woman with lip tattoo

A Lip Tattoo: Should You Get Ink On Your Lips?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Body modification trends come and go, even though the modifications themselves tend to be permanent. One year, armband tattoos are in style, and the next year multiple piercings are trending. Lately, lip tattoos have been getting plenty of attention as celebrities have revealed tattoos on their inner lips and the demand for permanent lipstick and makeup has increased.

A lip tattoo is different from other forms of tattooing. If you are considering getting inked on the inside of your mouth, here's what you need to know.

Types of Lip Tattoos

When people talk about getting lip tattoos, they are usually talking about either tattooing the inner part of their lower lip, or getting "lip liner" or "lipstick" tattooed onto the outer portion of the lips.

Inner lip tattoos are usually small pictures or short words inked into the flesh on the inside of the mouth. You can only see the tattoos if a person opens their mouth and pulls the lower lip down.

Lipstick or lip liner tattoos, on the other hand, are a type of permanent makeup. Lip liner tattoos can usually make the lips look fuller, while lipstick tattoos can eliminate or minimize the need for putting on regular lipstick every morning.

Are Lip Tattoos Riskier Than Other Tattoos?

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration points out, all tattoos have risks. The risks most commonly associated with tattoos include infection, an allergic reaction to the ink, swelling, rashes or scarring.

Inner lip tattoos might be particularly prone to infection because of the high numbers of bacteria that make a home in your mouth, Global News notes. There's also a risk of irritation at the tattoo site, especially if you eat acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, vinegar or tomatoes, or if you smoke or chew tobacco.

It's also worth noting that lip tattoos, both inside and outside of the mouth, tend to fade more quickly than other types of tattoo. Inner lip tattoos are most likely to fade away because of the way the inner lip area heals. For many people, an inner lip tattoo will only last for a few years. In some cases, the tattoo might fade away entirely after just a few months.

Lipstick or lip liner tattoos won't completely fade away like inner lip tattoos, but the color on them does fade with time, as your lips produce new skin cells and older cells slough off. Allure notes that permanent makeup tattoos often use pigment rather than tattoo ink, which creates a more natural look but also increases the rate at which the color fades.

Finding a Tattoo Artist

While you can't eliminate the risks involved with getting a tattoo on your lips, you can significantly reduce the risk of complications or infections by choosing the right tattoo artist. Doing some research beforehand and getting recommendations from friends or family members who have tattoos can help you find the right fit.

It's a good idea to ask a tattoo artist to see pictures of past work and pictures of lip tattoos in particular. Visit the office or tattoo business where the work will be performed and pay attention to how clean it is. Additionally, some tattoo artists may refuse to do work on lips because of the risks, so you may need to shop around.

Lip Tattoo Preparation and After Care

There are a few things you can do before and after getting your lips tattooed to help minimize the risk of complications and to help the area heal. If you have a history of cold sores, you might consider taking anti-viral medication before tattooing the lips to reduce the chance of an outbreak.

Your tattoo artist will most likely recommend that you keep using antibacterial mouthrinse after you get the tattoo. You'll also want to be careful about what you eat or drink for the next few days. Some foods may be particularly irritating, such as spicy dishes, acidic foods, and hot beverages.

If you're unsure about how to care for your mouth after getting a tattoo on the lips, your tattoo artist can provide guidance and pointers. It might also be a good idea to check in with your dentist first to see what they think of it and to see if they can offer any tips for caring for your teeth and mouth afterward. And if you have any regrets, you can hide your new ink with a smile!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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