Tried & tested: our digital editor tries a lip contour tattoo on for size

4 September 2023
By Fashion Quarterly

Chef’s kiss or sour lemons? Find out the look on FQ’s Louise Dunn’s face after a new-generation procedure designed to subtly enhance her pout.

Besides bimonthly highlights and the occasional employment of tanning drops, I’ve never committed to making any marked enhancements to my appearance. My mother, a beautiful olive-toned brunette, produced two daughters — one who shared her dark features, and one who did not. My pigment deprivation never concerned me growing up, but as I began to experiment with lipstick, it became
increasingly clear to me — and confirmed by the deft hands of a Bobbi Brown make-up artist under the fluorescent lights of a department store — that I have virtually no natural lip line to follow, so I recently began entertaining the idea of lip contouring. 

A far cry from the lip tattooing of the ’90s and early-2000s, today’s procedures promise a naturally flushed result that lasts 18 to 24 months before requiring a touch-up. This felt to me like a relatively low-risk, high-reward segue into the world of permanent make-up, but unlike my impulsive microbangs of summer ’21, the decision wasn’t something I could casually phase out of when I grew bored or changed my mind. I became increasingly nervous in the days leading up to my first appointment with cosmetic tattoo artist Tanya Catterall at Tāmakai Makaurau/ Auckland’s Lash Noir Ink, yet just when I was tempted to retreat back into the comfort of my non-committal zone, my vanity prevailed.

Lash Noir Ink offers three nano lip-contouring treatments that use fine needles to layer ‘pixels’ of your chosen colour onto your lips. Nano Aquarelle is the most realistic option, using a borderless technique; Nano Lip Blush is the most popular for increased definition and colour; and Nano Lip Illumination focuses on lightening pigmented or dark lips. All require an initial, more intense session, followed by a top-up four weeks later.

Step one — a lip liner pencil was used to draw the ideal shape for contouring.
Once Louise’s lip line was defined, her ideal colour was applied in gentle, sweeping strokes that alternated between each lip with a layer of numbing cream applied in between.
“Once the first session was complete, the mirror revealed a full, pigmented, glossy pout.”

To achieve my goal of more definition and a low-maintenance result, Catterall decided Nano Aquarelle’s translucent pigments were the best match for me. The consultation was thorough; we
discussed colours and compared swatches before Catterall used a bright red lip liner to craft my ideal shape then applied numbing cream. We made minor revisions to accentuate my cupid’s bow and landed on a hue that fell somewhere between my natural rosy undertones and my favourite discontinued lipstick. 

Once numb, it was time to begin the tattooing. I felt precise, thin strokes being etched into the outermost boundaries of my lips, and when Catterall progressed to the fuller parts, there was barely any pain at all. As she switched between my top and bottom lips while applying additional layers of numbing cream, I was able to relax.

Once the first session was complete, the mirror revealed a full, pigmented, glossy pout. My lips were tender, possibly a little swollen and remained that way for the next few days.

Although it felt like an immediate result, Catterall had managed my expectations around aftercare. For the next five days, I applied healing cream every few hours, drank through straw, took small bites, and avoided active skincare, lip gloss, sweating, swimming and sun exposure, while anticipating the colour to fade by up to 50%.

Ten days later, my lips had completely settled and I was waking up every morning to a very natural result and subtle improvement. Post-lip contouring, I can apply a light balm and head out the door looking polished and put together. I never have to worry about smudging my lipstick or leaving stubborn traces on glasses and mugs, and I have the perfect outline to follow when I do decide to rock a more intense colour — not that I’ve needed (or wanted) to.


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