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Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP): Everything You Need To Know

There are tons of treatments available for people suffering from hair loss and thinning hair. From hair transplants to hair fibres, more hair loss products and treatments are in development all the time. Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is often used in conjunction with surgical procedures like FUT and FUE hair transplants to create the appearance of thicker hair.

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is one of the many non-surgical hair restoration treatments on the market suitable for both men and women. This procedure mimics the appearance of tiny hair follicles by tattooing. It’s quickly growing in popularity — so what exactly is scalp micropigmentation, and could it be a solution for your hair loss?

Table of Contents

What is scalp micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is a relatively new way for people suffering from male pattern baldness and other types of hair loss to achieve a fuller-looking head of hair.

In SMP, the look of natural, close-shaved hair is carefully tattooed onto the scalp. This creates a buzz cut look — a close-cropped but full head of hair. SMP is also often used to create a buzz cut look after a hair transplant.

Scalp micropigmentation can not only give the appearance of full head of hair, but it can also help to even out hairlines and camouflage scars from previous injuries or surgeries.

Scalp micropigmentation is also an option for women who are looking to hide scars, mask hair loss, and create the illusion of a dense head of hair. Find out more about scalp micropigmentation for women and if it is really worth it.

Is scalp micropigmentation a hair transplant?

Scalp micropigmentation isn’t a surgical procedure like FUT or FUE hair transplants where existing hair follicles are removed from a healthy part of the body (usually the scalp) and transplanted into areas of balding. Instead, the scalp micropigmentation procedure uses pigment to mimic the appearance of natural hair follicles on the scalp.

This form of hair tattoo can complement these hair restoration procedures by reducing the contrast between your existing hair and scalp. SMP typically traces your new hairline, giving the instant appearance of full, even hair across the scalp. It does not affect the existing, natural hair and therefore should not cause any hair loss.

receding hairline before and after scalp micropigmentation
Receding hairline before and after scalp micropigmentation

How does scalp micropigmentation work?

The pigment used in SMP is known as a stable chromophore. It is tattooed into the dermal layer (second layer of the skin which does not shed like the first layer of the skin) using a multi-needled pigment device.
pigments for scalp micropigmentation
stable chromophore

The technician makes tiny incisions in the scalp. They will then distribute pigment carefully, dot by dot, over the scalp. This continues until the whole area is covered. The size of each pigment dot depends on the desired look, the natural behaviour of the individual’s skin and surrounding hair, and the pressure applied by the practitioner.

scalp micropigmentation dots up close
SMP dots in the skin up close

Who is scalp micropigmentation for?

Scalp micropigmentation is available to both men and women of all ethnicities, skin types, skin tones, and hair colour

This form of tattoo works well for people who aren’t suitable for a hair transplant, such as those with alopecia areata or alopecia totalis. It’s also a great option for those who want the appearance of full coverage buzz cut look, rather than a full head of hair.

SMP is also effective for:

  • Those not suitable for hair transplant due to complete baldness (hair follicles are now absent), alopecia areata, or permanent hair loss after chemotherapy
  • Those who would prefer a non-surgical solution to their hair loss
  • Those with scalp scars from either previous surgical procedures or scalp burns
  • Those who want to create the illusion of thicker hair
  • Individuals who suffer from female pattern hair loss who want to give the illusion of thicker hair after suffering from diffuse thinning
  • Individuals who suffer from male pattern baldness who want to disguise their receding hairline, thin hair, or bald spots

Scalp micropigmentation can also be used as a camouflaging device for those with a strip-harvesting scar from an FUT hair transplant.

Scalp micropigmentation before and after

scalp micropigmentation before and after on patient who has alopecia areata
Image: a patient with alopecia areata -- an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss -- before and after scalp micropigmentation treatment [1]
scalp micropigmentation on FUT scar

Image: a patient with a wide scar after FUT surgery has SMP treatment on the scar tissue, reducing visibility of the scar [1]

Woman before and after SMP for thinning hair
Woman before and after SMP for thinning hair
Before and after scalp micropigmentation to cover up FUT hair transplant scar
Before and after scalp micropigmentation to cover up FUT hair transplant scar

Does scalp micropigmentation hurt?

Most hair loss patients don’t consider SMP to be painful. Many people describe it as being no more painful than a regular tattoo. Sensitivity to the potential discomfort is also known to decrease with each regular treatment, much like waxing.

Is scalp micropigmentation permanent?

Unlike a hair transplant, scalp micro-pigmentation treatment is non-surgical. That means it may need to be touched up every six months or so to minimise fading and discolouration.

There is a natural level of fading that occurs a few days after every treatment (much like a regular tattoo). This is to be expected. Following that, the pigment will, depending on scalp care, come to fade more gradually. Most men opt to have further scalp micropigmentation treatments to keep their look neat and natural.

How long does scalp micropigmentation last?

Similar to regular tattoos, SMP may fade faster with some patients than with others. The lasting effects can be down to the body’s immune system and the behaviour of the individual’s skin.

However, there are 3 key ways you can look after your pigmentation and enjoy your results for longer:

1. Avoid lengthy periods of direct sunlight/hot sun-bathing periods

You need to moisturise your skin regularly. The natural colour the pigment creates will fade faster if the skin has cause to renew itself after long or regular periods of tanning. If you are out and about use a hat where possible and an effective SPF cream that blocks the heat.

2. Follow post-treatment advice carefully

Avoid heavy scrubbing of the head, swimming, and excessive sweating for four weeks after each treatment. Wearing a hat such as a cap for 12 days post-treatment is also advised. If you’re in any doubt as to the best care tips, ask your specialist.

3. Avoid certain hair or skin products such as those that are alcohol or bleach-based

This may include products for treating acne which contain benozyl peroxide, or some hair products or creams which contain alcohol. Be sure to check labels and do the research.

How to achieve natural-looking hair with SMP

Don’t fall foul of these common scalp micropigmentation regrets. As with hair transplants, the natural-looking effect of your SMP is largely down to the skill of your technician. The pressure your specialist uses is key to delivering even, lasting pigmentation in the skin.

SMP gone wrong
Example of scalp micropigmentation gone wrong

Get a natural SMP-hair transplant combination at the Wimpole Clinic

Our technicians at the Wimpole Clinic are experienced, qualified, and skilled. A steady hand takes practice to develop, and each of our SMP and hair transplant specialists have years of experience providing high-end, custom hair restoration solutions. We have hundreds of happy hair transplant patients — just take a look at our hair transplant clinic reviews.

We specialise in discovering and addressing the underlying cause of your hair loss, so we can recommend the best course of action for you to regain the hair you want and prevent future hair loss. Our hair restoration experts take the many variables of a person’s particular skin and hair behaviour into account, so we can provide the best possible treatment.

Our unique service combines SMP with FUT hair transplant to provide natural-looking, undetectable and permanent hair restoration. It’s one of our most discreet, effective and popular treatment combinations. For a free, definitive assessment of your hair loss needs, get in touch with our team.

Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP): Everything You Need To Know, Wimpole Clinic

The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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