Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is the process of applying microscopic tattooed dots on the scalp in order to mimic the appearance of hair. SMP can be performed on a completely bald scalp for the appearance of scalp stubble, or as “filler” to create an artificial illusion of density amongst preexisting hairs. Essentially, SMP strategically places micro-pigments to create the look of a shaved haircut.
SMP is suitable for many forms of alopecia, but for some, it is one of the only cosmetic treatments that can fully camouflage the symptoms. People with Alopecia Universalis, for example, are unable to any hair grow on their head or body at all, which means that they do not have enough hair for a transplant. SMP is one of their only options. Similarly, SMP can camouflage scalp scars caused by previous surgeries or accidents.
SMP is not suitable for any form of alopecia that is caused by an inflammatory autoimmune response. Performing SMP on a person with this specific type of condition would severely aggravate the scalp and potentially cause additional scarring and hair loss. Your hair doctor will be able to properly diagnose the origin of your alopecia and advise you if this method of cosmetic hair restoration is viable given your particular circumstances.
The aim of SMP and traditional tattooing are completely different. The point of SMP is for the cosmetic treatment to go unnoticed by the general public, whereas the purpose of a tattoo is to draw immediate attention to the area. This is why SMP practitioners are specialized cosmetic surgeons who use a special ink and an extremely thin needle to lay artificial pigmentation in a way that mimics the separate and individual hair follicle of a healthy, natural scalp. With that in mind, SMP will never be possible with traditional tattooing equipment. The tattoo ink stands out too much to look like realistic stubble, and the needles used are not thin enough to recreate the miniaturized look of freshly-shaven hair. Most importantly, a tattoo artist would not have the strategic know-how to understand hair geometry, or how to reconstruct an artificial hairline.
SMP does not come without potential risks. Sometimes, the ink will change color and appear as a bluish or greenish hue that no longer resembles the dark black hue of a healthy, intact follicle. If the practitioner does not understand hair patterns, the overall hair geometry will not appear natural. Sometimes the ink can last for over ten years, which may look unnatural if the person’s hair pattern drastically changes in that amount of time. The corrective measure for SMP complications is a laser removal, a procedure which carries the risk of scarring. Therefore, to avoid corrective laser surgery, which is costly and carries additional risks of its own, special care must be taken to select a well-qualified cosmetic technician who fully understand the SMP procedure.