Whether you’re looking to define your brows, enhance your eyes or add a bit of colour and fullness to your lips, cosmetic tattooing is a popular procedure that you might’ve seen popping up lately in beauty land.
It’s commonly performed on the eyes, lips and eyebrows, and basically provides an alternative to makeup. Because honestly – who doesn’t want to spend less time getting ready in the morning?
It can also be used to disguise scarring (particularly after surgical procedures), and can assist with a whole heap of other skin concerns – such as discolouration and dark spots. Very cool.
But while it’s a cosmetic procedure that’s been around for yonks, it’s useful to note that cosmetic tattooing looks very different to what it did 10 or 20 years ago – it’s come a long way.
With more and more people looking for easier, more convenient options, the popularity of cosmetic tattooing has exploded, and the methods and techniques have evolved along with it. The major difference can be seen in the pigments used – the results look way more natural than they used to.
Yep, that blue/green eyebrow tattoo situation is officially a thing of the past. Phew!
These days procedures such as semi-permanent makeup – which is very similar to cosmetic tattooing – offer an alternative option that fades slowly after around 12 to 18 months (because it doesn’t penetrate as deep into the skin), meaning you can go back and choose a different shape or colour or just re-do the process.
For eyebrows, the process is called micro-blading – a popular procedure we guarantee you’ve heard of before.
So, what’s actually involved in cosmetic tattoo procedures? And what kinds of results do people get?
Well, we’re about to show you.
Because in case you missed it, Mamamia‘s Leigh Campbell has recently had her lips tattooed – and You Beauty podcast host Kelly McCarren asked Leigh ALL of the pervy questions about the procedure on a recent episode.
In case you need a refresher, here’s what Leigh’s lips looked like before:
Apparently lip tattooing is a thing that’s been on Leigh’s radar for a while now, as she shared with Kelly.
After following a Queensland technician on Instagram for a few years, she finally took the leap and reached out.
“Her name is Sabina, and she’s based on the Gold Coast – I started following her ten thousand years ago, and for four years I have wanted to fly up to the Gold Coast and get it done.”
“I just really admired her work – she does scar covering, and she does incredible nipples for people that have had mastectomies. She’s really talented.”
As Leigh goes on to share, she’s undergone micro-blading in the past, but didn’t love the results.
“I was so nervous because I regretted my brow tattoo. I liked it for a year and then it faded really blurry and pink. Apparently the ink back then – and this was 10 years ago – changed a lot, there’s a lot more warmth.”
Now, when it comes to what the actual lip tattooing procedure involved, Leigh said it’s “a long appointment” and you’ll need to set aside at least two hours for the whole thing.
While micro-blading is usually performed using a small blade (where the technician basically draws fine lines that mimic the natural hair of the brows), lip tattooing is performed using sterile needles in a tattooist gun.
Yep, like an actual tattoo gun!
First off, an anaesthetic cream is applied to the region prior to treatment.
“The first thing they do is whack the numbing cream on your lips and some glad wrap and you have to wait for half an hour. Then, you’re given a big book of all the different results,” she said.
Obviously there are many different colour options to choose from, and your technician will help evaluate your individual preferences to find the perfect mix for you.
For Leigh, she wanted more definition and a tiny bit of added fullness, while still having a natural-looking colour.
“My lips kind of don’t have a defined edge – pigment just went into skin, if that makes sense,” she explained.
“It’s actually called the vermilion border – it’s where your lip colour and your lip ends and your face starts. But mine kind of just blended.”
“So, I wanted a more defined line, and I wanted to go a tiny bit over to make them a bit bigger. I said I wanted them to be my lips but better – a peachy, rosy nude. I want it to just look like my lip colour.”
The longest part of the process? “The mixing of the pigment.”
“There’s all different brands and different colours she can mix.”
After picking out a colour and taking off the numbing cream, the technician then used a bright orange lip liner and “meticulously” lined Leigh’s lips.
It’s worth noting that you can also choose to just have lip liner tattooed, instead of the whole lip, depending on your individual preference.
All up, Leigh said that part took about 15 minutes.
“Then you lie down – and what she does first is the liner. She does one whole pass around your whole lip. Then, she almost cross-patches all over the lips – like, quite haphazardly.”
“I think that kind of opens the skin a bit so it [the pigment] can get in. She said if at any point it starts to hurt, we can take a five-minute break and put more numbing cream on. I could not feel a thing.”
“Now, when I had my brows done, I found that very painful and I’m a baby when it comes to pain.”
“I asked her about her numbing cream and she said it was a prescription,” shared Leigh. “I think most places use over-the-counter – because your lips are very vascular and very sensitive.”
In terms of what she was asked to do to prep before the procedure, she said, “You have to stop taking fish oil, no paracetamol or anything that can thin your blood – no alcohol.”
“She [the technician] tells you all of this stuff in the lead-up, because the more you bleed the harder it is for her to see where the colour is going.”
“It started to feel really stingy and painful. It was like dragging, dragging, dragging. I told her I could bare it, but we topped up the numbing cream, waited for five minutes and had a chat – and then that’s all I needed.”
Here’s what Leigh’s lips looked like immediately after the procedure.
“When we were done she talked me through the aftercare and told me I was going to be very swollen. Of course, we’d caused a lot of trauma to the lip area, and it was going to be very bright. It fades to about 40 per cent of the colour she actually puts in – so you want to be prepared for that!”
“She gave me a tattoo cream which is an antiseptic but also very hydrating, and cotton buds – because it’s very important that you don’t touch your lips.”
“It’s an open wound – so you need to avoid bacteria and apply that constantly for the first week. She also gives you a little straw.”
“Because of the wound healing, if you don’t take an antihistamine or Nurofen, you’ll get more collagen production in the area and plump the lips. However, if you do take an antihistamine or Nurofen – the swelling will go down sooner,” explains Leigh.
“I chose to take those, as I was going out to dinner – because the plumping is not going to last forever, anyway.
“I got to dinner and as it [the numbing cream] was wearing off – it was uncomfortable because my lips were really swollen.”
“The morning after I was really surprised – I thought I’d need more panadol and Nurofen but there was no more pain from there.”
The next day, she said the swelling had pretty much gone, but the colour was extremely intense and the flaking started. She said this usually lasts three to five days. “I would say I was extremely dry for two weeks.”
“At three weeks, the dryness has gone, the middle of the lip has started to fade a lot – but the outside, not as much yet. So, I’ve probably got about 10 per cent more fading to go,” shared Leigh.
“I’ve just gone for a really hydrating lip balm and SPF lip balm during the day, because it’s so important with lip tattoos to wear sunscreen.”
At the two-month mark, you can go back for a top-up.
“So I’ve made my top-up appointment and I’m willing to fly back and forth. However, people with a ‘your-lips-but-better’ [look] often only need one session.”
It generally lasts a year or two and then continues to fade to the colour of your lips, but more defined and more outlined.
Sooo, what’s the damage?
“The full price was $1,250. It’s not cheap. I think the touch-ups are about $150 – because she’ll just fix up any patchiness or refine the outline.”
“I’m so happy.”
So there you have it!
Wanna hear what other women’s experiences with cosmetic tattooing?
Below, we asked three women from the You Beauty Facebook community to share their experiences with cosmetic tattooing – what they got done, how it went and if they would recommend it.
Here’s what they said.
I had eyebrow tattooing in April 2021. I’m 50 years old and my eyebrow hairs were starting to fall out with menopause. I love them now!
While I would recommend it to others experiencing thinning brows, if I’m completely honest, I found it to be incredibly painful. The needle goes along your sinuses and you sneeze a lot during the procedure. It felt like I had the flu when I left.
While I really like the results, I would probably not get it again and I didn’t go back for top-ups because of the pain.
This picture was taken a month after it was done:
Image: One month after brow tattooing (supplied).
I wanted to get cosmetic tattooing because I had a baby and had less time to worry about makeup. My natural brows are very fair and without having my brows done, I looked tired and my brother was always asking if I had a headache.
So, I decided to have my eyebrows micro-bladed and shaded. Since then, I’ve also had a lash enhancement (eyeliner tattooing).
The procedure for the eyeliner tattooing was fine – it was a little stingy, particularly on the lash line. In terms of the micro-blading/brow tattooing procedure – it just made me sneeze a lot! My technician was very thorough and a perfectionist when it came to planning out my brows, which was very reassuring.
I love the final result. It gives me more confidence to leave the house with no or minimal makeup.
I’ve had one top-up the year after I got my brows done, and that’s when I also decided to get the eyeliner done. That was about four years ago. I’d definitely recommend it!
I’ve had my eyebrows micro-balded. I got them done because I think I have very unruly brows, with absolutely no shape at all – and I wanted my brows to be more of a focal point of my face.
As for the procedure, I was given strict instructions to get some numbing cream made up at the compound pharmacy. However, even with the numbing cream, I could still feel the tiny cuts going along my brow line. It wasn’t terribly painful, though.
I’ve had three appointments so far and I try to go every 18 months to have the colour freshened up.
I would definitely recommend it!
So, there you have it! Four women who have had different types of cosmetic tattooing – from lips to eyes and brows.
While the risks of cosmetic tattooing are minimal in most cases, just keep in mind that such treatments are not suitable for everyone – so it’s always best to have a consultation with a professional.
Feature image: Supplied; Instagram /@leighacampbell
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