While tattoos may have started as a way to decorate our bodies and participate in cultural ceremonies, this practice has evolved in leaps and bounds to a point where tattooing is also done to avoid surgery and enhance people’s natural features.
Lip blushing, micro needling, and permanent eyeliner are all cosmetic procedures that, while technically tattoos, aren’t really all that noticeable. Cosmetic tattoos are used in the place of makeup, so the focus here is often on looking natural.
Freckle tattoos are also a commonly requested procedure in order to create a more sun-kissed look.
Melissa Pruett, founder of Melt By Melissa, a salon offering cosmetic tattoo procedures, explained to Allure,
“Nowadays, the technique and artistry has truly evolved to provide people with the most natural enhancements that will make your friends wonder what you’ve done to look so fresh and polished.”
This type of tattooing has also moved to the top of the head in the form of scalp micropigmentation.
What Is Scalp Micropigmentation?
Also known as a hair tattoo, scalp micropigmentation is a non-surgical cosmetic procedure. Using a pen-like tattoo machine, dots are created to mimic the look of hair.
“A provider uses thin, small needles to deposit tiny dots of pigment (color) on the scalp. These dots give the appearance of thicker hair,”Cleveland Clinic
The dots of tattoo ink over a section of the scalp can give the appearance of a buzz cut for those who are balding.
The Pros Of Scalp Micropigmentation
Hair loss can be a traumatic experience for many people. According to the American Academy Of Dermatology Association, androgenetic alopecia (hair loss due to genetics) affects an estimated 80 million Americans – 50 million men and 30 million women.
When hair begins to thin, many people turn to over-the-counter remedies and medications to halt the process. The other option is in-clinic hair transplants – a costly surgery that is not without side effects.
If medication doesn’t work and surgery isn’t an option (both can also take a while to bring about results), there are many benefits to getting micropigmentation done on the scalp.
Through this non-invasive procedure (and cost effective when compared to the price of hair transplant surgery), a person can gain the look of a fuller head of hair immediately – no waiting around for hair transplants to take or medication to work.
Scalp micropigmentation does not have a negative impact on the hair still on the scalp. Just like a thigh tattoo won’t cause leg hair to stop growing, the remaining hair on the head is not affected by the tattoo ink.
With scalp micropigmentation, you have more control over the results in comparison with a hair transplant or hair growth medication.
“You can dictate volume, or how far down the forehead and temples you want to go. That’s not possible to do with treatments like hair regrowth formulas,”Byrdie
Top Tip: This is still a tattoo, even though it’s not noticeable as one. So, it is permanent! Be as specific as possible when working with your cosmetic artist so make sure you get the look you want. Not just the placement of the ink dots, but also the color.
The Cons Of Scalp Micropigmentation
This procedure is essentially a type of camouflage – the tattoo dots hide bald patches and thinning hair. It does not stop hair loss or help hair to regrow.
“The biggest risks of scalp micropigmentation come with using an unlicensed or inexperienced practitioner who may not take the necessary precautions,”Cleveland Clinic
A possible con to scalp micropigmentation is infection, which is a risk that comes with any tattoo. The best things to do to avoid this is to get tattooed by a professional and to take care of your fresh ink after your appointment.
Who Can And Can’t Get Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp micropigmentation is perfect for people who are experiencing hair thinning, alopecia, baldness, and those who have scars on their scalp. So, whether you’re balding at the crown, your hairline is receding, or you’d like to see more hair at your temples, scalp micropigmentation can help.
However, people with very oily skin or those who spend most of their time in the sun may not get the lasting results they want as the tattoo ink will fade faster in these cases.
You may also need to reconsider scalp micropigmentation if you have skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, as the procedure may exacerbate the symptoms.
Scalp Micropigmentation Vs. Scalp Microblading
The difference between these two procedures comes down to the technique.
While micropigmentation involves placing dots on the scalp to create a shaded effect, microblading is done with a thin non-electric tool to essentially draw individual hairs on the outermost layer of the skin.
Microblading is often the way to go for fuller looking eyebrows and, in some cases, to fill in the hairline.
When you go for your consultation, your chosen cosmetic tattooist will guide you on the right choice for the look you want.
Top Tip: Take your time finding the right cosmetic tattooist for your scalp micropigmentation appointment. Go on Instagram to look through people’s work as well as before and after shots to make sure you have a clear idea of the look you want.
What Happens In A Scalp Micropigmentation Appointment?
Scalp micropigmentation is essentially still a tattoo, so the process is similar to that of going to a tattoo studio. When it comes to who does scalp micropigmentation, ensure you go to a practitioner (usually a permanent makeup artist) who is well versed in this procedure.
During the appointment, the practitioner strategically uses small, fine needles to replicate the size of tiny hair follicles on the scalp.
The needle penetrates 1.5 to 2 millimeters into the top layer of the dermis.
“If the needle only hits the surface layer of skin, cell turnover causes the pigment to quickly fade. Go too deep into the subcutaneous layer and the pigment loses its shape and spreads out, staining the scalp with round blotches,”Allure
This is another reason why going to a practiced professional for your scalp micropigmentation is so important. The scalp is made up of thin skin, so tattoo blowout is more of a risk.
An experienced artist is way more likely to place the ink in just the right spot. Tattoo blowout – where the ink spreads away from the original placement – can result in an unnatural look.
How To Prepare For A Scalp Micropigmentation Appointment
There are a few things you can do to prepare for your scalp micropigmentation appointment. A good tattoo experience starts way before you get to the tattoo studio!
A day or two before your appointment, avoid alcohol. Alcohol thins your blood which makes the tattoo process more difficult and dilutes the ink.
The night before your appointment, have a chilled night and good night’s rest. If you’re well rested the higher the chance your tattoo experience will be better. When you’re tired, you’re more sensitive to pain.
Cut Your Hair
Creative Scalps suggest cutting your hair around where you’re getting scalp micropigmentation the day before your appointment.
“If you do it in the morning of your treatment, chances are, your follicles are still going to be a little bit open, it’s going to be a lot [more painful], and you’re going to have a lot of redness. Do it the day before.”
Moisturize Your Scalp
Hydrated skin takes tattoo ink way better than dry skin. Start preparing a few weeks or days before by moisturizing your scalp morning and evening.
Have A Good Meal
Remember, you’re going to be getting a needle repeatedly inserted in your skin – this procedure can take it out of you! Make sure you can handle it by eating a nutritious meal beforehand to stabilize your blood sugar.
How Long Does Scalp Micropigmentation Last?
While scalp micropigmentation is considered to be a permanent tattoo, it can begin to fade after around four to six years. When this happens – or you simply want to change the look of the tattoo – you can go for a touch up.
“There are a variety of factors that affect how quickly your procedure will fade, but sun exposure is one of the biggest contributors. The more your scalp is exposed to sun and other ultraviolet rays, the faster the treatment will fade,”Chronic Ink Tattoo
Your immune system, the type and quality of tattoo ink that was used, and quality of the original procedure also play a role in the longevity of your ink.
Scalp Micropigmentation Aftercare
As this is a non-surgical procedure, you do not have to worry about downtime – you can go back to work quite quickly. Your scalp might just be a bit red and swollen after your appointment.
After you get a tattoo, you’re basically walking out with an open wound. It’s the same when you get scalp micropigmentation – during the first few days after your appointment, you’ll be particularly prone to infections and at risk for displacing the ink.
While you may be tempted to wash your head, don’t! At least not for the first three days. Applying water on your fresh tattoo can impact the ink. So, don’t submerge your head in pools, any natural water, or hot tubs.
You should also skip the gym for a while,
“Make sure that you avoid any physical effort that can make you sweat as well. Sweating can prevent the scalp from healing correctly, so don’t go to the gym or for a jog in the park for a minimum of five days,”Got Scalp
Also, avoid the sun for about a month after getting scalp micropigmentation. UVA and UVB rays can be very damaging to a new tattoo. If you need to spend time outdoors, cover your head with a loose, light hat.
After day four you can begin washing your head again, just make sure to use a gentle, sulfate free shampoo or soap.
Then, a week after your appointment, you can get back to your regular workout schedule and shave your head (if you want the rest of your head to resemble a buzz cut). Just make sure to use an electric shaver, and not a blade.
Can Scalp Micropigmentation Be Removed?
Yes! Just like most tattoos, scalp micropigmentation can be removed, but not at home. Leave the tattoo removal creams alone, and book an appointment at a laser tattoo removal clinic. Laser removal is the most effective way to remove tattoo ink.
This procedure can be done to remove a few stray dots that you don’t like, or across all the dots.
“Lasers remove tattoos by breaking up the pigment colors with a high-intensity light beam. Black tattoo pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, making it the easiest color to treat. Other colors can only be treated by selected lasers based upon the pigment color,”WedMD
Can You Combine A Hair Transplant With Scalp Micropigmentation?
You can, and this might just be the right strategy to achieve the look you want.
When you get a hair transplant, you may not get the full coverage that you’re hoping for, plus the procedure can leave scars.
“Combining your hair transplant with SMP is the best way to achieve a great look. A hair transplant can return large amounts of hair to your head, whilst your SMP tattoos can cover the scars that are left as a result of this treatment,”Creative Scalps
Experiencing hair loss can be difficult and can cause a drop in confidence for many people. Luckily, people no longer just have to accept thinning hair and receding hairlines.
There are different routes to take to achieve the look you want. With its permanent results and few side effects, scalp micropigmentation is a great choice for many.