Lip tattoos have been around for a while, but in 2014, when Miley Cyrus posted a picture of the tattoo on her lower lip many people became interested in following in her footsteps.
On average, lip tattoos will last between one and five years. Based on the level of acidity in your mouth and how fast your lips heal, your lip tattoo lifespan will differ. Intermittent touch ups will be required if you want the tattoo to stay, but can be dismissed if you want the tattoo to fade out.
Lip tattoos are uniquely wonderful — but also a bit tricky. Whether you’ve been wanting a lip tattoo for a while now, or just recently learned about them, we’ve got your back. Keep reading and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Are Lip Tattoos Temporary or Permanent
There’s no such thing as a permanent lip tattoo. Let’s go over the reasons why.
- Rapid recovery: The inside of your mouth is lined with mucosal cells, meaning that they regenerate several times faster than other parts of your body. Think about all the times you accidentally bit or cut the inside of your mouth. Within a day or so, it’s already healed. The regenerated skin heals over the ink.
- Excessive Moisture: Since lip tattoos are mostly in the inner lip, they will be in a moist environment every minute of every day. This moistness can cause the tattoo to gradually fade.
- Acidic Environment: Sparing you the scientific jargon, saliva is more acidic than skin on average. When lip tattoos are constantly submerged in an acidic environment, the pigments in the tattoo break down.
While most lip tattoos are inner lip — or inside the mouth. You can also get a tattoo on the outside of the lip. Though not as susceptible to the moist or acidic environment of the mouth, these tattoos are not permanent. Outer lip tattoos will last slightly longer, but will fade with time as the pigments become naturally lighter.
Any company or service claiming to offer “permanent” lip tattoos should be considered with caution.
How to Make Lip Tattoos Last Longer
Routine touch ups and after care are the most important ways to keep a lip tattoo colorful and vivid. Proper care in the first few days after the tattoo session is crucial to tattoo longevity. While some fading is inevitable, there are some general steps to take.
Keep the Tattoo Dry
The number one thing that you need to do is keep the tattoo as dry as possible — but luckily, just for the initial two or three days until it fully heals.
To do this, you will want to fold a paper towel and fit it inside your lip. Place it under your tongue and drape it over the bottom teeth. This will keep your teeth from grinding on the lips and keep the new tattoo dry.
Before bed, you will want to do this again, but also place paper towels on the cheeks to absorb saliva overnight. Sounds a bit uncomfortable but it’s well worth it. Remember, you only have to do this for two or three nights.
When drinking water or other liquids, use a straw until the wound fully heals.
Foods to Avoid
As your lip heals, you will want to avoid the following:
- Acidic foods and drinks
- Spicy foods
- Overly hot
Not only will these foods sting to eat for the initial few days, but may even open the wound and delay the healing process. This will cause the ink to not settle in properly. Acidic food in particular will cause the ink to fade before the pigment can settle. Just bear strong for the first few days, and you’ll get back to eating your favorite foods in no time.
Lip Tattoo Touch Ups
No matter how good you take care of your tattoo, touch ups will be required with time. What exactly does a touch up entail? The touch up process is when the artist traces over the original tattoo and gives it that original opacity and vividness.
Many artists will provide an initial touch up for free and then charge for subsequent appointments. But keep in mind that touch ups are essentially reopening the wound, so you will have to practice proper care every time. Ask your artist beforehand about their touch up policy just in case.
Do Lip Tattoos Hurt
We can’t talk about lip tattoos without talking about the pain. All tattoos hurt, but lip tattoos hurt a little more. Since lips have quite a lot of nerve endings, they’re more sensitive.
But, it’s not all bad news.
Since lip tattoos are typically simple, they require less time to do. There’s pain after the procedure, but it’s much less than the procedure itself. Then, it might be comforting to know that pain is very case by case. Some people claim to feel excruciating pain while others barely feel anything, your situation will probably be in the middle.
Tip: Don’t brush your teeth or drink liquids right before the session. It’ll hurt quite a bit more if you do.
Minimizing Risks Associated With Lip Tattoos
Like with any other type of tattoo, infections and allergic reactions to the ink are potential risks. Due to the amount of bacteria in the mouth, inner lip tattoos are particularly prone to the risk of infection. But, often, it’s not taking adequate care of the wound that is the culprit.
Consult with your tattoo artist and they will be able to guide you in the right direction. We’ll also give you a few tips to minimize an infection.
Find the Right Artist
The skill and safety procedures that an artist takes are equally important. Find out about their safety and if they sterilize needles and equipment. A professional tattoo artist that takes pride in their safety procedures will also be able to give the best pointers and guidance. A cautious tattoo artist is always the right one! It’s also important to seek an experienced artist that has done lip tattoos in the past.
Use Mouth Rinse
Using an antibacterial mouth rinse or mouthwash is essential to warding off an infection. You can use a drugstore brand such as LIsterine but make sure to use it directly after eating, drinking, or smoking. While mouth rinses are okay, do not use soap of any kind.
Also, while it’s healing, use little toothpaste and be extra cautious when brushing teeth.
That’s right — no kissing allowed for about a week after your lip tattoo appointment. This is a bummer but the transfer of foreign bacteria to your tattoo is anything but ideal. You can’t just use mouth rinse afterwards. Too much could cause inflamed tissue and swelling.
How Much Do Lip Tattoos Cost
Initial lip tattoos will cost anywhere between $50 – $100 depending on complexity and expertise. As mentioned, the first touch up is often free. With lip tattoo touch ups, you can expect to be charged below $50.
Since lip tattoos are temporary, you’ll have to decide if investing money into the initial tattoo and touch ups will be worth it. But fortunately, you don’t have to commit to touch ups. You can discontinue the tattoo at any time and let it gradually fade out.
To Wrap Up
The beauty of lip tattoos is perhaps in it’s subtlety. With a lip tattoo, you can be as bold as you want — when you want to. Don’t be afraid to try new things and explore yourself. After all, lip tattoos are only temporary. Life is short, so let’s live a little.