The Relationship Between Lip Tissue Types And Pigment Retention

Tracey Simpson is the founder and Director of Natural Enhancement (UK) Ltd, exclusive distributors of Biotek permanent makeup products in the UK. She has been practicing micro-pigmentation for nearly two decades. Within this editorial she will disclose some of her knowledge and experience.


Most lip procedure problems stem from the lack of proper information concerning lip tissue. To understand lips you must first define the three types of skin found in the area of the mouth.

Lip Tissue -Type 1

Generally, there are three areas of the body where implanted pigment will not hold long-term – the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and the lip mucosa. These areas respond to micro-pigmentation differently than other parts of the body.

Tissue type 1 is thin skin anatomically recognised as being between skin and mucous tissue. It has a vast blood supply making it extremely vascular and this can affect pigment retention – notably, bleeding during the procedure can carry the pigment out of the skin.

The vascular nature of this tissue type gives lips their natural colour and influences the final pigmented result. When the skin is warm the lips appears pink and healthy – when it’s cold they pull a blue cast and lose colour intensity, as the blood vessels constrict. These changes have an impact on the implanted colour.

You may notice that the natural lip colouring of mature clients fades with age. This is directly related to circulation of blood to the head and blood vessels narrowing with plaque.  Mature clients who have lost the colour and definition of their lips are excellent candidates for lip enhancements especially if their chosen colour achieves a natural lip look.

Tissue type 1 has many nerve endings making it very sensitive therefore making implantation difficult as the client’s tolerance level may subside.

Although excellent results can be achieved with a second appli­cation of colour the longevity of this procedure is severely inhibited due to the nature of this type of skin.  This is the most difficult type of skin to pigment in relation to pigment retention. It will lose up to 70% of the colour density during the healing process.

Lip Tissue – Type 2

The least understood type of lip skin is the vermilion ridge. It is a light linear protrusion that encircles the lips and defines the transitional boarder between the lip tissue and the normal facial skin.

It has an opaque appearance – almost white in colour. Pigment implanted into this tissue type will appear vivid and will not be affected by the blue undertone of tissue type1.

If the vermilion ridge protrudes from the skin avoid obscuring the ridge completely as the result may look artificial. Instead “flirting” into the ridge will give a fuller effect without compromising a natural appearance. A natural look can be achieved, however, if the ridge if it is totally flat without protrusion or elevation.

Further consideration must also be given to the white hue of the ridge because this reflects light (especially on the upper lip) giving the lips a fuller appearance. This feature will be lost if pigment is applied entirely over the ridge, resulting in an artificial appearance.

The vermillion ridge is able to retain pigment well, but not as effectively as normal skin. Generally, this type of skin will lose up to 50% of the pigment in the healing process.

Lip Tissue -Type 3

The last area of the mouth that we need to consider is the skin just above the vermilion ridge. This skin is normal skin, much thicker than tissue type 1 and will accept colour willingly losing only 40% of the colour density in the healing process.

This skin has fewer blood vessels than tissue type 1 and 2 and has deeper nerve endings and is therefore less sensitive.

Lip tissue type 3 loses pigment at the rate of up to 40%.

Lip tissue type 2 loses up to 50%.

Lip tissue type 1 loses pigment up to 70%.

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