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Is Scalp Micropigmentation For Women Really Worth It (and Why)?
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on April 19, 2024

Scalp micropigmentation for women can be a good way to mask hair loss, especially if it is caused by treatment-resistant forms of scarring alopecia, such as lichen planopilaris. It can also be used to effectively mask hair transplant scars left over from FUT type hair restoration surgery or other types of imperfections on your scalp. And research shows it to be a safe, minimally-invasive procedure [1][2] that left almost 100% of female study participants satisfied [2][3].

However, scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is not a hair loss treatment per se, it is a way of disguising hair thinning and creating the illusion of higher strand density. If you are experiencing hair shedding of unknown origin, it is important to see a trichologist as soon as possible. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and the best hair loss treatment for women. In many cases, treating your scalp condition from the first signs of hair thinning and balding can actively curb shedding and help you achieve strand regrowth. 

Like any cosmetic procedure, scalp micropigmentation for women has its risks and benefits. Whether it is a good choice for you depends on several factors, such as the reason your hair is falling out, your body’s response to treatment, or your styling preferences. In the end, you are in the best position to decide whether this procedure is truly worth it for your condition.

Continue this article to find out all you need to know about:

  • What scalp micropigmentation for women is and how it is performed
  • Whether this procedure is worth it for your type of alopecia
  • The risks and benefits of scalp micropigmentation
  • How much scalp micropigmentation costs and what to look for in a technician
  • Effective treatment alternatives to scalp micropigmentation for women
Table of Contents

What is scalp micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation is a relatively new cosmetic procedure designed to camouflage scarring, bald spots or thinning hair by tattooing microdots that imitate stubble on your scalp. Doing so reduces the colour contrast between your hair and skin, creating the illusion of increased hair fullness and concealing discoloured spots caused by scars or thinning [4][5].

SMP technique has progressed significantly in the past few years. Today, you can benefit from a wider variety of ink hues, better-calibrated instruments and more complex microdot placement patterns which provide a natural-looking appearance [6].  

Scalp micropigmentation dot positioning in skin cross-section (diagram next to histology slide)
The process of scalp micropigmentation (a) and the positioning of the ink dots in the upper dermis (the red lines show the depth margin) (b) [6].

How does scalp micropigmentation work?

The process of getting scalp micropigmentation is not exceedingly complicated, but it can be painstaking and sessions can take 5-8 hours to complete [5][6]. You are likely to need 2-3 sessions to ensure uniform coverage, as some of the ink will be absorbed by your scalp and need retouching. Here is what you can expect from the procedure:

  • You will be asked to select the ink hue that matches your hair colour best, with assistance from the operator, who can provide insight into pigment hue changes over time. Normally, you should not be required to trim or shave your hair for this procedure, so you will be able to easily compare ink hues with your natural colour.
  • You may be offered a local anaesthetic (e.g. Xylocaine and Marcaine) that will be injected into your scalp to numb it down for your comfort. 
  • The operator will use a tattoo machine with 1 or 3 fine needles. The handpiece works at a very high speed (100-150 cycles per second) to insert small droplets of tattoo ink in the upper part of your dermis (the second layer of skin) [5][6]. The microdots are arranged in a natural-looking pattern that imitates hair growth, around the pores in your scalp.
  • You can expect to receive up to 40.000 pigment microdots during one session, each measuring between 0.5 and 4.0µm in diameter [4].
Close-up image of SMP dots
Close-up image of SMP dots [6].
  • Once the procedure is finished, the operator will apply an antiseptic cream and cover the area in sterile wrapping. They will provide you with aftercare instructions and schedule your retouching sessions after the healing period (approximately 7 days).
  • During healing, you will need to keep the area clean and reapply antiseptic cream every few hours. You may be experiencing some normal itching and flaking, but it is important not to scratch or pick at your scalp. If you experience pain, redness or swelling that doesn’t subside 24-48 hours after the procedure, contact your operator, as it may be a sign of infection. 
Is scalp micropigmentation for women worth it

Is scalp micropigmentation for women worth it?

This is a complex question that every woman needs to answer for herself, taking into account the type and extent of her hair loss and the feasibility of other treatments or solutions for achieving fuller hair. 

In general, scalp micropigmentation is worth it for women with bald or thinning spots where hair regrowth is not expected to be achieved either spontaneously or with available treatments. In their case, this procedure can provide a life-long effect that can improve their appearance and self-confidence.  

However, if the hair loss may resolve on its own over time (e.g. in telogen effluvium or some forms of alopecia areata), or if they are experiencing mild to moderate female pattern hair loss that can be successfully treated, it may not be the best choice for them. 

Since some types of alopecia can progress if left untreated, it is important to get a diagnosis for your hair shedding before opting for scalp micropigmentation. If your balding extends and becomes severe, medications may no longer work to treat it. That means further SMP may be needed to cover, which could result in an unnatural appearance. 

Female patient before and after scalp micropigmentation
Female patient before and after density SMP [6].

Scalp micropigmentation results for women

While not many studies have been performed to evaluate the effectiveness of scalp micropigmentation, existing ones show very promising results. A study performed on 23 female patients with androgenetic alopecia revealed that all but one reported very high satisfaction with the outcome [7].

These positive results were confirmed by a different, smaller study, conducted on 6 female patients with female pattern hair loss. All the women reported being very pleased with the procedure outcome and highly inclined to recommend it to others [2].

 No significant adverse effects were reported in any of the studies.

Female patient with androgenetic alopecia before and after scalp micropigmentation
Woman with thinning hair from androgenetic alopecia before and after scalp micropigmentation [4]
Scar from FUT transplant before and after scalp micropigmentation
Typical wide scar from hair transplant with strip harvesting [4]

Who are the best candidates for scalp micropigmentation?

This cosmetic procedure is most often recommended to women with scalp conditions that don’t respond adequately to treatment and/or are not eligible for hair restoration surgery. These may include [4]:

  • Scars from accidents, burns or head surgery
  • Scars from hair transplant graft harvesting
  • Patchy hair loss from scarring alopecia
  • Forms of alopecia areata which have been in remission for at least 2 years and do not respond to hair growth treatment [6]
  • Female pattern baldness that does not respond to treatment and does not qualify for hair restoration surgery. 
  • Diffuse hair loss that does not resolve over time and does not respond to Minoxidil, steroid creams or other hair growth treatment (chronic telogen effluvium, diffuse alopecia areata). 
  • Chemotherapy hair loss that does not fully regrow after treatment cessation.
  • Hair transplants which failed to produce the desired strand fullness or did not cover all the thinning areas.

Some women opt against hair growth treatments and/or getting a hair transplant, but would like a permanent solution to their hair thinning (unlike hair thickening sprays or hair thickening shampoos, which only offer temporary effects). They may prefer to use scalp micropigmentation to conceal their thinning areas. 

This should normally be a safe, albeit not always ideal option, as some types of alopecia can progress if left untreated. SMP should not cause serious adverse reactions as long as they don’t have a pigment allergy or a common scalp problem that can be aggravated by the procedure, such as scalp psoriasis, eczema or scalp folliculitis.

However, natural redheads and platinum blondes should be aware that it can be very hard to find a pigment that matches their hair colour [6].

Unnatural micropigmentation results on a patient with shaved head

What are the risks of scalp micropigmentation for women?

If safety regulations are strictly followed and the operator is trained specifically for this procedure, scalp micropigmentation is generally considered safe, with minor adverse reactions. However, it holds the same risks as getting a regular tattoo:

  • Infections from improperly sterilised equipment – e.g. viral hepatitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) [8].  
  • Local inflammation or infection from improper aftercare
  • Minor bleeding and swelling at the micropigmentation site
  • Skin conditions such as granulomas or keloid scars forming on the SMP site
  • Allergic reactions – call emergency services immediately if you are experiencing severe swelling or trouble breathing after getting scalp micropigmentation.

However, SMP for women also has some specific potential risks [6] (as do hair tattoos for men) that women should be aware of before opting for this procedure, to avoid scalp micropigmenation regrets:

  • The ink hue may change significantly in time – it can fade (especially when exposed to sunlight), darken or develop a bluish/greenish tint which may make it conspicuous against your natural hair colour. 
  • An unskilled operator can place the microdots poorly, to an unnatural effect. 
  • The chosen shade of ink may prevent you from drastically changing your hair colour (e.g. a dark ink can show through a fair hair shade) or shaving your head should you ever choose to. 
  • As you advance in age and start to grey, you may need to dye your hair to avoid contrasting with the SMP ink. 
  • Micropigmentation may mask the symptoms of progressive hair loss, delaying diagnosis and treatment, which could lead to more extensive alopecia. And further hair loss can leave your micropigmented areas clearly visible on your scalp.  

Is scalp micropigmentation for women permanent?

Yes, while some fading can be expected over time, scalp micropigmentation is normally permanent, which means you are likely to enjoy its effects for decades. But this is also why this procedure should receive a significant amount of consideration and a highly skilled and safety-conscious operator should be chosen to perform it. 

Recently, some semi-permanent pigments have been developed to last only 18-24 months. Using them is called “tricopigmentation” or temporary SMP [6]. However, researchers warn that at this time, there is no evidence regarding the effect that using this type of pigment repeatedly may have on your body. Some of the ink from any form of tattooing is absorbed by your immune cells (macrophages) and transported to your lymph nodes. And the consequences of frequently exposing them to this new, proprietary type of ink need further study for the process to be deemed safe [6].  

Can you remove scalp micropigmentation?

Yes, you can safely dispose of poorly performed or no longer wanted scalp micropigmentation by using laser-removal techniques similar to those applied to regular tattoos. This process should normally not harm your scalp and hair follicles, it only breaks down pigment so your immune cells can eliminate it. A single session of SMP removal is often sufficient, as these small ink dots are easier to eliminate than regular tattoos [6].

What are the costs of scalp micropigmentation for women?

The price for scalp micropigmentation in the UK varies with the clinic that performs it and the size of the area you need it to cover. While masking a single scar can start at around £250, extensive work to cover several parts of your scalp or a sizable bald spot on your crown can reach up to £3000 in total. 

While prices can be lower in a tattoo salon, it is recommended to only use the services of a professionally trained SMP operator employed by a reputable clinic that upholds health and safety regulations. While regular tattoo artists may be experienced in creating skin art, they are not trained to work on a scalp with scar tissue or alopecia [4].  

Female patient getting scalp anaesthesia before a cosmetic procedure

Is scalp micropigmentation painful for women?

Most often, scalp micropigmentation is not painful, because you are offered a local anaesthetic to numb your scalp before the procedure (the injection might sting briefly). 

However, if you decide to opt for getting SMP without anaesthesia, you are likely to experience pain during the procedure. The nature and amount of discomfort you can expect depends on your personal pain threshold, session duration, operator experience and size of the area that needs covering. Being well rested, well hydrated and having had a light meal before your SMP session can improve your experience and prevent lightheadedness. 

Female patient before and after an FUT hair transplant
1600 graft FUT hair transplant

Can you get scalp micropigmentation after a hair transplant?

Researchers believe that scalp micropigmentation can be used successfully alongside hair transplants to obtain better results, and in some cases, to reduce the number of necessary interventions [6][9].

Some women choose to get SMP after a FUT-type hair transplant, to mask the linear scar left on their donor area. Others get it to enhance the effect of their hair restoration surgery, to hide hair transplant overharvesting or remaining thinning that was not covered by the procedure (e.g. they may use micropigmentation to cover their temple hair loss after getting a crown hair transplant) [10][9]. 

Scalp micropigmentation should not harm your transplanted grafts in any way, as long as it is properly healed when you are getting this cosmetic procedure. It is, however, a good idea to wait long enough to achieve final hair growth results (up to 1 year) before getting SMP, so you can tell exactly which areas need more filling in. 

Woman using a derma roller on her scalp

Treatment alternatives to scalp micropigmentation for women

For many women, SMP comes as a last resort, after having exhausted all treatment options. Others, however, choose to get this procedure as a cosmetic fix as they notice their hair has started to thin.

If you are considering getting scalp micropigmentation but have not yet been seen and diagnosed by a specialist, the best thing you can do is book a consultation with a trichologist. They will perform a thorough examination of your scalp and may order blood tests for hair loss to determine the source of your hair shedding and the most effective treatment.

Several types of hair loss, such as traction alopecia or telogen effluvium resolve themselves over time without treatment, rendering scalp micropigmentation unnecessary. However, conditions such as female pattern baldness can progress if left untreated, sometimes to the point where SMP may no longer effectively mask the hair thinning.

If your hair loss can be treated, your trichologist may recommend some of the following therapies, instead of or alongside scalp micropigmentation:

  • Minoxidil – this medication is safe for women and can help treat a variety of hair loss conditions. It works by dilating the blood vessels in your scalp, so more oxygen and nutrients can reach your blood vessels.
  • Corticosteroids – Steroid creams or intralesional steroid injections can be used in treating certain forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, lichen planopilaris, discoid lupus hair loss or frontal fibrosing alopecia. They work by reducing scalp inflammation that causes hair shedding.
  • Finasteride – while very effective against female pattern baldness, this treatment is not recommended for premenopausal women, as it can cause foetal malformations and disrupt your menstrual cycle. However, once menopause is reached, some women can use Finasteride safely (albeit off-label) and to good results.
  • Derma rolling for hair growth – This therapy works by causing micro punctures in your scalp, which trigger the body’s healing response. It works particularly well alongside topical Minoxidil, as it helps the medication penetrate the skin better, enhancing its results.
  • Red light therapy for hair growth – also known as low-level laser therapy, this treatment uses a focused beam of red or near-infrared light to increase mitochondrial activity and get more energy to your hair follicles, stimulating growth.
  • A natural-looking hair transplant – just like SMP, a hair transplant is permanent. However, it can do much more than simply mask the absence of hair, it can actually restore hair growth to your thinning areas. The procedure is simple and painless and may even take less time to perform than scalp micropigmentation (a single session will often suffice). The surgeon simply harvests healthy hair follicles from parts of your scalp where your hair is still full and reimplants them in your balding spots.

While not everyone is eligible for hair restoration surgery (e.g. getting a hair transplant into scar tissue or to treat an autoimmune alopecia may not always be possible), female hair transplants are increasingly popular. That is because they are most often successful and discreet, making it easy to get a hair transplant without anyone knowing. The Wimpole Clinic has excellent results, which you can see for yourself in our before and after hair transplant gallery.

Is Scalp Micropigmentation For Women Really Worth It (and Why)?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on April 19, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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