If regrowing your hair naturally isn’t an option for you, for whatever reason, and you don’t want to go down the hair transplant route, then scalp pigmentation could be a viable alternative.
In this article you’ll learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision about whether scalp pigmentation is right for you.
What is Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp Micropigmentation is the process by which tiny, colored pigments are introduced into the dermal layer of the scalp in a uniform pattern that effectively replicates the appearance of natural hair.
The pigments are normally short in length and quite indistinguishable from natural shaven hair. The pigments come in a wide range of colors that bed in well with an individual’s skin color and type.
Scalp Micropigmentation is a highly delicate and intricate procedure that can only be performed by doctors with specialized knowledge and high technology equipment.
Who Are the Candidates for Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp Micropigmentation is meant for individuals who have lost hair to scalp conditions like male pattern baldness, alopecia, or people who have experienced gradual thinning of hair due to age.
Individuals with a receding hair line are also eligible for the procedure. In recent times, people who have suffered head burns and other scalp scars are increasingly embracing the practice.
What’s the History of Scalp Micropigmentation?
The use of pigments to replicate natural hair dates back to 1970s. Back then, the procedure was mainly used as a way of camouflaging scars left behind after botched hair transplant operations.
The modern technique employed in the procedure was invented in 2002, by Ian Watson and Ranbir Rai-Watson, the cofounders of His Hair Clinic. The clinic was originally located in U.K but has since gone international, opening a network of branches in the United States, Canada, Spain, France, and other countries.
What’s the Treatment Process?
The treatment process is preceded by detailed consultations with a qualified scalp Micropigmentation practitioner.
At this stage, the client and the provider iron out issues to do with pigment color, costs, general legalities, and come up with a tentative plan that maps out what to do so as to achieve the client’s desired result.
The actual treatment process is usually subdivided into two or three sessions and each session may take approximately 3-5 hours depending on individual specifications.
During the first session, most technicians tend to be conservative and do not introduce a very high number of pigments into the scalp, with the intention of giving the client ample time to adjust to their new look, as well as assessing the tendency of the pigments to fade.
It’s during the second treatment session when most of the pigmentation work is done, building on the initial treatment in order to attain the optimal end result.
If unsatisfied with the results of the first two procedures, the patient may request for a third and final session, during which the pigmentation is perfected.
In most cases, there is at least a 1-week break in between the sessions to give the body enough time to recover.
What are the Benefits of Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp micropigmentation has the following benefits:
- It gives patients fuller, thicker hair that replicates natural hair both in terms of appearance and texture
- It can help an individual with a receding hair line to regain a youthful hair line at the front or back of the head
- The procedure helps victims of male pattern baldness or alopecia to disguise the associated symptoms, regardless of severity
- It can help to camouflage birthmarks, scars, or burns
- It is the only hair recovery procedure that can give immediate results. Treatments using medications like minoxidil or hair transplants usually take months before their effects can be seen.
- The pigments may last for up to 6 years before fading and falling out
- It does not involve surgery
What Tools Are Used in the Process? Does it involve Any Surgery?
The process relies on the use of very fine, sharp needles that are used to pierce the scalp and introduce the pigments into the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin. The procedure does not necessitate surgery and the patient is usually awake and sober during the entire process.
Why are the Pigments Placed In the Dermal Layer?
The human skin is comprised of 3 layers; on top we have the epidermis, followed by the dermis in the middle and the innermost layer called the sub-dermis. In normal, healthy circumstances, the dermis peels off after about 45 days giving way to new skin cells.
As such, placing the pigments on the epidermis would be futile because they would be lost together with the old skin cells within days, if not weeks, after placement.
The dermal layer is structured such that there are open spaces between collagen strands. The procedure exploits these empty spaces.
How Painful Is the Procedure?
The procedure is generally not painful, partly because there is very little puncturing of the scalp. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1-3 represents “mild pain” 3-6 represents “moderate pain” and 7-10 for “severe pain”, most past patients would pick the 1-3 mark rating.
Some technicians advise patients to take painkillers about an hour before the procedure or engage in a light form of exercise, just as a way of preparing them both physically and emotionally.
You may also want to learn about some of the side effects associated with a hair transplant here.
Can Scalp Micropigmentation Be Performed on Women?
Yes. Scalp micropigmentation can be an effective way to cover areas of the scalp that have been left almost bare due to gradual thinning of the hair.
In fact, most women do not lose hair in patches; they experience general thinning of hair round the scalp.
Scalp micropigmentation in women introduces color to their scalp to cover the natural separations which usually develop when one has long hair. The procedure results in fuller, thicker hair.
Women who have had facelift surgeries may be left with conspicuous scars on the sides of their heads. Pigmentation can camouflage the scarring.
What is the Difference Between a Hair Transplant and Scalp Micropigmentation?
The following are the defining features of each procedure:
|Scalp Micropigmentation||Hair Transplant|
|It’s a non-surgical procedure that is noninvasive.||It’s a surgical procedure that can take up to 8 hours in the operating room|
|It does not involve implantation of natural hair but relies on foreign pigments that resemble natural hair both in terms color and texture||It involves harvesting of natural hair from a donor site (usually the back of the head)and implanting it into the recipient site of the same patient|
|Results are immediately visible, even after just one 2-hour session. However, the pigments may fade after several years hence the need for a touch-up procedure||Implanted hairs may take months to grow but the hair usually remains for the lifetime of the patient, on condition that the surgery is performed accurately and professionally.|
|There is no scarring at all because it does not involve puncturing of the scalp||The surgical procedure may lead to scarring on the scalp|
|It’s ideal for individuals who are completely bald||It’s ideal for those with partial hair loss|
Can One Combine Scalp Micropigmentation With a Hair Transplant?
Yes. Some people may go for a hair transplant because it gives real, natural hair and then utilize scalp micropigmentation to attain a higher hair volume as well as camouflage the scarring caused by surgical piercing.
Indeed, technicians agree that the two procedures can actually complement each other this way. However, perhaps it’s best to consult with specialists in both procedures before making the final decision.
How Long Does the Illusion Last?
When performed properly, scalp micropigmentation can last for up to 6 years before fading away. The most critical aspect of scalp micropigmentation that determines the durability is the type of ink used.
For instance, if the ink used is the type used for tattoos, the color may not last for more than a few weeks. It’s the responsibility of the patient to seek information regarding pigmentation and color before commencement of treatment.
What Conditions Affect the Durability of any Scalp Micropigmentation Treatment?
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation:
Dyes, pigments, and ink are all held together by covalent bonds. If these bonds are exposed to continuous ultraviolet radiation, they can be broken down.
Thus, exposing the scalp to direct sunlight for long hours can shorten the life of scalp micro pigmentation pigments placed on the scalp. The breakdown of the covalent bonds holding the pigments and the ink together manifests itself in form of fading.
In fact, daily exposure to direct ultraviolet light for a few months can reduce the lifespan of micropigmentation from 8 years to just 2-3 years. To void this, a sunscreen can be very helpful whenever one is working outdoors or enjoying time out on the beach.
The human immune response attempts to push out and eliminate any ‘foreign’ material detected in the system. At the micro-level, it does this through special cells called macrophages and phagocytes.
These cells automatically perceive pigments as foreign debris that should be removed. In fact, that is why technicians tend to be conservative during the first treatment session; they normally wish to establish exactly how the body reacts to the pigments.
Indeed, some people experience massive fading of the already introduced pigments even before they have gone back for the second treatment session. In such individuals, the immune system is very strong. In others, the system is much more accommodative to the pigments.
The Individual structure of the skin:
Just like we saw earlier, scalp microppigments are introduced into the dermal layer of the scalp and occupy the empty spaces between strands of collagen.
The sizes of these spaces vary from person to person. As such, if the spaces are too big, the pigments are loosely held, making it easy for the body’s immune system to remove them.
If the spaces are narrower, the pigments are held a bit more tightly and can, therefore, stay in place for much longer.
Bleeding and How It Affects the Procedure
Again, the extent to which a person bleeds during a scalp micropigmentation procedure varies from person to person, depending on their blood pressure. If a patient bleeds heavily, the oozing blood can easily pull out and displace the pigment, thereby rendering the procedure ineffective.
On the other hand, minimal bleeding increases the chances of pigment retention. However, it is important to note that the bleeding expected is always very minimal provided the technician performing the procedure is experienced and well drilled.
How Much Does the Procedure Cost?
While most clinics offer free consultations to prospective clients, the amount charged for the actual procedure varies from person to person, depending on individual needs as well as the level of skill of the technician involved. The cost ranges from $500 to $5000.
The Issue of Scalp Micropigmentation Tourism
Over the last 10 years or so, the number of providers has increased from less than 100 to over 1200 worldwide. Although the competition is definitely healthy and somewhat beneficial to patients, it also comes with some caveats; some providers may charge less but compromise quality.
Others may employ cunning, misleading tactics so as to attract clients, including claiming to be in business for longer than they actually have.
For this reason, it is very important to exercise due diligence and do some personal research before choosing a provider. Referrals can be very useful as well.
How Does Scalp Micropigmentation Interact With Commercial Hair Products Like Lotions?
To date, there is very little research that has been done to establish how scalp micropigmentation interacts with over the counter products, partly because such a process would require funds.
However, most products are not known to have adverse interactions with the pigments introduced into the scalp.
Despite the absence of known adverse reactions, some providers advise patients to avoid using harsher shampoos, body soaps, and hair lotions, especially soon after the procedure has been performed.
Where Can You Get the Treatment?
There are numerous providers located around the world. However, it is important to bear in mind that not all of them can guarantee quality.
The ‘ultimate’ technician is not easy to find because preferences vary from one person to another. The following questions can help you to find the provider who meets your needs:
- How long have they been in the industry?
- What pigments do they normally use?
- How many successful procedures have they performed? Do they have convincing evidence?
- What are the terms? Are there quality guarantees?
- What level of training do their technicians have?
With that said, here are a few suggested providers you could turn to:
- HisHairClinic – U.K
- Scalp Micro USA – U.S.A
- Brandwood Clinic – Birmingham – UK
- The Shadow Clinic – Australia
- Prohairclinic – Belgium
Scalp pigmentation may represent a viable route for your if you have extensive hair loss and are looking for a mid-priced alternative.
However, I would urge you to consider the natural alternatives, that will allow you to keep all of your remaining hair and even re-grow lost hair to some extent.
Thanks for our inclusion in this very informative article.
Brandwood Clinic is in the UK though, close to Birmingham. I’d greatly appreciate it if you could correct that.
We do have global aspirations and are visited by people from all corners of the world but, for now, the only place to be seen by the world’s most experienced technicians is at our Solihull base.
Hi Paul – I’ve corrected that now.
That’s actually not too bad a price that you list from $500 to $5000. You could probably find something that will fit your budget, and you will be using this for the rest of your life. My husband has gone bald, and he is kind of stressed about it because he wants it to look like he does have some hair. We’ll have to talk about this and find someone we can afford to do one of these scalp tattoos for us.