Updated on April 24, 2024
6 min read

What to Consider When Getting an Inner Lip Tattoo

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In recent years, lip tattoos have become more widely known. They include inner lip tattoos as well as permanent lip liner or lipstick. In this article, we’ll discuss the trend of inner lip tattooing and highlight some things to consider before getting a lip tattoo.

What Are Inner Lip Tattoos?

Inner lip tattoos are small images or short words tattooed inside a person’s lip, usually the lower lip. Unlike permanent lipstick tattoos, they aren’t visible when someone’s mouth is closed.

Why are Inner Lip Tattoos Trendy?

Like many body art and fashion trends, celebrities have played a major role in popularizing inner lip tattoos. They became widely known in the 2010s, as celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Kesha, and Kendall Jenner revealed them.

Other factors that may play into the popularity of inner lip tattoos include:

  • Relatively low cost ⁠— Compared to more common skin tattoos, inner lip tattoos can be much less expensive, often costing less than $125.
  • Quick healing time ⁠— Inner lip cells regenerate quickly.
  • Fading over time ⁠— Inner lip tattoos often fade within 5 years due to the fast cell turnover of inner mouth tissue. For some people, this may be a plus.

How Painful Are Inner Lip Tattoos?

Inner lip tattoos are often considered to be more painful than some more common tattoos.

However, different people have different pain tolerance levels, so what one person considers very painful may feel mild to another. Other factors can also affect how painful a given tattoo is experienced.

Pain Level Comparisons

Regarding sensitivity, inner lip tattoos are often put in the same category as those on the ribcage, sternum, shins, and feet.

These areas either have a high concentration of nerve endings or are especially bony and low in body fat. They’re generally considered the most painful areas to have tattooed.

By comparison, tattoos on the back, outer chest, outer arms, and thighs tend to be some of the least painful, as these areas have more fat protecting them and/or fewer sensitive nerve endings.

Factors Influencing Pain Sensitivity

While the inner lip itself is more sensitive than many other parts of the body, other factors may reduce the amount of pain you feel, including:

  • Your individual pain threshold ⁠— Some people have a higher tolerance for pain in general or in certain parts of their body than others.
  • Tattoo size ⁠— Inner lip tattoo designs tend to be small; the smaller they are, the less time they will take. This means you’ll be in pain for a shorter amount of time.
  • Technique ⁠— Many inner lip tattoos don’t go very deep to avoid the ink showing up on the outside of your mouth. This makes them less painful than they would otherwise be.

How Much Does an Inner Lip Tattoo Cost?

You can expect to pay between $50 and $200 for an inner lip tattoo. The exact cost will depend on a few factors, including:

  • The experience and reputation of your tattoo artist
  • Your location
  • The complexity of the tattoo

For example, a small, simple lip tattoo design will likely cost less than a complex design done by a high-profile artist.

Inner Lip Tattoo Procedure

After discussing the design and procedure with your tattoo artist and signing the required forms, an inner lip tattoo session will likely go as follows:

  1. Preparation ⁠— You or the artist can pull out your inner lip, and they’ll wipe it dry. You must keep it dry and held in place for the entire procedure.
  2. Inking ⁠— Once your inner lip surface is ready, the artist can begin working. They’ll inject ink with a tattoo needle to create your design. Expect to hear and feel the vibration of the tattoo machine.
  3. Final touches ⁠— Once your design is finished, the artist will wipe away any excess ink and go over the final result with you.

This entire process will not take very long since the tattoo won’t be very large. Tattoo artists also tend to keep inner lip work relatively shallow since deeper ink could become visible on the outside of your mouth.

Complications and Risks of Inner Lip Tattoos

Due to its location, an inner lip tattoo may be riskier than more conventional tattoos. The soft tissue inside your mouth differs from the skin and responds differently to tattooing.

Bacterial Infections and Swelling

Bacterial infection is the most important risk to avoid with an inner lip tattoo. The tattooed area can become infected if you aren’t careful because it’s inside your mouth and can easily be irritated by food and drinks.

While some swelling early on is common, an infected lip can swell, making it painful and difficult to eat or drink. Good aftercare is essential to prevent this, as is choosing a reputable artist who uses sterile tools.

Because inner lip ink tends to fade fast (see below), you’d need frequent touch-ups to keep the tattoo looking the same. This could increase your risk of infection, as your inner lip would be repeatedly wounded.

Allergic Reactions

Though uncommon, it’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to tattoo ink. If this happens, you may experience itching, swelling, or hives in the hours following your tattoo session.

In severe cases, an allergic reaction may cause difficulty breathing. If this happens, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tattoo Longevity and Fading

While inner lip tattoos tend to heal quickly, they also tend to fade for the same reason. Depending on your preferences, this could be a positive or a negative.

The lining of your mouth (oral mucosa) has a rapid cell turnover rate compared to many other parts of your body. This means that old cells are quickly replaced, and tattoo ink will tend to fade.

An inner lip tattoo may begin to fade in just a few weeks if the ink isn’t very deep. If the ink is deep enough, there may still be a faint remnant of the tattoo after 5 years. But the design won’t remain sharp and clear for a long time.

How to Care for an Inner Lip Tattoo

Lip tattoos require proper aftercare to ensure a good result and reduce the risks mentioned above. Take the following steps to care for your lip while it heals:

  • Keep it clean — Your mouth is home to many bacteria, and you want to avoid an infection. Use an antibacterial alcohol-free mouthwash twice daily, and brush and floss your teeth as you usually would.
  • Cut out irritants Avoid spicy foods, anything acidic, alcoholic beverages, and mouthwashes while the tattoo heals. These can irritate your lips and prolong healing time. Smoking and vaping may also irritate your skin.
  • Avoid sharing bacteria — Kissing, oral sex, and sharing food or drinks will introduce additional bacteria to your mouth. It’s best to keep these to a minimum for the first two weeks after getting your tattoo.
  • Stay hydrated — Saliva plays an important role in the healing process for inner mouth tissue. Drink enough water throughout the day to ensure your mouth doesn’t get dry.
  • Be careful with touch-ups — This tattoo often fades in weeks or months, leading some to get them touched up. But touching them up too frequently can interfere with healing and may end up blurring the design.

Summary

Inner lip tattoos have become increasingly popular over the past decade or so. Their small size, low cost, and often temporary nature have contributed to the trend.

Before getting a lip tattoo, know the risks involved. Discuss it with an experienced tattoo artist. Consider talking to your dentist, especially if you have any existing oral health conditions.

Last updated on April 24, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 24, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  5. Giulbudagian et al. “Safety of tattoos and permanent make-up: a regulatory view.” Archives of Toxicology, 2020.
  6. Muñoz-Ortiz et al. “Dermatological and Ophthalmological Inflammatory, Infectious, and Tumoral Tattoo-Related Reactions: A Systematic Review.” The Permanente Journal, 2021.
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