Scalp Micropigmentation (Hair Tattoo / SMP): An Alternative To Baldness?We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn More.
According to a recent study, 42% of men between the ages of 18 to 49 years old will begin to show the classic signs of male pattern hair loss (source).
This can be a stressful time in a man’s life and one that they completely dread going through…
…I know so because I went through this myself before.
Today, I wanted to not only talk about a relatively newer treatment option that has seen widespread adoption lately – scalp micropigmentation (a.k.a. hair tattoos) – but also cover a few questions about this topic, valid alternatives that do exist currently, and answer a few other questions that might be on your mind.
Let’s take a deeper look at what scalp micropigmentation really is and if it’s a valid hair loss option for you.
Why Am I Losing Hair?
Before we take a detailed look at scalp micropigmentation, it’s important to understand why you are losing your hair in the first place. Nearly all men (with the exception being for severe medical or dietary conditions) lose their hair for the following reasons:
- Genetics – Whether you are 18 or 28, men experience hair loss at differing rates. One of the primary reasons for this is simply due to your own unique genetic makeup. While men may carry this unique DNA blueprint indicating that they may go bald (as many may see if they have ever requested a 23andMe health kit – they list it in their Traits section), it may or may not activate or become prevalent for you. Simply put, this is an intensely complicated subject that requires a lot of scientific discussion to unpack.
- Hormones – In addition to genetics, many believe that hair loss is also triggered by the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This androgen is a byproduct of the testosterone that your body naturally produces. If you carry the unique DNA blueprint we were mentioning above, the interaction with DHT and this genetic trait will cause the DHT to bind to the hair receptors and cause them to shrink, shed and eventually remove the entire hair follicle.
- Your Age – Some men begin to lose their hair at 18 and some at 48. Again, this can vary wildly for some men more than others. However, generally speaking, most men begin to show signs of hair loss typically in their 30s and later.
- Other Reasons – As we eluded to earlier, men can lose hair for a variety of reasons. While your own unique genetics and hormones are likely what is causing your hair loss, other factors can include heavy alcohol use, medical conditions (and medications) or even an extreme lack of biotin in your diet.
What Is Scalp Micropigmentation?
At a high level, scalp micropigmentation is a hair tattoo.
It’s an effective and natural-looking way to give your head the appearance that you still have a full head of hair even when you are showing the signs of balding.
When performing a scalp micropigmentation, practitioners use much smaller needles (compared to what a standard tattoo artist uses) in order to attain more natural-looking results.
To help understand what you should anticipate when getting a scalp micropigmentation, we wanted to give you an overview of the expectations:
- Before Scalp Micropigmentation / The Consultation
Before you sit in the chair and get a scalp micropigmentation, you will typically be required to sit with the practitioner to talk about the process.
This allows you to ask all the questions that are on your mind, the shape of your desired hairline, the expected results and total time you must commit to the procedure.
Once you have that take care of, then you will need to book a series of appointments.
- Booking Your Appointment
Once all your questions have been fully answered, depending on the size of the office and the number of practitioners available, you will then be asked to set up a few appointments at once.
According to most experts, the scalp micropigmentation process is a multi-step procedure that will be done over two or three sessions.
Most companies recommend that the appointments are scheduled between 10 and 14 days apart in order to get the best results.
Therefore, you should expect the entire process to take roughly 20 to 42 days – making it a fairly accessible procedure that can work with most schedules.
- Getting Scalp Micropigmentation Done
As decided in your initial consultation visit, the practitioner will begin by placing a layer of pigmentation around the entire scalp with their microneedle.
To ensure that the scalp micropigmentation process is a success, the needle used will first start by penetrating the epidermis layer of your skin.
Once penetrated, the ink within the needle will then be injected into a deeper layer called the dermis or corium layer of skin.
Much like a tattoo, the ink will remain suspended in the skin for several years (more on duration in just a moment).
To give the scalp micropigmentation a much more natural look, the practitioners will often use a lighter ink first (that matches the natural highlights of your hair and skin) before building onto darker colors that will be applied in later appointments.
Once the practitioner has applied a layer of ink, you will then be sent home to let your skin heal over the coming days.
While some redness and scabs may appear, you should have no problems continuing with your daily life between appointments.
Beyond the healing of the scalp, you will immediately reap the benefits of your first scalp micropigmentation session – no more bald spots as your hairline will look both full and complete.
- Follow-up Visits
As we eluded to earlier, when going through the scalp micropigmentation process, you should expect to have 2 or 3 visits with the practitioner – this will vary depending on scalp micropigmentation density and the area to be covered.
While the initial application to the foundation layer of the scalp micropigmentation process is typically a much lighter color, subsequent visits will be used to create both density and the appearance of a textured hairline.
In addition to giving the bald areas of your scalp greater visual depth, the practitioner will also work to blend the colors between your existing hairs and skin.
How Much Does Scalp Micropigmentation Cost?
The price for a scalp micropigmentation can vary greatly as men and women will have this performed for a variety of reasons (scars, small bald spots, etc.).
The average price of scalp micropigmentation for a man that is about 50% bald is anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500.
Again, prices can vary depending on the area that the procedure will be performed on, the reputation of the practitioner itself, along with the area of the country where you live (limited number of practitioners typically results in higher costs).
Scalp Micropigmentation Side Effects
One of the advantages of scalp micropigmentation is that it has very few known side effects (other than mild discomfort during the procedure, dry skin, etc.). While men with severely sensitive skin should consult their dermatologist before having the procedure done, most men shouldn’t have any problems getting a scalp micropigmentation.
Now it is worth noting that to achieve the best results and ensure that none of the mild side effects are occurring (simply mild skin discomfort), you will want to follow these aftercare tips:
Scalp Micropigmentation Aftercare Tips
Once you have gone through the scalp micropigmentation process, your practitioner will advise you on how to care for your scalp in the coming days and months.
While the information listed below is just a high-level overview of what you should expect, the advice that the practitioner gives will, of course, take precedence:
- A Few Days After Scalp Micropigmentation
The first few days after scalp micropigmentation is the most important in order to ensure excellent results and comfort.
You will want to limit your scalp to any of the following:
- Water – This includes showering, swimming, rain, etc.
- Working Out – Whether it’s cardio or weights, you will want to avoid going to the gym for a few days in order to prevent the natural buildup of sweat on your head.
- Shaving / Clippers – Whether you are shaving with a cartridge razor or simply using balding clippers, you will want to resist the urge of cutting your hair.
- Touching – Should you be touching, itching or simply running your hands over your scalp, try your best to resist this natural temptation or tendency. It may cause the spread of bacteria to the areas of your skin that are still healing.
- Hats – Form-fitting hats should be avoided as they inhibit the flow of oxygen to your head.
- Lotions / Creams – While it’s always a good habit to apply moisturizers, lotions and creams to hydrate and nourish your skin, after scalp micropigmentation you will want to avoid these until about a month after the procedure.
- About A Week After Scalp Micropigmentation
Once your scalp has been on the mend and you have avoided many of the above traps, you can now begin to start taking care of your scalp.
Here you can begin to introduce gentle cleansers to clean your head.
While shaving and sweating are still discouraged here, loose-fitting hats or hoodies should be fine.
Also, if you are a swimmer, it’s recommended that you avoid pools given their higher concentration of chlorine.
- About A Month After Scalp Micropigmentation
Thirty days after you last scalp micropigmentation appointment will be a day of celebration. All activities that were banned (shaving, sweating, swimming, etc.) can now be introduced.
Your skin should be fully healed from the procedure while the ink should also remain in place for years to come.
Scalp Micropigmentation Reviews, Pictures, & Regrets
Let’s be real for a minute here:
Getting a tattoo on your head is something that you need to think long and hard about.
And naturally, there will be a lot of research done around the topic.
Men often wonder if scalp micropigmentation is worth it; what happens if they regret getting scalp micropigmentation and if there is any way that they could reverse the process if it turned out poorly?
To help provide some unbiased reviews, pictures and regrets, we searched high and low across the internet to find some great insight from men who have had the scalp micropigmentation procedure done.
Here were unfiltered the results:
- Read Here – (Picture + Positive Review)
- Read Here – (Positive Review)
- Read Here – (Picture + Positive Review)
- Read Here – (Picture + Positive Review)
- Read Here – (Negative Review – SMP, Hair Transplant, etc.)
- Read Here – (Picture + Negative Review)
How Long Does Scalp Pigmentation Last?
Scalp micropigmentation is a permanent procedure. Most practitioners claim that scalp pigmentation should last about three to seven years.
This range can vary depending on a variety of factors which include the following:
- Sun exposure
- Lifestyle choices (active vs. inactive)
- Regular application of creams or moisturizers
- Head shaving vs. clipping
Furthermore, given that scalp micropigmentation uses a smaller needle and relies on a palette of colors to match your own unique skin complexion and hair color, the results don’t contrast nearly as much when compared to your standard tattoo.
Many practitioners do recommend that you do have touch-up visits every five years as you can have additional ink applied to your scalp to keep it looking sharp.
Furthermore, follow-up appointments also allow the practitioner to apply lighter ink colors to blend with any naturally gray hairs that may have since sprouted since your last appointment.
Can You Have A Scalp Micropigmentation Reversed?
Whether you received a bad treatment or you simply changed your mind, it’s important to know if scalp micropigmentation can be reversed before you receive initial treatment.
According to many laser tattoo and micropigmentation experts, you can have scalp micropigmentation reversed in as little as one session.
Just like having a scalp micropigmentation applied, removing or reversing the procedure should not be taken lightly; it is both a costly and mildly dangerous procedure (scarring can occur).
In addition, the number of sessions for a scalp micropigmentation reversal can vary depending on how large the area of removal is along with the density and depth of the colors within the dermis layer of your skin.
Scalp Micropigmentation vs. Other Hair Loss Treatment Options
Given the cost and permanency of scalp micropigmentation, its important that you know of the alternative treatment options to hair loss.
Here, we wanted to list out a few of the more popular options that other men have considered:
Shampoo Alternative To Scalp Micropigmentation
Hair loss shampoos have come a long way in recent years. Modern hair loss shampoos like many that we listed in our reviews now feature scientifically proven ingredients that will help in adding volume and reducing hair loss.
While we won’t spend a great deal of time discussing brands like REVITA from DS Laboratories, we just want to mention a few of the highlights from our review of this leading hair loss shampoo.
Most notable about this shampoo when compared to many of the others that came before it is the nano-technology contained within.
Relying on its proprietary Nansome delivery system, REVITA is able to deliver more effective results by encapsulating the active ingredients that penetrate deeper into the skin. This translates to quicker results as well. You can read more about this unique technology here.
Found within this shampoo are countless proven ingredients such as ketoconazole, taurine, emu oil, biotin and many more.
Lastly, the results are equally as strong with 92% of users experiencing a decrease in hair loss after 90 days of use.
- Requires no effort to apply daily
- Proven technology
- Provides results quicker
- Not permanent like scalp micropigmentation
FDA Approved Treatment For Hair Loss
One of the first medications approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1988 to treat hair loss, minoxidil is the active ingredient found in over-the-counter products like Rogaine.
While it will not work for everyone, the FDA found that 39% of men studied had “moderate to dense hair growth on the crown of the head” (source).
Application of minoxidil can be a bit too laborious for some men, especially when compared to the permanence and low maintenance of scalp micropigmentation.
Typically applied twice daily, once in the morning and evening, minoxidil can become a bit messy, especially if you just want to get on with your day.
However, advances in applying this active ingredient have moderately evolved into both foams and sprays.
If you tried applying minoxidil in the past and simply didn’t like the liquid and dropper applicator, then alternative forms make it much easier and cleaner.
Lastly, the concentration of minoxidil as an active ingredient has also been dialed up over the years. While initially it was only at 2%, minoxidil now comes in an extra-strength variant of 5% – more than doubling its potency.
- One of the few FDA approved treatment options for hair loss
- Variety of applicator methods
- Does work well for some men
- Requires daily application
Hair Regrowth Via Pill
One relatively modern alternative to minoxidil is finasteride. Initially made to treat an enlarged prostate in men, finasteride had the unexpected side effect of re-growing hair for some men.
Sold under brand names like Proscar and Propecia, this once-daily tablet is ingested by mouth (rather than direct application) and also carries an FDA approval.
How does it work?
As we mentioned earlier, one of the leading theories on why men lose their hair is that there is a conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in their body.
This DHT latches on to your hair receptors and then causes the hair follicle to shrink and ultimately die.
According to drugs.com, Finasteride decreases the production of DHT by about 70% with a 5mg daily dosage (source).
While talking with your doctor about balding can be embarrassing for some men, startup companies like For Hims (which we reviewed here), Roman and others are making Finasteride much easier to purchase.
Instead of making an appointment with your doctor, you can simply go onto their site, answer a few questions with one of their online doctors via chat and get finasteride shipped discreetly to your door.
It’s a painless process and one we recommend for men who don’t mind trying something out.
- Viable hair loss treatment option
- Easy to use (one tablet daily)
- Available by prescription only
- May cause loss of libido
Quick & Natural Looking
As you likely came across in your research of scalp micropigmentation, another more permanent alternative that allows for a natural look will be hair transplant surgery.
A much more intensive process when compared to scalp micropigmentation, hair transplant surgery can be done either one of two ways:
- Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS)
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
Each of the processes slightly differs from the other.
With FUSS, a strip of the skin (typically 6 to 10 inches in length) is removed from the back of your scalp and sewn back together (with the longer hairs surrounding incision covering it up).
This strip is then cut into smaller grafts (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand) and then are inserted into the bald area of the scalp one by one through small incisions.
FUE, in a very similar manner, extracts single hairs (again from the back of the head) and inserts them into the bald areas of the scalp one by one.
As the entire hair shaft is inserted into the new area, it will take on a new home and continue to grow like it had done on the back of your head.
The main barrier with this procedure is the cost.
Unlike scalp micropigmentation that may cost anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500, depending on the area that the practitioner needs to place the pigment, hair transplant surgery can typically range anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000.
Like scalp micropigmentation, the cost for hair transplant surgery will depend on the area that needs to be filled in, the location of the practice (overhead costs) and the reputation or expertise of the doctor performing the procedure.
- Will look the most natural
- Relies on your own hair follicle
- Transplanted hairs will act just the same as before
- May have side effects
Hair replacement systems have evolved over the past few decades. A much more affordable hair loss treatment option to some of the other alternatives on our list, a hairpiece avoids both surgery and permanence – so you can go bald when you choose to do so.
While most men have the notion of toupees looking bad or mismatched to the natural hair that is growing underneath, this is largely a result of negligence from the owner of the toupee itself.
Toupees shouldn’t be shampooed, showered or even taken into oceans or lakes while wearing. This can expedite the fading process that really draws out the contrast between your natural hair color and the color of the toupee.
Furthermore, toupees must be purchased regularly in order to keep up with the changes in your hair color.
- A non-permanent solution to hair loss
- You can choose when you want to go bald
- Doesn’t rely on medications or chemicals
- Requires careful handling
- New ones must be purchased regularly to look their best
Final Thoughts on Scalp Micropigmentation
Scalp micropigmentation is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Careful research and consideration play a key role here.
However, after researching more about this complicated hair loss treatment solution and understanding its use cases, it can make perfect sense for some men.
We hope that the above provides some terrific and unbiased information about this topic in order to help you with your decision.