Despite face masks still being worn in full effect in many places, lips have been the center of attention when it comes to beauty routines. (We can thank Kylie Jenner for that.)
While the quest for a full pout may have begun with lip injections, beauty buffs have since found more non-invasive ways to fake volume with makeup — namely, by overlining with lip liner and mastering an ombre lip. Now, TikTok has introduced yet another way to define lips that isn’t as invasive as lip injections and provides longer-lasting results than makeup: lip blushing.
What is lip blushing?
Lip blushing is essentially a cosmetic tattoo that can enhance the color and shape of the lips, said Dr. Samuel Lin, a Boston-based plastic surgeon. It’s a similar concept to microblading in that it uses a form of semi-permanent makeup to make a temporary enhancement to the face. But because the lips are an area that generally holds pigment well, lip blushing has a longer life span when compared to other permanent cosmetic procedures, said Ari Schweiger, a lip blush artist at Studio Sashiko. “Clients can go about two to three years after initial sessions are complete before coming back for a refresher appointment.”
So, why are more and more people using lip blushing as an alternative to good ol’ lip filler? Unlike lip fillers, which involve physically plumping an area by injecting synthetic products to add volume, lip blushing only adds color to your natural lip. “Lip blushing is not going to change the anatomy of the lip, just the shade of the lip,” Schweiger noted.
Beyond being dubbed a “permanent lipstick,” lip blushing is a promising procedure for anyone suffering with everything from cleft palate reconstruction to uneven lips. “I can give clients the illusion of a more symmetrical lip by balancing out the color within their natural lip shape,” Schweiger said. “For a lot of people, this service allows them to feel more confident without seeking out invasive procedures.”
One caveat to using lip blushing as a way to even out your lips? It should only be done within the natural border of the lips. “A skilled artist should have the eye for what should be tattooed and what should not be to give a more symmetrical look,” Schweiger said. For instance, your artist should never tattoo too far over the lip line onto the facial skin. “Just because there is lip skin to be tattooed, doesn’t mean it should be,” Schweiger said. “A small change can make a huge impact when it comes to lip blushing.”
Even if asymmetry isn’t an issue for you, lip blushing can be used to give filler-esque results. While the procedure doesn’t involve any plumping per se, it’s through strategic coloring and shading that lip blushing creates the illusion of fuller lips, Lin said. And because there is no actual change in the size of the lips with lip blushing, the result is often more subtle, or more natural, than with lip filler.
How the lip-blushing process works
Lip blushing is performed by an artist who specializes in permanent makeup and is licensed by their local health board. “The certification required to provide cosmetic tattoos varies by state, so be sure to check that your technician has the proper certification to practice in your area,” Lin said. You’ll find lip blushing services offered in medical spas, permanent makeup clinics and some dermatology offices.
You can expect to spend roughly two to three hours for your first session of lip blushing. In terms of the ouch factor, a numbing cream is used to help with pain management. Schweiger said the pain level is relatively low, with her clients usually rating it a 2 or 3 out of 10.
Here’s how the process works.
“After having a full consultation with your artist to discuss your goals, the drawing process begins,” Schweiger said. “A bright colored pencil is used to fill the lips, and once the client and artist agree upon the shape, the lips are outlined in white to give a clear indication of what will be tattooed.”
To ease any discomfort, Zensa — a topical anesthetic — is then applied over the area, and you’ll have to rest with a closed mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes to allow for the numbing to take place. Then, the anesthetic is removed and the meticulous outline process begins. “Using a tattoo machine and a single nano needle, both the top and bottom lips are lightly outlined,” Schweiger explained. “Lips are then wiped and numbed again with a secondary layer of numbing. Artists can use a variety of different needles from larger magnum needles to smaller shaders to fill the rest of the lip.” About three passes are done over both the top and bottom lip.
A wide range of pigment shades are available to suit different skin tones and aesthetic preferences, and a consultation with your lip artist will help you determine what to use. “Lip blushing results can range from a soft hint of color to a more defined, saturated look depending on the client’s goals and expectations,” Schweiger said.
Lip blushing aftercare
Lip blushing takes six to eight weeks to heal, with the majority of the swelling and discomfort occurring 24 to 48 hours post-procedure. Between day two and day 10, Schweiger said, it’s normal to experience some peeling, but warns that clients should never allow their lips to dry during this time and that a lip balm approved by the artist should be used.
“The color may look patchy or uneven during the healing process as the area continues to exfoliate and regenerate, but patience is key after a lip blushing procedure,” she said, adding that you can ice the lips or apply arnica to reduce any swelling.
Is lip blushing safe?
According to Lin, lip blushing is generally considered a safe procedure when done by a professional trained in safe, sanitary techniques. “Lip blushing is a form of tattooing, so it is important for your health and safety to go to a trained professional for this service, as they will use the proper sterile equipment and technique to deliver safe results,” Lin said.
Because lip blushing involves needles, there is a risk of infection. If you notice any signs of infection — such as pus, fever or worsening pain — Lin said to consult a doctor to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment.
In general, anyone can be a candidate for lip blushing, though those who actively smoke should plan to quit smoking before and after the procedure in order to heal properly and to avoid discoloration of the lips, Lin said. “Additionally, lip blushing could trigger an outbreak of cold sores or herpes in people with a history of these conditions. If you have a history of cold sores or herpes, talk to both your technician and your doctor before undergoing the procedure. Likely, your doctor will prescribe a medication to lower the chances of an outbreak during lip blushing and recovery.”