What is Permanent Lip Liner?

M.C. Huguelet

Permanent lip liner is a type of tattoo applied to the outer contours of the lips to define their shape. It may be used to correct abnormalities of the mouth area, or may be purely cosmetic. While permanent lip liner offers convenience to those who wish to avoid applying regular lip liner each day, it has several potential drawbacks — including high costs, fading, and changing styles — which should be considered before committing to the procedure.

Permanent lip liner is a cosmetic tattoo.
Permanent lip liner is a cosmetic tattoo.

Some individuals seek permanent lip liner to cover up a scar or correct an abnormal lip shape. It may also be sought by those whose lips have lost color, firmness, and definition as part of the aging process. Still others view it as a time-saving measure which reduces the need for daily cosmetic application.

There are several drawbacks to permanent lip liner.
There are several drawbacks to permanent lip liner.

During a permanent lip lining procedure, a cosmetic dermatologist or aesthetician normally draws a liner template on the client’s mouth and shows it to her for approval. The client’s mouth is then numbed with a topical anesthetic, and the liner template is traced over with a tattooing tool. This tool injects pigmentation beneath the client’s skin, leaving a permanent line around the lips.

Immediately following the procedure, the client’s lips may swell, and the newly pigmented area may appear darker than desired. Over the following days, however, this swelling will disappear and the lined area will fade in color. In many cases, clients may find that the resultant color is lighter than what they had envisioned. This is often because the aesthetician or dermatologist has applied the permanent lip liner conservatively, as it is easier to later darken it if needed than to lighten it. Thus, some clients find it necessary to return for a touch-up application a few weeks after their first visit.

Before committing to permanent lip liner, individuals should consider the potential drawbacks associated with the procedure. First of all, it can be quite expensive, especially when multiple application sessions are required. Secondly, as with all tattoos, permanent lip liner normally begins to fade and blur over time, making touch-up procedures necessary every few years to maintain a crisp line. Finally, trends in lip color and shape tend to change over time. Thus, a shape and shade of permanent lip liner once considered desirable may fall out of fashion, potentially leading permanent liner wearers to regret their choice or resort to costly and painful tattoo removal procedures.

Individuals who undergo collagen injections should wait at least several months before having a permanent lip liner procedure.
Individuals who undergo collagen injections should wait at least several months before having a permanent lip liner procedure.

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Discussion Comments


My sister in-law had her lips lined and a day later her whole mouth was covered in cold sores. She went through hell with the pain. What could have caused that? Allergy to the pigmentation that was used? The anesthetic? The needles used were new so I don't think it came from that. There are no traces of the permanent liner left. Is there a way they could test for allergies before doing the permanent procedure?


I had permanent lip makeup applied a few weeks ago. It's supposed to be a dark pink but it's something in between blue and purple! Why did this happen?! I'm so disappointed.


@turkay1-- I've been getting a permanent lip lining procedure about every year and a half for the past five years. I have not had anything go wrong with mine and I think it looks beautiful. I'm not fond of applying makeup all the time, I don't have the time. I have my eyes and lips tattooed and they last me a little over a year. Tattoo makeup could last longer but I tend to wash my face a lot and I also get exfoliating treatments periodically. That's why mine doesn't last very long. But it looks very natural and I'm happy with it.

Of course, things could go wrong during a lip lining procedure. Unfortunately, not every tattoo artist is a professional. So you have to do your research and find someone who is very experienced. Before I started working with my tattoo artist, I spoke to some of her customers and requested pictures of her previous work. As long as you're working with a good artist, the procedure should be successful.


Although I'm tired of having to line my lips every time I apply lipstick, I don't think I'm courageous enough to get a permanent lip lining procedure. Cosmetic tattoos scare me because if things go wrong, you can't just wipe it off. You're stuck with it for at least some time.

I have a friend who had her eyebrows tattooed with color. The color came out way too dark for her and she couldn't do anything to fix it. She ended up regretting it.

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