Similar to the fashion world, the sphere of beauty trends often comes full circle. Looks that were once en vogue quickly become passe, only to experience a second coming that is accompanied by a modern-day adaptation of some sort. Who would have thought that some of the most beloved ‘90s trends – like the bucket hat, French manicure, and antenna hair – would ever see the light of day again? But, alas, they are.
Another once-popular beauty trend is currently enjoying a revival is permanent makeup. Although, this time around, it's all about natural-looking, semi-permanent color. Case in point: Lip blushing. Here’s what you need to know about the pout-perfecting treatment.
The Lip Blushing Boom
These days, pared-down makeup routines and I-woke-up-like-this looks (hi, no-makeup makeup) are what many women are after. With little need to ‘apply your face’ every morning, it's no wonder why long-lasting, pigment-depositing treatments — like microblading for the brows — stay at the top of the beauty to-do list. And the lips are not to be excluded. According to Miranda Cyre, a lip blushing expert at Studio Sashiko in Los Angeles, cosmetic tattooing is popular. “This is the era of low maintenance, enhancing one's natural beauty, and confidence boosting, which is what a lot of my clients tell me they receive with this service,” she says.
Often paired with lip filler for balance and harmony (although not performed simultaneously, nor is it necessary to have filler), lip blushing creates a natural hue by restoring color to the border of the lip for the illusion of fullness, says Dominique Bossavy, a celebrity Nano Color Infusion® specialist. “As the industry has moved to more subtle enhancement outcomes, lip blushing is the ideal solution for low maintenance, naturally well-colored lips without having to reapply lipstick or gloss,” she explains.
But lip blushing isn't your grandma's permanent, tattooed-on, heavily outlined makeup of yesteryear. The techniques, devices, and pigments have considerably evolved for a much more natural look. Bossavy explains that back in the 1980s, cosmetic lip tattooing aimed to create a full-face makeup look often with conspicuous colors. “The industry has moved to a more subtle look that enhances the lip's natural color and invisible borders, creating a soft coloring and shape,” she shares.
If microblading is the gateway to semi-permanent, pigment-based beauty procedures, consider lip blushing the one that gets you hooked. According to Kimberly Culbertson, a master permanent makeup artist and owner of the Beauty Babe Club, permanent lip makeup is gaining popularity among women of all ages throughout the world. “It may sound scary to get lip color tattooed, but it's not the same as getting a traditional tattoo,” she says. The biggest point of differentiation: lip blushing utilizes organic and natural pigments and digitized pigment-placing devices for a natural finish. Old-school permanent makeup and more customary tattoos rely on pigment that is embedded deep within the skin, making it harder to remove.
Lip Blushing Basics
Today’s lip blush revolutionizes old, harsh lip liner tattoos to look realistic with a softer, more pixelated finish. “Lip blushing has taken off because it benefits everyone,” Cyre says. “It is a fairly low maintenance service with huge benefits.” Ideal for anyone looking to add some natural color to their lips, lip blushing is particularly a dream for aging lips with a receding vermillion border. “It’s great for making thin, uneven lips look full and smoothing the wrinkles that merge into the lips from the loss of collagen and volume,” Bossavy explains. And it's also suitable for men who want to improve their lip shape and treat uneven tones, Culbertson adds.
The modern-day method of enhancing the lips with color is also way less traumatic since lip blushing is a semi-permanent procedure. “That's the biggest change of them all,” Cyre shares. “We don't want results to last a lifetime, and we want them to fade so they can change with us as we age.” To accomplish this, a variety of pigments are used. “Some artists choose to solely use cosmetic tattoo pigments, while others will use a combination of those, as well as regular tattoo pigments,” she explains. “So, now, there isn't the risk of the pigments turning blue, green, or gray over time.” This also makes it possible to work on darker lips, which artists could not do in the past.
For best results, a comprehensive approach is needed. Bossavy always assesses the lip shape, fullness, and color to make the most of the treatment. “In the instance of faded lips and a lack of color and border definition, only addressing volume with filler can make the white, faded area of the lip tissue appear puffy without making the lips more voluptuous,” she explains. “Yet, with a balanced design, lip blushing can further enhance the addition of filler in strategic places for added volume if needed.”
Every semi-permanent makeup artist has their technique, but lip blushing treatments are relatively comparable and include:
- Consultation: As with any procedure or treatment, a consultation allows the client and artist to discuss and review aesthetic goals and shade preferences (bring inspiration photos). Bossavy says to base color choices on skin tone and undertones. “This is important since the final result will be directly affected by your lip's natural under and overtone,” she explains, adding that the standard Fitzpatrick scale often helps determine the best color outcome. “Many clients need melanin correction to lift the darkness in their lips, a process called lip neutralization,” she adds.
- Shaping: Next comes the lip shape, which Cyre calls the “mapping” period. “This is where the artist creates better lip symmetry and balance to the lip, as well as the illusion of more volume by slightly extending the borders of the lip line while still working on the lip tissue,” she says, noting that it is not possible for everyone. Taking the lip border too far can result in unnaturally exaggerated lips. It's important to have realistic expectations and know that what works for one person may not suit anothes.
- Prep: After finalizing the shape and shade, the outline is sealed and waterproofed. Then, numbing cream is applied to the lips to maintain comfort through the tattooing process.
- Pigment: Finally, pigment is deposited into the lips with a digital device and a sterile needle. Culbertson says that this part of the treatment involves layering pigment onto the lips to make them look as natural as possible. Expect to spend anywhere from one to four hours in the chair, depending on your skin.
Remember that lip blushing is semi-permanent, so your newly colored and enhanced pout will last for anywhere from one to five years. “Color retention depends on your health, lifestyle, and the proper aftercare,” Bossavy says. The darker the color selected, the longer it will last, though Culbertson notes that oily skin may result in a faster breakdown of pigment. Follow post-treatment instructions to a T and be sure to return for any follow up appointments. Most lip blushes require a touch-up session after the initial application (similar to microblading), and Cyre says a third session may be necessary to perfect the shade or when requesting neutralization. From there, most artists recommend annual touch ups. In the meantime, exfoliating the lips, keeping them moisturized, and protecting them from the sun are all essential for long-lasting color.
Fuller Lips with a Bit of Color
Sure, lip fillers are the quickest and easiest way to add volume to thin-looking lips, but they don't do much for restoring color to the pout. With age, it's normal for women to lose lip volume and the vermillion border to lose definition. This combination can cause the lips to look thinner, Bossavy says, adding that blushing offers a color-restoring effect that is sheer and similar to a tinted lip gloss. “It's subtle and well defined without harsh lip lines,” she shares.
Creating a customized hue allows for a your-lips-but-better look. Cyre likes to collaborate with her clients to design a specific color's tone and depth. “We can match the lips to a favorite lipstick, liner, or even a photo of the preferred color,” she explains. Your lip blushing artist can also make adjustments if the color ends up being too light or too dark. Bossavy says clients with naturally darker lips can lighten and brighten gray tones through the process of neutralization, though it is a more complex process that requires additional expertise.
Stick to Lipstick & Lip Gloss If…
For the most part, lip blushing is safe for the vast majority of people, but Cyre does advise that certain conditions may drive you away from treatment. “Individuals with wrinkled lips, almost black lips, damage and discoloration from smoking, or tough skin are usually not well-suited for lip blushing,” she says. “Also, anyone with a compromised immune system, as well as lip conditions like cold sores, split and cracked lips, bruised lips, or dry lips, should avoid lip blush until the skin returns to normal.” The reason? “These lip conditions usually do not take or will create an undesirable healed result,” she cautions.
Just because you get your lips blushed doesn’t mean you can’t play with your lip look. On nights (or days) when you want a little more color or a different finish, it's perfectly fine to layer lipstick, lip liner, or lip gloss as usual. “Lip blushing produces a natural, well-balanced lip color and is not a replacement for lipstick,” Bossavy says. “Lipstick colors have more density, and they layer over the outer lip skin.”
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