The Hair Tattoo a.k.a. Scalp Micropigmentation: Should You Do It?

scalp micropigmentation hair tattooIf you suffer from hair loss, you’re not alone.

In fact, one study showed that 42% of men between the age of 18-49 had moderate to extensive hair loss. While it’s true that hair loss increases with age, it can come earlier in life for many men – particularly those who suffer from male pattern baldness.

It’s also true that there are many methods for treating male hair loss – from medications such as Minoxidil to hair transplants – but the fastest-growing solution is scalp micropigmentation. Also known as the “Hair Tattoo,” SMP restores receding hairlines, thickens remaining hair and hides transplant scarring.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the scalp micropigmentation procedure, its pros and cons, and how it compares with hair transplants and other hair loss treatments.

Contents:

Why am I Losing My Hair?

Before we delve deeper into SMP, let’s take a brief look at why men go bald. It typically comes down to the following factors:

  • Genetics – If you’re losing your hair at a faster-than-normal pace, you may have your parents to blame. Your hair follicles have a DNA blueprint, i.e., if your dad (and grandfather, etc.) have suffered from hair loss, chances are you will, too.
  • Hormones – Men who are predisposed to hair loss inherit hair follicles that are over-sensitive to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that shrinks hair follicles. Eventually, the hair becomes thinner and finer until hair growth stops.
  • Age – As we age, the rate of our hair growth slows.
  • Other factors – Smoking, excessive alcohol use, certain medications, and even a poor diet, may contribute to hair loss.

Scalp Micropigmentation – A Closer Look

Scalp micropigmentation is a process that uses microneedles to “tattoo” pigment into the scalp. It creates the appearance of tiny hair follicles to restore the look of a fuller head of hair. The procedure replicates your natural hair follicles while strengthening and adding density to thinning areas.

SMP also is good for men who have only minor thinning or recession of their hair.

  1. How is it done?

Scalp micropigmentation treatments usually are split over three separate sessions, although the actual time can vary depending on the extent of your hair loss, the style you require, and other factors.

During the treatments, micro needles are used to layer pigment dots on your scalp in a process that resembles getting a tattoo. But SMP is a highly-technical, specialized process performed by trained technicians. The tiny “dots” of pigment, placed in the dermal layer of skin, create the illusion of a full head of shaved hair.

Before your first SMP treatment, at a consultation, you will meet with the ‘pracititoner’ who does the treatment and discuss your requirements, including the shape of your hairline, its positioning, as well as the density and shade of your pigmentation.

A tiny wound is created in the skin when each dot is applied. A scab heals over the wound and eventually falls away, taking some of the implanted pigment with it. Furthermore, the immune system attacks the pigments, causing them to shrink. This gradual “fading” of the dots varies from person to person but necessitates the need for multiple sessions to get the required pigment shade.

A patient’s treatment session includes the application of different shades of pigmentation. Different shades are needed to enable some pigment deposits to stand out from among the rest. Lighter pigments are usually applied during the first session, while subsequent sessions introduce the applications of darker shades.

  1. How long does a treatment last?

The amount of time needed for an SMP treatment varies but the typical first session lasts from three to five hours, while additional sessions usually take less time as the correct blend of density and darkness is achieved on the scalp.

  1. How long has it been around?

While there’s documented evidence that pigmentation treatments for hair loss date back to the 1970s they weren’t truly developed until 2002 where the first general treatment offered to the public took place in 2006.

  1. What are its applications?

There are a variety of uses for scalp micropigmentation and not just for treating general balding and hairline recession. It’s also appropriate for burn or surgery-related hair loss, and to conceal hair transplant scars, blemishes, or marks caused by trauma to the skin. It’s even used to blend birthmarks into the scalp.

  1. Does it hurt?

While most patients experience mild discomfort during the procedure – especially in its earlier stages – the discomfort typically becomes more tolerable as the session progresses. Some areas of the scalp have more, denser nerve endings than others, but the majority of patients focus on the benefits of the treatment rather than any discomfort they may experience.

The bottom line, however, is that SMP hurts less than having a regular tattoo and much less than a hair transplant. Anesthetics are usually available to numb the scalp, although many men choose to go without them.

  1. How long is the recovery?

There is no down time or recovery period following a scalp micropigmentation treatment, although slight redness on the skin from each tattoo session may last between 24-48 hours. Many patients return to work the next day and the basic time table between treatments is seven days.

  1. Are there side effects?

Scalp micropigmentation has few, if any, side effects. Note: your scalp will be little red after each application, and the dots will be darker and larger as your skin begins to heal. But, again, the tiny scabs that form over each dot will heal and fall off, taking some of the pigment with them.

  1. Is SMP just for men?

Scalp micropigmentation is effective in treating hair loss in men and women. Like men, women can suffer from balding as they lose hair due to events such as childbirth, surgery, stress, and more, and SMP for women is a rapidly-growing service.

There is a difference between SMP for men and women, however. While a man receives treatments to replicate shaven hair follicles, the primary goal of treatment for women is to decrease the contrast between the scalp and hair. And while women usually lose hair evenly across their entire scalp, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll go completely bald. Moreover, a woman’s frontal hairline remains intact.

It’s not necessary for women to shave their heads before SMP treatments. Instead, the technician applies pigmentation by parting the hair section by section. The result – a “shaded” scalp – makes it harder to see the difference in color between the hair and scalp, which creates the appearance of thicker hair.

Note: SMP often works best for women with dark or brunette hair. It’s usually not recommended for blonde women.

  1. How much maintenance is involved?

In the first few days after treatment, you should avoid activities that cause sweating of the scalp, as well as shampooing or washing your head. By day four, most men can shave with a foil shaver but need to be careful to not run it over any parts of the scalp in which scabs have not yet fallen off. Only by day 10 should you shave with a razor blade.

In most cases, an SMP treatment lasts for four to six years before the patient needs to have another treatment done because of fading of the pigments.

  1. How much does scalp micropigmentation cost?

The cost of SMP depends on a variety of factors, including the clinic you choose, what country the clinic is based in, and the type of procedure. A standard, multiple-session procedure in the United States generally costs from $2,000 to $4,000. The cost for a scar treatment only is usually from $1,200 to $2,500.

  1. Are the results always realistic?

The quality and realism of your scalp micropigmentation may vary tremendously from one company to another. The skill and experience of your practitioner are also important. While the vast majority of treatments produce excellent results, poor results do happen, so it’s important to do your research before choosing a company and technician.

Choosing a reputable company such as Skalp – the world leader in scalp micropigmentation – ensures that your results are excellent. Founded in the United Kingdom, Skalp has offices in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and New York.

  1. What are some disadvantages of SMP?

There are some “cons” when it comes to SMP treatments, although they’re few:

  • SMP is a permanent procedure which some men may view as a disadvantage. Because the hair pattern stays the same – much like a tattoo on your skin – changing it requires the laser removal process.
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can increase the rate of fading. This would require the patient to visit an SMP clinic more often for touch-ups.
  • Men need to keep their hair very short to fully take advantage of the SMP’s look.

Scalp Micropigmentation – Before & After

Still need proof that SMP works? Here’s a look at some before and after pictures of men who’ve undergone the treatment:

scalp micropigmentation before after 1

scalp micropigmentation before after 2

scalp micropigmentation before after 3

scalp micropigmentation before after 4

Scalp Micropigmentation vs. Other Hair Loss Treatments

Scalp micropigmentation is among the newest treatments for hair loss available today and, as mentioned, has grown steadily ever since being introduced to the general public. SMP’s “hair tattoo” approach is unique when compared to other types of hair loss treatments.

Here’s a closer look at other treatments available today. Treatments include medications, hair loss shampoos, surgery, and even wigs and hair pieces, among other hair growth products.

1. Medications

Men have used drugs to treat hair loss for many years. The most popular types of medication are Minoxidil and Finasteride; both have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Minoxidil

Kirkland Minoxidil LiquidAlso known as Rogaine, minoxidil is an over-the-counter product that comes in either liquid or foam that you apply to your scalp twice a day.

Minoxidil first was introduced as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure. One of its side effects, however, was that it caused hair growth – and from there the topical Minoxidil solution to treat hair loss was born.

Minoxidil works by stimulating hair follicles to grow hair on your scalp, but also anywhere on your body. It widens blood vessels, which allows additional oxygen, blood, and nutrient to flow to your hair follicles

It takes very little time to apply Minoxidil to your head. Users should wait at least eight hours between applications and apply the foam or liquid evenly throughout the scalp. Results vary for different individuals, but most users report seeing results within two to six months.

There are pros and cons to using Minoxidil:

Pros

  • Perhaps the biggest advantages to using Minoxidil are that it’s easy to purchase (you don’t need a prescription) and its relative ease of use. Others have found it useful to use after a hair transplant because it boosts the results of hair restoration.

Cons

  • One of Minoxidil’s cons is that it’s not as effective for advanced hair loss. That said, men over 30 may not experience the same results as younger men who have experienced minimal hair loss. As mentioned, Minoxidil patients don’t experience results immediately and may experience “shedding” early in the process as new-growth hair follicles push out old hairs.
  • Only the 2 percent solution of Minoxidil is approved for women. The stronger 5 percent solution puts women at an increased risk for low blood pressure and hypertension. It may also cause unwanted hair growth for women.

Finasteride

propecia finasterideMost commonly known as Propecia, Finasteride is available to men only, and only by a prescription from a doctor. It comes in pill form and taken once daily.

Finasteride works to restore hair by converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that shrinks hair follicles. One (1 milligram) dose of Propecia may lower DHT levels in the scalp by as much as 60% when used daily. Many users have reported significant hair growth while using Finasteride.

Pros

  • Finasteride lowers DHT levels, which many consider the only effective way to slow and stop the hair loss process. It’s also easy to use because it comes in pill form.

Cons

  • You need to keep taking Finasteride to retain its benefits. More serious side effects include an increased risk of prostate cancer, as well as a diminished sex drive and sexual function.
  • Also, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should never handle Propecia tablets because they may cause birth defects.

2. Hair Transplant Surgery

Hair transplant surgery involves moving hair you already have and transplanting it to an area of your scalp where there’s no hair or thinning hair. There are two methods of hair transplant: follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE).

During FUSS surgery, your doctor will remove a strip of skin from the back of your head (the area remains hidden by the hair around it). The strip of removed skin is divided into tiny grafts, which each graft consisting of an individual hair or a few hairs.

FUE surgery involves shaving the back of your scalp and the surgeon extracting individual hairs one by one.

The procedure for transplanting hairs is the same for both procedures. Grafts are inserted into individual holes or slits created in your scalp by a scalpel or needle. The typical hair transplant treatment last four to eight hours.

Other types of hair transplant procedures include flap surgery, tissue expansion, and scalp reduction. These types of surgeries can are used alone or in combination to provide the best results for each patient.

Pros
  • Hair transplant patients typically see long-term results that don’t need follow-up treatments. Transplants also involve the re-growth of natural hair.
Cons
  • There are disadvantages to hair transplant surgery, including the cost – which can range anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. Most insurance plans don’t cover the cost of surgery. Also, hair transplant treatment only works if you have (transplantable) hair on other parts of your scalp.
  • Some patients also report irritation after their hair transplant procedure, including itching and bumps, while in some cases the transplanted hair had fallen off before it had a chance to grow.

3. Other Methods

There are some other methods for managing hair loss, including diet and supplements. Nutritionists recommend a diet that includes sufficient amounts of protein – which strengthens hair and is said to promote hair growth – while others claim that supplements such as iron, biotin, zinc help slow hair loss. You shouldn’t take iron supplements unless you have anemia. For the most part, however, there’s not enough evidence to show that supplements promote hair growth.

Wigs and hairpieces are sometimes used by people who don’t respond to other types of treatments. Insurance may cover the cost of a wig or hairpiece if your hair loss is due to a medical condition.


While there is a variety of methods used to treat hair loss and baldness, scalp micropigmentation is very effective to treat several conditions, including thinning hair and hair recession. It’s the fastest-growing hair loss treatment available and its results are evident in countless patients.

You might also like:

Why You Seriously Need a Beard with a Bald Head

7 Things About Shaving Your Head (And When It’s Time)

How Long Does it Take to Go Bald? The Answer May Surprise You

Why Am I Going Bald? Here’s A Closer Look…

One Response

  1. erik October 10, 2017

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