A makeup tattooist is urging women to exercise caution when taking advantage of the expanding industry.

Michelle O'Byrne is among a growing number of experts applying semi-permanent colour to lips and eyes in New Zealand.

High-profile sports stars are especially keen to avoid smudges and save time on their daily beauty regime. Even men are joining in, with at least one having a moustache inked on.

O'Byrne said there was no national register and, because no medical training was required, the practice was not regulated by the Medical Council.

The Health Ministry has basic hygiene guidelines for all skin piercers and tattooists but no plans to regulate the practice.

"There are a lot of shoddy people out there and it has been a very mucky industry in the past," said O'Byrne. "It very much comes down to training and setting a standard on the importance of hygiene, which is what I'm trying to do."

The procedure differs from normal tattooing by using iron oxide for the colour rather than harsh ink. The colour is designed to last between two and five years.

"It can't be for a lifetime because we age, and you don't want a Cleopatra sort of eyeliner drooping down your face when you're 70," said O'Byrne.

Although it might sound expensive - full lip colours cost about $600 and eye makeup $300-400 - O'Byrne said there was no need to buy expensive beauty products every few months.

Natasha Tarr, 23, had eyeliner tattooed on the top of her eyelids a year ago. The Auckland resident was so pleased she went back six months later to get the underneath of her eyes and lip liner done.

"It's so much easier to wake up in the mornings and do nothing except put on a bit of foundation," said Tarr.

Corporate high flyers and celebrity sports stars made up about half of O'Byrne's clientele.

"I see a lot of high-profile sports people who love it because it's handy for them - they can look glamorous while they're sweating."