Work-related stress, lifestyle factors, or genetics – what exactly should we blame for hair loss?
It’s not uncommon for both men and women to lose hair, and it can be quite frustrating. The good news is that you have control over it. There are numerous ways to restore your hairline and confidence.
Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP)
If a hair transplant is the first thought that comes to mind, you’re not alone. Many people think of hair transplants as the sole solution to getting their hair back.
What they don’t know is that there is a relatively new procedure that is just as effective and not as demanding on your pocket. Scalp micropigmentation is a simple non-invasive procedure hence its growing popularity.
Curious to know what exactly scalp micropigmentation is and how it works? Read on. We will dig deeper into the process and answer questions related to this procedure.
What is Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp micropigmentation is a hair loss treatment in which minute dots of special pigment are deposited on the epidermis of the scalp with the result resembling hair follicles. These numerous dots create an illusion of denser hair. If one is completely bald they produce the look of a full head of hair, with a freshly barbered short buzz cut. It clearly defines the frontal hairline as well as enhances side profiles.
The procedure must be carried out by a trained technician who uses special micro-needles to deposit the pigment correctly.
How long does scalp micropigmentation take?
Most men require between two and four sessions to complete the procedure. Each session lasts approximately two to three hours, although people with advanced hair loss require longer sessions.
Who is Scalp Micropigmentation For?
If you are losing or have lost hair, then scalp micropigmentation is for you. It is for anyone dealing with hair loss for whatever reason. Men generally experience this for either age-related or health-related reasons.
Here we are talking about thinning, balding, or hairline recession caused by hormonal changes in men. The most common form which is male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of hormonal changes and the individual’s genetic makeup.
According to the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM), at least half of all men over the age of 50 years are affected by male pattern baldness. Quite often balding begins at a much younger age, with some men reporting minimal but noticeable balding in their twenties.
SMP is also useful for men who may not be completely bald but wish to create the illusion of density and therefore the look of a full head of thick hair.
SMP can also be used by people dealing with medical conditions which cause hair loss. Top on the list is people recovering from cancer treatment. Other conditions include lupus, thyroid problems, vitiligo, and AIDS.
Experts add that the procedure works better on men with dark or brown hair than blondes.
Who should NOT have scalp micropigmentation
Some pre-existing conditions could affect the outcome of a scalp micropigmentation treatment, therefore making it risky for men suffering from them. These include:
- Bleeding disorders
- Auto-immune disorders
- People on blood-thinning medication
- People who have recently had Botox or other filling procedures
Scalp Micropigmentation Process
The scalp micropigmentation process is a detailed one. Let’s look at the main steps involved.
Step 1: Consultation
First off, you’ll consult the scalp micropigmentation specialist. This is the trained technician who will be conducting the procedure.
In our digital world, you could opt to have a face-to-face meeting or consult via video. As expected, technicians prefer to have in-person consultations as it enables them to better analyze hair loss intensity and be certain of exactly what needs to be done.
If a face-to-face consultation is impossible, video-based consultations can be done. This however necessitates a fair amount of back and forth communication before both parties feel comfortable to proceed with the procedure.
It is at this point that you choose your preferred style and hairline or have the technician recommend one which suits your scalp structure. You also agree on an appropriate pigment color to match your natural hair color.
Step 2: First Treatment Session
With details like style and pigment agreed upon, treatment can begin. In this first session, the technician sets the foundation for the selected look by inserting pigment onto the scalp using an appropriate micro-needle.
Step 3: Second Treatment Session
In the second session, more pigment is inserted onto the scalp. What is the difference between pigment insertion in the first and second treatment sessions? Here is the interesting answer.
The pigment used in the second session has a slightly different shade from the one used in the first session. The two shades work to enhance the illusion of depth and make the final look more natural.
Step 4: Third Treatment Session
A third session may not be necessary if you are happy with the outcome so far. It would usually be required if you wish to have the tone of hair color darker, therefore necessitating additional pigment.
It is also at this point that the technician makes any changes you might want such as adjustments on the hairline.
Is Scalp Micropigmentation Permanent?
Permanent? Not quite. Perhaps semi-permanent would be a more accurate description. Just like permanent makeup, scalp micropigmentation lasts for four to six years.
There are two forms of fading in relation to SMP.
A few days after the procedure, it is normal to notice that the pigment color is not as dark as it was initially. This often worries people as they fear that the process was not done right. However, it should not be a cause for worry. It is perfectly normal to notice slight fading as the pigment sets into the skin. It is also a sign that the scalp is healing well and is getting the right exfoliation.
The second form of fading happens over time and is noticeable four to six years after the treatment. At this point, you can go back for a touch-up. Different men notice fading after varying durations so you only need to keep a close eye on your scalp to determine when you are due for a touch-up.
Can Scalp Micropigmentation be Removed?
Like many other decisions in your life, you may find yourself regretting why you decided to have it done in the first place.
Here are some common reasons people regret having SMP treatment.
- You went to a poorly trained or unqualified technician and the treatment went wrong.
- You don’t like the look. The technician did a great job but you just can’t adjust to the new shaven style and look and want it off.
- You feel it is time for a new style. SMP pigmentation lasts for years. It is not uncommon for men to feel fed up with the look in two years even if he absolutely loved it when it was first done. (Some personalities are more prone to boredom.)
Yes, scalp micropigmentation can be removed, as long as it was done using the right pigments and inserted to the right depth. It is removed using a laser procedure similar to the removal of a tattoo on any other part of the body.
According to Bare Removal, SMP pigment removal is actually easier than regular tattoo removal because the ink used is placed at a shallower depth. With ink closer to the surface, it requires up to half as many laser sessions as tattoo removal would take.
When pigments are inserted deeper than they should, or the wrong kinds are used, they can be removed using laser treatment; but will require more sessions.
How Much does Scalp Micropigmentation Cost?
It is difficult to come up with a standard cost for scalp micropigmentation procedures. There is a wide price range because costs depend on interconnected variables such as the clinic you choose, your natural hair density which must be replicated for a natural look, and your skin type.
Costs also vary depending on the size of the treatment area. In this case, advanced hair loss treatment for a totally bald head costs more than pigmentation on a small section of the scalp.
That said, you are safe with a budget between $1,800 and $5,500 regardless of the extent of your hair loss.
How to Prepare for the Procedure
Before heading to the clinic, you can shave your head. After that, moisturize the skin of your scalp.
Does Scalp Micropigmentation Hurt?
A bit of pain is inevitable. However, every individual has a different level of pain tolerance. This explains why some people describe the experience as painful while others say they merely had some discomfort.
The technician applies a numbing agent on the scalp before starting the procedure so this helps to reduce any pain or discomfort. If you have sensitive skin it is likely to be more painful. Men with scalp acne are advised to ensure none of the skin is inflamed before the procedure in order to reduce pain.
Carry some paracetamol to the clinic just in case you need it to deal with pain or discomfort.
Will I have to take leave from work?
The majority of people don’t find it necessary to make any major changes to their schedules. Because it is a non-invasive procedure, you don’t need any downtime. Feel free to schedule your sessions during your free time slots and expect to be comfortable enough to go about the rest of your day as normal.
Possible Side Effects of SMP
It’s generally considered a safe procedure. However, there are some rare side effects you should be aware of just in case you find yourself experiencing one of them.
- Allergic reactions: In rare cases, patients find that they are allergic to the ink applied. Many technicians are now using hypoallergenic SMP ink just to be on the safe side.
- Heavy metals: Some low quality SMP inks contain heavy metals which could have harmful effects on the body.
After-care tips after the procedure?
Once you have had the procedure done, it is important to follow your technician’s instructions in order to ensure quick and proper healing. Apart from dealing with the characteristic post-procedure redness, you will need to observe a few rules.
- Avoid washing your scalp with hot water or shampoo for the first week or so.
- Keep your scalp moisturised with prescribed creme. If you don’t have a prescribed one, cocoa butter or natural oils also work well.
- Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for the first few weeks. If you have to be outdoors in the sun, protect your scalp with a hat.
- Stay away from salt water or chlorine. This means you will have to skip the swimming sessions until your scalp heals.
These are just a few after-care tips that are by no means conclusive. You generally need to treat your scalp like an open wound and care for it as you would a wound on any other part of the body.
How to Choose the Right SMP Technician
There are lots of clinics and beauty studios that offer scalp micropigmentation services. How do you know which one to go to? How can you make sure you don’t end up with more problems than you had before the procedure?
Well, it comes down to identifying the right technician in the right facility.
First, do some research to find out which facilities near you have a good reputation. After that, take time to visit each of them. While there, check that the place is clean and sterile.
Next, talk to the SMP technician to confirm that he is qualified and certified. Most professional technicians have pictures of previously done SMP jobs. Ensure that the pictures are of clients the individual technician has worked on and not just past clients at the facility.
To go a step further, it is useful to ask the facility to let you speak to one or two clients who have had the procedure done by the same technician.
Scalp micropigmentation is a popular and cost-effective hair loss restoration procedure that works well whether you have just a few small problem spots or are totally bald.
Although the process is described as non-invasive, it is a delicate procedure that calls for a skilled and experienced technician. Take time to find a facility and technician who won’t disappoint. Don’t be afraid to spend a bit more for quality service. It will definitely be cheaper and perhaps less painful than correcting the mistakes of an unqualified technician.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have grey hair. Can I have scalp micropigmentation?
Yes. Scalp micropigmentation does work on grey hair. However, you will be required to cut your hair short. Here is why: The roots of grey hair are darker than the longer sections of the hair so it will look more natural with hair cut short.
Alternatively, ask the technician to use grey pigment to match your hair.
Can I have scalp micropigmentation after a hair transplant?
Yes. In fact, many people have SMP after a hair transplant because it could take many months before any hair starts to grow. SMP gives men an instant hairline and the short buzz-cut look as they wait for hair to grow after the transplant.
If you decide to combine these two methods, be sure to consult a qualified hair restoration specialist on how much time your scalp needs to heal from the transplant before pigmentation.
Does scalp micropigmentation damage hair follicles?
Many people with thinning hair worry that scalp micropigmentation will damage hair follicles, therefore, hinder the little hair growth they still have. That is not the case. The pigment is deposited between existing hair follicles and has no effect on them.
It is worth noting, however, that SMP does not in any way deal with the underlying cause of hair loss.
Does scalp micropigmentation look real?
If you are worried that your pigmented scalp will look artificial, you can put your fears to rest. As long as it is professionally done, SMP comes out looking completely natural. Many men who have had the treatment say their friends noticed that they had a new haircut style and nothing more.
Will insurance cover my scalp micropigmentation?
Probably not. Health insurance covers medical conditions and reconstructive surgeries.
Scalp micropigmentation is not a surgery and is considered a cosmetic procedure which is typically not covered. Although the underlying cause of hair loss may be medical, solutions to hair loss are not considered a medical necessity.
Is SMP the same as a tattoo?
No, it is not.
Although scalp micropigmentation is sometimes referred to as a scalp tattoo, there are distinct differences.
Firstly, SMP technicians use micro-needles which are much smaller and thinner than tattoo needles which embed deeper into the dermis. The deeper the ink, the more pinpointed the result, therefore creating a natural look.
Secondly, the ink used in SMP is closely matched to your hair color and skin tone such that it blends in.
Tattoo ink, on the other hand, can be done in the person’s color of choice with the intention being to have it stand out.
Lastly, SMP treatment costs more than a traditional tattoo and for several reasons. For one, a professional SMP technician costs more than a tattoo artist. You will also need more than a single session for a full SMP treatment which translates to additional cost.
Can I change the color of the scalp micropigmentation ink?
You can change the color of SMP ink when it is time for a touch-up. At this point, you can request the technician for a lighter or darker shade.
Aside from color, you can also request treatment to create the illusion of fuller, thicker hair.
Is scalp micropigmentation better than a hair transplant?
Neither of the two procedures can be said to be better than the other. It depends on how much you are willing to spend, whether you are willing to undergo surgery for physical removal restoration, and your desired outcome.
A hair transplant is a lot more expensive than scalp micropigmentation. Due to the nature of the procedure, hair transplant surgery will have you recuperating, away from your everyday schedule, for anywhere between 3 and 7 days. SMP requires little or no recuperation time.
The final result also determines which one of the two is a better option for you. SMP merely creates the illusion of hair. If you really want to see and feel actual hair in your head, then a transplant would be best.
I am taking hair growth medication. Should I continue after SMP?
The two common medications are Propecia and Rogaine ( topical minoxidil). You can continue taking Propecia during and after the procedure. However, it is best to suspend the use of topical treatment for about one month.
This ensures proper healing and lets the pigment settle well without interference of chemicals contained in topical medications.