If you're looking for an alternative to temporary lip fillers or you're sick of applying lipstick, lip blush — a semi-permanent tattooing procedure — may be the perfect cosmetic enhancement.
"Good Morning America" sat down with Kahli Smith, owner of Fiction Cosmetic Tattooing in Los Angeles, and board certified dermatologist Dr. Vicki Rapaport to learn more about the trend.
What is lip blush?
Lip blush, also known as lip blushing, is a cosmetic procedure that is performed by a body art practitioner (licensed tattoo artist), that improves the shape, color and definition of the lips, according to Smith.
Semi-permanent, colored pigment is inserted into each lip through a series of passes to change the overall appearance. Essentially, lip blush eliminates the need to apply lipstick.
The transformation leaves the illusion of fuller, yet natural looking pigmented lips.
On average, lip blush costs $500 to $800 for the initial procedure. A touch-up procedure can cost upwards of $300.
What to expect during the procedure
First, cosmetic tattoo artists provide clients with a consultation to get a better idea of what they are looking for in terms of shape and color.
"I definitely ask the client what they want, but I ultimately make a professional decision in terms of what's going to look best and what is realistic," Smith said.
Next, the lips are analyzed and drawn out to create symmetry while staying within the lip line. It's important to point out that lips cannot be over lined during this procedure because the skin absorbs pigment differently in comparison to makeup such as removable lip liner, according to Smith.
"I'll draw their lip shape in red so there is a very clear definition and then go in with white around the lips to sharpen that up even more so there is no question as to where we are tattooing," Smith added. "It can definitely look kind of stark, a little clown-like at this point, but this step is important so we can make necessary adjustments as needed."
After the drawing is solidified, topical lidocaine is applied as a numbing agent to the surface of the lips for around 30 minutes. Saran wrap is placed as a cover to make the lips feel numb.
Then, semi-permanent pigment is applied as a soft lip line.
"I do the line of the lips very, very softly. Not a hard line whatsoever," Smith said. "That's where a lot of people get worried thinking it is going to look like old school lip liner. With this procedure, that's not the case at all. Lip blush gives you a completely natural look."
A secondary numbing agent is applied to the skin to make the client feel comfortable before a very light wash of shading is applied -- typically two complete passes per lip -- to slowly build up the color. At this point, it's typical for the lips to look a little swollen, Smith said.
"There are tons of nerve endings in our lips, [so] they can be a little sensitive," Smith said. "But we do keep them very, very numb during the procedure. Towards the end, it can start to sort of feel like a sunburn — a little sting, but nothing too painful. You feel some spots, but nothing is intolerable."
"The pain is not too bad," Tess Hendersen, Smith's lip blush client, added. "At first, it's like a tickle or scratch and it gets more uncomfortable as the numbing cream wears off."
The entire procedure typically takes around four hours.
"I am so happy with my results and have recommended the procedure to many friends already," Hendersen said. "I just feel like I can go makeup free and still emphasize my favorite features."
What to expect after the procedure
Once the desired shade is attained, clients are presented with aftercare instructions.
"The recovery was super easy," Hendersen said. "It looks very bold at first and flakes off within a few days. I was able to go out the same night without worrying."
Lips should be kept moisturized with a balm during the healing process as they can feel dry for up to two weeks, according to Smith.
Clients are advised to not exercise, or sweat in general, for a week following the treatment, she added. Dark liquids and whitening toothpastes should also be avoided during this time.
While it may sound silly, kissing is also off the table while you are healing.
"If you are experiencing a large a mount of swelling, you can ice the treatment area," Smith said. "Make sure there is a cloth barrier between the lips and the ice to prevent your freshly tattooed lips from getting wet. When going to bed in the evening of your treatment, prop your head up with a pillow. This will also help to reduce swelling."
How long will lip blush last?
On average, lip blush pigment fades about 40 to 60% after the initial procedure is completed, according to Smith.
An annual touch-up can be performed for enhanced color anytime within three years. However, it's entirely up to the client as to whether they would like to go back for a perfecting session or a touch-up procedure. Most clients are satisfied with their color after one or two sessions, according to Smith.
"Typically, people don't want a touch-up because they're looking for a flash of color to the lips," Smith said. "It really varies by personal preference. If you want the color to look the same as it does on the day you have the initial procedure done, I suggest returning for a touch-up two months later to plump up the color."
Benefits versus risks: A dermatologist weighs in
Medically speaking, there appear to be no concerns with lip blushing and the products cosmetic tattooists use when they are administered correctly, according Rapaport.
As with many other cosmetic procedures, it is important to do your due-diligence and conduct research in order to find a reputable artist and sterile studio before making an appointment. Be sure to understand there can be some risks associated with the use of unsanitary tools such as infection, scarring and Herpes, according to Rapaport.
"We always think of the risks first," Rapaport said. "Seeing what's out there on social media, you really need to be careful, especially in this day and age. People have to go to a reputable place where they are wearing gloves from the beginning to the bitter end. Ask them about how they sterilize their equipment. Look around and make sure the place is clean. Go with your friends' recommendations and make sure the operator has all of their correct credentials."
"In general, ink is safe," she added. "But as with any tattooing, there is a small chance for an allergy to occur."
The Beverly Hills-based dermatologist urges those who are interested in lip blushing to not be deceived by some photos shared on social media as swelling typically occurs during the procedure and eventually minimizes while healing.
"I like the idea that lip blush is a little cheaper and more affordable than lip filler, but it will never give the plumpness that filler will give you," Rapaport said. "You have to remember it's literally going to be your same lip, but with a permanent lip color on. It's not going to be that much bigger, so do not get fooled by before and after photos. It will give you what you already have: what your size is and what your shape is, but just a tiny bit more obvious."