procedure, the client should feel more confident with baring their ’natural,’ product-free lips."

Benefits of Lip Blushing

before and after lip blushing

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Lip blushing gives lips a gorgeous, barely-there flush without the lifetime commitment of a traditional tattoo. The perks of lip blushing include:

  • Long-lasting lip color
  • Increased pigmentation for pale and aging lips
  • The ability to customize your lip shade
  • Fuller-looking lips without need for injectables or surgery
  • Enhanced lip symmetry
  • Color correction for scars and uneven pigmentation

Thanks to these instant benefits—not to mention the popularity of other semipermanent makeup procedures, like brow microblading and microshading—lip blush tattooing is more in demand than ever.

"[Lip blushing is] very similar to many advances in brow artistry, where the goal in most cases is not to appear ‘made up' but to enhance one’s features," says Veronica Tran, founder of Pretty in the City Lash & Brow Bar in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

It's also effective for a variety of skin tones. "Lip tattooing can work well on all different skin types when done by an experienced professional," Otsuji comments. "Proper care must be taken when working on lips that are rich in melanin as there is a higher risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) if the area is overworked."

How to Prepare for It

You may need to prep for your lip blush tattoo several weeks in advance of your appointment—and potentially talk to your doctor before going under the needle.

Otsuji recommends skipping lip blush tattoos if you:

  • are pregnant or nursing
  • take Accutane (isotretinoin), steroids, or blood-thinning medication
  • suffer from cold sores, or
  • are prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation/hypopigmentation

If none of the above conditions apply to you, make sure your lips are generally healthy and hydrated before your service, especially if you're prone to seasonal flakiness. "If you have severely chapped lips in the winter or if you’re a sun goddess in the summer, it’s a good idea to wait out the season and allow your lips time to recover," Otsuji says.

Make sure to prep lips a few days before your tattoo with daily applications of lip scrub and balm. "Skin should be smooth, soft, and hydrated before the procedure to allow for even pigment saturation and proper healing overall," she says.

Lastly, say no to cocktails the day before your lip blushing service; experts recommend avoiding alcoholic drinks for at least 24 hours prior.

If you're unsure whether you're an ideal candidate for lip blushing, schedule some time to chat with your chosen artist before your appointment; many cosmetic tattoo experts offer free consultations. "A consultation and a patch test is always recommended if there are any uncertainties," says Otsuji.

What to Expect

lip blushing before and after

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First, your artist will create a one-of-a-kind shade for your lips based on your desired look. "Each shade is customized to match your lip color and what you want," Christopher Drummond, licensed esthetician and cosmetic tattoo professional for PFrankMD Skin Salon in New York, tells us. "As a professional makeup artist, I work with you to create your perfect custom shade."

Drummond suggests a "light tint" for that subtle, plumped effect—like your lips but better. Think: subtle pinks, mauves, nudes, and corals. If you have medium or dark skin with cool undertones, your artist may first apply a "vibrant orange pigment" to neutralize your natural lip color and make the shade of your dreams possible, Otsuji says.

If you want a bolder color, you may need to manage your expectations; lip blush probably can't mimic the effect of your favorite dark lipstick. "The color of your lips will generally be enhanced by one or two shades," Otsuji says.

After your lip color is selected, your artist will most likely map out your lip tattoo with lipliner or lipstick, ensuring they nail your desired shape. Then, she'll apply a topical numbing cream to your lips.

After the numbing cream takes effect, your artist will begin tattooing the pigment on your lips using a mechanical gun. You'll feel a light stippling sensation on your lips as she works.

From start to finish, the procedure takes about an hour and a half. Right after your appointment, your lips will appear much darker than they'll look in their healed state, according to Otsuji. "The healed color will appear about 30 to 50 percent lighter than the initial results," she says.

Most lip blush artists recommend getting a touch-up after your first go-round, about eight weeks post-procedure. "Multiple sessions may be required if the client requests to neutralize, lighten or even out the overall tone of their lips," Otsuji advises.

Lip Blushing vs. Permanent Lip Color

Permanent and semipermanent makeup for lips isn't a novel concept, but today's lip blushing isn't like the permanent makeup of the 1990s and aughts.

"Cosmetic tattooing has come a long way in the last 10 years!" Otsuji says. "The harsh, dark tattooed lip liner that was once popular has since been replaced by a ... soft, diffused wash of color that complements your natural skin and lip tone."

"In the past, permanent lipstick artists used tattoo inks placed deep in the skin to achieve bright pigmentation and permanent results," says Suzanne Friedler, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist for Advanced Dermatology, PC, in New York. "In contrast, lip blushing uses natural pigments placed superficially in the skin to create semipermanent and subtle enhancement of the lips."

Potential Side Effects

"With any form of permanent or semipermanent makeup, there are risks of infection, allergic reactions, and poor technique resulting in uneven application," says Friedler. "It is important to choose a licensed technician with sterile technique and lots of experience."

Most side effects of lip blushing are mild, according to Tran. "There is some swelling immediately after the procedure," she says. "Some clients swell more than others. Most will look like they recently had lip fillers injected." Redness is also common and although more rare, bruising can occur.

"Similar to a regular tattoo, there will be some peeling as the tattoo heals," Otsuji explains, along with oozing of lymph fluids: "this is completely normal and part of the skin’s regenerative process."

The Cost

Much like other professional cosmetic procedures, the price is the kicker with lip blushing. Drummond explains that a lip tattoo can cost from about $500 to $1500. 

Costs will vary depending on where you live, how experienced your artist is, and how much pigment your lips need to achieve your desired color. Some artists charge additional fees for touch-ups; you can expect to pay as little as $150 to several hundred dollars for this.

Think of your lip blush tattoo like you would any other tattoo: You don't want a $50 tattoo, just as you probably don't want a semipermanent lip procedure that costs less than some tubes of lipstick.

Aftercare

lip blushing timeline after care

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The healing process for lip blush tattoos takes about five to 10 days, Drummond says. Within 24 hours of your lip blush tattoo, you can reduce swelling and tenderness by applying ice packs wrapped in clean paper towels.

"Keeping the area clean and applying a healing balm as needed will make the healing process easy to manage," Otsuji says. Keep your tattoo clean with fragrance-free cleansing wipes or water, then apply an occlusive ointment as needed. Otsuji suggests Zensa Healing Cream ($25) or Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($5) to protect lips and seal in hydration.

As you heal, take a pause on workouts and touching your lips to anything that can potentially irritate or infect them. "Avoid sweating, swimming, kissing, eating spicy foods, and applying any cosmetics to the area until they are fully healed," Otsuji suggests. Saunas and sunbathing are also no-no's, according to Tran.

Expect your healing lips to peel but resist the urge to pick or scrub at flaky spots, which can alter your final results. "That can cause premature pigment loss and patchiness," Otsuji says.

Also, if your lip tattoo seems to practically disappear immediately after the healing process, don't fret. "This is perfectly normal and part of the healing process," Tran says. "The color will appear within a few weeks."

The Final Takeaway

If you can swing the cost and healing time required, lip blushing is a practically zero-maintenance beauty service that can save precious getting-ready time each day. But please do your homework before you take the plunge.

"Make sure your artist is licensed by their local health/licensing board," says Tran. "One of the requirements is a passed health/safety inspection. Usually you will see a certificate displayed. If you don’t see it, ask."

Friedler and Otsuji recommend reviewing a variety of artists' portfolios before moving forward. "Be sure to review before and after photos of people with similar skin coloring to your own," says Friedler.

"An artists’ portfolio should showcase a collection of fresh and healed work," Otsuji advises. "Book a consultation and ask as many questions as you need!"

Not ready to book your appointment just yet? Check out some of Byrdie's favorite subtle lip colors to test in the meantime.

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