Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is a form of tattooing that can be used to replicate the appearance of short hair, mask specific areas of hair loss, create a hairline or to enhance the effects of hair replacement surgery.
How does it work?
SMP is more complicated than a regular tattoo and involves the depositing of tiny amounts of pigment in the skin’s dermal layer. If applied correctly, this creates the look of natural shaven hair and offers an extremely versatile way of ‘reversing’ the effects of hair loss.
SMP treatments usually allow the client to specify how they want their hairline and profile to look, as well as dictating the appearance of their scalp as a whole, in terms of colour and shade, although professional advice is best heeded as well.
The procedure can be tailor-made to suit all skin tones, including treatments for white, black, Asian and Hispanic skin.
Overall, the treatment offers a permanent solution for people with hair loss and is currently more popular amongst men, although it is suitable for women who may want to disguise bald patches or thinning areas.
Maintaining the ‘look’
The SMP effects will often fade immediately after the treatment to create the permanent look, and then touch-up treatments are usually required to maintain the best possible appearance.
It is recommended that recipients have their ‘hair’ touched up at least once every three to six years, although this may need to be done more regularly if damage occurs as a result of sun exposure, for example. In contrast, good maintenance may allow for longer periods between treatments.
To maintain the look, men who receive SMP treatments should use hair clippers, a shaver or razor to keep any natural hair short, and should moisturise the scalp regularly to ensure their skin stays healthy.
The process of SMP
For many people who undergo SMP, the process starts from the moment they find a clinic on the internet or contact them in person. Many clinics now offer the opportunity for clients to see a mock-up of how they will look after the treatment, in order to fine tune their individual requirements.
Most people will then attend a clinic for a face-to-face consultation before dates are set for the treatment sessions. Most treatments take three sessions to complete, although some can be done in just two, depending on the amount of work involved.
The process will build up the follicle of strands gradually and each session should take between three and four hours. There should be at least a week left between sessions.
During the scalp micropigmentation process, a cartridge with three needles is usually used. These work in symphony to gently inject the pigment into what is known as the second dermal layer of skin.
Many practitioners only use natural pigment in the process. The spacing of the pigment should be determined by following the pattern set by the natural hair follicles, which are retained to achieve the most natural look for the individual.
The expected results
The results a person can expect from SMP treatment will often rely on the skills of their practitioner and the standard of pigments used.
This is why it is extremely important for people to go to a reputable clinic or practitioner. No one should be afraid to ask for testimonial evidence of good practice or to do their own extensive research.
It is important that people also understand that the condition of their scalp in the future can depend on them choosing the right practitioner.
Poor quality inks, for example, can change colour, whilst bad application can lead to issues that can be expensive and time-consuming to put right, if this is possible at all.
Good SMP is designed to look completely natural and some people who undergo the procedure do not even tell their family what they have had done. It can effectively cover the whole scalp area or be used to conceal scars, the effects of alopecia or skin imperfections.
Scars from everyday life can be disguised, as can those resulting from hair restoration surgery, accidents, burns, skin conditions, or birthmarks.
It is very popular amongst sufferers of alopecia areata, but can also be used very successfully to cover the effects of alopecia totalis, traction alopecia, and male pattern baldness.
The benefits of scalp micropigmentation
Not only can SMP improve the appearance of an individual, in their own eyes and through the eyes of others, but it can also have wider-reaching effects.
Hair loss has the potential to have serious consequences for a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, but SMP can restore confidence and offer peace of mind for clients who are worried about the further effects of hair loss.
Possible side effects
There should not be any side effects with SMP treatments, although allergic reactions can occur in very rare cases. This is usually down to the use of substandard and inappropriate inks, and is a reminder that choosing a reputable practitioner is essential.
Good clinics should include allergy susceptibility in any pre-treatment screening, and skin tests should be performed before the treatment is carried out.
Other potential side effects can result from using poor clinics where standards of cleanliness and hygiene are not properly maintained. This can be hugely problematic when dealing with a procedure involving continual skin penetration.
In contrast, high quality practitioners and clinics will always use sterilised equipment and new needles, perform pre-procedure testing and only work in a clean and hygienic environment.
Can changes be made?
As people age, their opinions may change about what type of hairstyle and harline suits them best. The good news is that scalp micropigmentation can be revised or reversed.
Laser revision can allow a totally new look, colour and shape to be created, or tweaks can be made to reflect new trends or a changed appearance.
These changes can include altering the position of the hairline, raising it to create a natural receded look, changing the hair shape at the side of the head, adding sideburns, and complete reversal can also be requested, although this seldom happens.
The pigment used in scalp micropigmentation used is not placed as deep in the skin as the ink in tattoos, meaning that laser removal is far more straightforward and pain-free, and it can usually be achieved in just one or two sessions.