Scalp micropigmentation is a relatively new method designed to conceal thinning hair in both men and women. The process involves tattooing the scalp to give the appearance of fuller hair by covering up exposed areas of scalp or areas of visible hair loss.
If you’re considering scalp micropigmentation, this article should put you in a better position to make a fully informed decision. Below, we give an overview of the scalp micropigmentation process, explaining what is involved, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages, and discussing alternatives. We also explain the relevance of a patient’s hair color and discuss the appropriateness of scalp micropigmentation for those with blonde or fair hair.
What is scalp micropigmentation?
Scalp micropigmentation is a hair camouflage technique, which involves the implantation of pigments into the scalp, similar to tattooing. In multitude, SMP microdots give the appearance of hair. SMP is a non-surgical procedure that can be used to conceal scars, camouflage thinning hair or give the appearance of a closely shaved head.
An introduction to scalp micropigmentation
Over the past decade, scalp tattoo techniques for hair loss have been refined. Scalp tattoos have moved from a sometimes-unsightly concealment method to become a more common hair camouflage technique with multiple applications.
In scalp micropigmentation, a tattoo instrument is used to insert droplets of pigment into the upper dermis. Repeated many times over, these microdots can give the impression of hair. For success, the pigment must be placed at the correct depth. If the pigment is placed at the wrong depth, the ink can bleed and the scalp micropigmentation fails. As scalps differ (e.g., in thickness), the operator must use their judgment as to needle depth insertion and dot size.
The three most common goals of scalp micropigmentation are:
- Conceal a scar - scalp micropigmentation can help cover scars from surgeries, hair transplants, injuries or scarring conditions.
- Cover thinning hair - scalp micropigmentation can give the appearance of fuller hair, by reducing the contrast between the scalp and long hair.
- Achieve a shaved look - scalp micropigmentation can give a uniform, shaved look if remaining hair is kept short.
Scalp micropigmentation is not a treatment for hair loss, as it does not address underlying causes, and is best described as a scalp concealer or hair camouflage.
How much does scalp micropigmentation cost?
Scalp micropigmentation price varies depending on factors such as chosen provider, number of sessions needed and the goal in mind. US-based providers quote SMP costs in the range of $1,000 to $4,000.
How long does scalp micropigmentation last?
Providers tend to estimate that scalp micropigmentation lasts about four to six years and will need repeating after approximately that amount of time. This is because the microdots fade with time, as well as with exposure to UV light. Scalp micropigmentation after 5 years may appear less pronounced than it did when the original procedure was performed.
Scalp micropigmentation pros and cons
Careful consideration of the procedure’s advantages and disadvantages can help avoid scalp micropigmentation regret. The relative pros and cons will vary based on the desired outcome of the process, with SMP for the concealment of a small scar presenting different risks to full scalp coverage.
Scalp micropigmentation advantages
- Scalp micropigmentation cost - SMP can be an economical choice compared to hair transplant surgery, however patients should remember that the procedure may need to be repeated to maintain the desired look.
- Non-invasive process - SMP is a less invasive procedure than hair grafting.
Scalp micropigmentation disadvantages
- Fading and color change - fading may necessitate the repetition of scalp micropigmentation after five years or so.
- Scalp micropigmentation side effects - research notes the risk of allergic reactions and associated scarring, the risk of infection and even the risk of adverse reactions to MRI scans after scalp micropigmentation.
- Risk of botched scalp micropigmentation - incorrectly inserted pigment might result in a permanent patchy appearance on the scalp, according to recent research. If scalp micropigmentation is of interest, finding a skilled and qualified technician is important to getting quality service and desired results.
- Unconvincing appearance - while results will depend on the goal of the procedure, cosmetic choices, and the skill of the provider, some people say scalp micropigmentation looks fake. While ultimately this is a decision and opinion that is reserved for each individual, it is nonetheless one we have to at least note on this list.
Scalp micropigmentation and hair color
Each person’s scalp will react slightly differently to the SMP process, and there is a further factor that may affect the results of scalp micropigmentation - hair color.
How does hair color affect scalp micropigmentation?
Hair color is an important consideration when assessing the suitability of SMP. For example, scalp micropigmentation is not recommended for those who change their hair color frequently, as the pigment will not change to match. Hair color is also relevant for those seeking to conceal a scalp scar, with darker dots being more effective.
Pure black dye has been observed as better for pigment retention (when compared to a black-brown mix). Rather than using different colored inks, SMP pigment color is changed by diluting black ink. Color and darkness are also impacted by the size of the SMP dots.
Essentially, therefore, the pigment color in scalp micropigmentation ranges from light gray to black. The gray or black pigment often has a blue or green tint to it. This blue/green appearance is due to the way the skin absorbs light. Sometimes, sun exposure will result in the actual color of the pigment changing too.
Scalp micropigmentation and fair hair
Some people express concern that scalp micropigmentation does not work for people with fair hair. While this is not entirely true, scalp micropigmentation will sometimes be less appropriate for those with blond, red, gray or fair hair than those with darker hair.
People with darker hair will be able to find a closer color match. This is because pure black dye is used as the starting point, with lighter shades achieved through dilution. Non-black dyes face the risk of fading quickly or changing color.
This also means that people with fair hair may need to keep their heads shaved to avoid an obvious color mismatch. In the case of scalp micropigmentation for women, it may be appropriate for those with fairer hair to dye their hair to better match the pigment.
Different hair colors can lead to different outcomes from scalp micropigmentation. For example, lighter dots are seen as less effective in concealing scars, which may make this form of SMP less desirable for people with fair hair.
Scalp micropigmentation alternatives
Scalp micropigmentation will not be appropriate for everyone. People who wish to conceal hair loss can look to other hair camouflage options. There are also a number of methods that go beyond concealment and actually address the underlying causes of hair loss.
Hair camouflage for fair hair
A range of options exist to alter or improve the appearance of hair. SMP falls on the more permanent end of the hair camouflage spectrum. Temporary options include various types of hairpieces, hair thickening fibers, powders and hair styling products. There are options suitable for all hair colors.
Fair hair - how to tackle hair loss
Recent research suggests a link between hair color and incidence of hair loss, with alopecia areata significantly more common in individuals with darker hair than those with blond or light brown hair.
Effective alternatives to scalp micropigmentation
The common factor among those considering scalp micropigmentation is an exposed scalp. Such exposure may be more noticeable in individuals with darker hair, but people with all hair colors can benefit from addressing the cause of their hair loss.
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