What You Need to Know About Getting a Lip Tattoo

person looking at their mouth in the mirror

Whether you're a tattoo lover running out of space or someone wanting to get in on a quirky trend, inner lip tattoos are always an option. This delicate tattoo area is unique in that the ink won't exactly be permanent and the results can be unpredictable in how the ink with penetrate. In addition to that, most tattoo sites are easy to keep clean as they heal, whereas your mouth is constantly full of bacteria, saliva, changing pH, and so on, so aftercare can be a challenge. But if you're down for this distinct form of self-expression, read up on your preparation and care tips, and you'll be ready to go!

What to expect with your lip tattoo

  1. Prepare ahead of time.
    You won't be able to eat or drink for several hours after getting your tattoo, so eat a good meal ahead of time. Avoid alcohol, which can act as a blood thinner — not something you want while getting stabbed with a needle. After you eat, be sure to brush, floss, and rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash to ensure a healthy oral environment for your tattoo.
  2. It might hurt.
    Because the inner lip is dense with nerve endings, you could be in for a painful tattoo experience. However, it's pretty subjective! If you prepare yourself for the worst and it doesn't end up being that bad, then it'll just be a pleasant surprise.
  3. The swelling won't be that bad.
    It's normal for any tattoo to swell, so expect for your lip to be swollen for a couple days. Applying a cold pack to the outside of the area can provide some relief. If the swelling doesn't improve after a few days or seems to be getting worse, check in with your tattoo artist or visit your doctor to make sure you're not getting an infection.
  4. Inner lip tattoos don't last forever.
    Have you ever noticed that injuries inside your mouth seem to heal faster than elsewhere on your body? That's because the inside of your mouth is made up of mucosal cells, which regenerate very quickly. That's good news for your tattoo because it'll heal faster, but also bad news because it will fade much more quickly, too. The skin on your inner lip is also very thin and rubs against your teeth all day, causing even more fading.

How to care for your lip tattoo

  1. Be careful with food and drinks.
    Anything you eat and drink after getting your lip tattoo has the potential to irritate it. Especially in the beginning, avoid anything acidic as it can begin to break down the tattoo ink, causing fading. Mouthwash can help neutralize your mouth's pH from any acidic food and drinks. Also, stay away from spicy foods or overly hot drinks that could cause irritation.
  2. Rinse your mouth out.
    It's extremely important to use mouthwash, preferably one that's alcohol-free, multiple times a day to keep harmful bacteria from causing infection at the tattoo area. Rinse every time you eat, and especially if you smoke.
  3. Follow instructions.
    Your tattoo artist will give you specific aftercare instructions for making sure your lip tattoo heals properly. This may include applying ointment, keeping the area dry, and not picking at any scabbing that forms over the area.

The most important thing to remember is that bacteria is your biggest enemy. Keep your mouth clean with regular brushing, flossing and lots of mouthwash to prevent infection. If your gums start feeling irritated, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Also keep an eye out for allergic reactions or inflammation problems, such as granulomas, and talk with your doctor.

As long as you're taking care of your lip tattoo, it should be good to go to show off — or keep to yourself, that's the fun, right?

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.