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Everything You Need to Know About Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP)

Scalp Micropigmentation is not just a treatment; it's a journey back to self-confidence and a way to redefine your hairline without invasive surgery. Whether you're dealing with thinning hair, alopecia, baldness, or want to add density to your existing hair, SMP might be the game-changer you've been searching for.

Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP) is a revolutionary cosmetic procedure that changes lives one head at a time! If you're curious about this cosmetic solution to hair loss, the Ultimate Scalp Micropigmentation Guide from The Scalp Shop will answer all your questions.

Let’s start off with the very basic question, what is SMP? 

Scalp Micropigmentation, commonly called SMP, is a cosmetic hair loss treatment that inserts tiny dots of permanent pigment into the scalp to replicate the look of natural hair. This non-surgical technique uses micro-needles to deposit pigment into the scalp, creating the appearance of a fuller head of hair. It's a meticulous process that requires precision and artistry, and when done right, the results are incredibly natural and virtually undetectable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP) is an innovative cosmetic technique that offers a solution for people experiencing hair loss, thinning hair, baldness, or scalp scars.

  • SMP is non-invasive, offering a way to match the look of natural hair follicles without surgery.

  • This method involves applying natural pigments at the epidermal level of the scalp to replicate your hair’s natural appearance, resulting in a fuller, denser-looking head of hair.

  • SMP procedures can be a solution for all types of hair loss, skin types, and colors.

  • It's particularly effective for people who wish to create a new hairline, fill in areas of thinning hair, or completely camouflage the scalp for a look that resembles a short, buzz-cut hairstyle.

  • The results of SMP are immediate, and its visual effect can significantly boost the confidence and self-esteem of individuals affected by hair loss.

  • The Scalp Shop's special sauce is SMP artists who know how to bring out the physical appearance that makes people feel their best. 


How Does SMP Work?

Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP) is a detailed and intricate procedure that requires technical skill, artistry, and precision. The procedure uses a specialized electric 3.0-3.5mm microneedling device that is much finer and distinct from traditional tattooing equipment, allowing for more accurate and delicate work. 

The practitioner applies natural pigments to the scalp's first epidermal skin layer. This technique creates thousands of tiny pigment injections, matching the appearance of hair follicles. The size, density, and shade of these pigmentation dots are bespoke and personalized to each individual, ensuring a realistic and natural-looking result. In addition to dots, our SMP artists can also use an advanced technique to incorporate small stroke patterns that give the look of more textured hair. 

The beauty of SMP lies in its ability to create a natural-looking density and shadow on the scalp, offering the impression of a full head of shaved hair or adding depth to thinning areas. With proper aftercare, the results of SMP can last for 3-6 years before a touch-up, offering a durable and maintenance-free solution to hair loss.

The success of SMP hinges on the skill and experience of the practitioner, who must match the pigment color perfectly to your natural hair and skin tone while shaping your desired hairline. At The Scalp Shop, our SMP artists call upon their varied creative backgrounds to envision transformations that go beyond hairlines, and then use expert SMP techniques taught by Giovanni to deliver results.

Before & After SMP Pictures

Here are some of our clients' before-and-after pictures of Scalp Micropigmentation. Notice how the treatment enhances the appearance of the scalp, making the hair look fuller and the hairline more defined.


But it isn't just about the change in appearance featured in these pictures. Hear some feedback about their experience and how their procedure has restored their confidence and hairlines.

An Overview of the Scalp Micropigmentation Procedure

Scalp Micropigmentation is a multi-step process that requires precision, patience, and skill. Here's an overview of what you can expect during the SMP procedure, from the initial consultation to the final session.

Initial Consultation: The SMP journey begins with a comprehensive consultation. During this meeting, the practitioner will assess your hair loss, discuss your goals, understand your lifestyle, and fully explain the SMP process. This should be a fun experience, and at The Scalp Shop, we make it personal for you with a comforting, open environment and SMP artists that help you find the look you deserve. 

Scalp Assessment: A thorough examination of your scalp will determine the extent of hair loss, skin type, and any scars or skin conditions that might affect the procedure. This assessment helps customize the SMP treatment to suit your specific needs. This establishes a clear plan for your hairline, the density you wish to achieve, and the pigment color, while also offering an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Drawing the Hairline: Before beginning the SMP process, your practitioner will design your new hairline and highlight the treatment areas. Some SMP practitioners will use a stencil or template for your hair design, and then draw it with a white line. But at The Scalp Shop, we offer bespoke designs that fit your facial features and style preferences. We aren’t giving you a standard hairline; we are creating the hairline that best suits you. 

Back 2 The Future: At The Scalp Shop, we use a specialized scalp cream and process we call “Back 2 The Future”. This technique lets you preview what your new hairline will look like after your SMP procedure. Our SMP artists can make any adjustments between designs and we are happy to do as many iterations as necessary until we find the perfect look for you. We encourage you to take photos and videos so you can envision your future hairline and get feedback from family or friends.

*The Back 2 The Future hair design is a free, no-obligation process that The Scalp Shop provides to all of our clients. With this process, we ensure our clients discover the exact look they want; whether they are recreating a past look from before hair loss, or completely reshaping their hairline.

Final Design and SMP Plan: With your final design and personalized scalp assessment in hand, your practitioner will develop a detailed SMP plan. This plan outlines the scope of the sessions, includes your final hairline design, the density and color of the pigment application, and notes about your overall aesthetic goals. Remember that SMP is permanent, so you should be 100% confident in your new look before proceeding to the sessions. 

The SMP Sessions: SMP is typically performed over 2-4 sessions, spaced about 10-14 days apart. This staged approach allows for a gradual buildup of color and density, creating a more natural and subtle result. Each session will last 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the treated area. When you're at The Scalp Shop, you can expect a welcoming space sprinkled with elements of the music, visual, dance, and design backgrounds of our SMP artists. 

Healing and Aftercare: You'll receive specific aftercare instructions, which are crucial to follow for the best healing. There will be a short healing period after each session. The scalp may appear slightly red and tender, typically subsiding within a few days. 

Follow-up and Touch-ups: Once the initial series of sessions is complete, you'll see the full effect of your transformation. At The Scalp Shop, we recommend a follow-up appointment to assess the final results and perform any necessary touch-ups.

Long-term Maintenance: While SMP is considered permanent, the pigment may fade over time, requiring touch-ups every 3-6 years to maintain its appearance. Protecting your scalp from excessive sun exposure and adhering to a simple skincare routine can help prolong the results.

Enjoying the Results: Finally, after the procedure and once your scalp has healed, you can enjoy the new, fuller appearance of your hairline. Our clients love to tell us about the immediate boost in confidence and their satisfaction with their appearance post-SMP.

What are the Advantages of Scalp Micropigmentation?

Scalp Micropigmentation offers numerous advantages, making it an increasingly popular solution for those experiencing balding or hair loss.  

  • One primary benefit is its ability to provide a natural-looking, immediate solution to baldness or thinning hair. SMP offers a visual change after the first session of SMP, and the results are predictable and consistent.  

  • Another significant advantage of SMP is its non-invasive nature. No surgery is involved, meaning no scarring or lengthy recovery period. This benefit of SMP makes it a safer choice for many, especially those who are not suitable candidates for hair transplant surgery or those who prefer to avoid surgical interventions.

  • SMP is also versatile and customizable. It can address various hair loss issues, from receding hairlines and thinning crowns to complete baldness and scalp scars. 

  • The pigment can match your natural hair color and skin tone, ensuring that the results blend seamlessly with your appearance. Additionally, the procedure can create the desired density and shape, fitting the individual's unique preferences and facial structure.

  • Compared to other hair loss solutions, the treatment requires very little maintenance. Once the treatment is complete, expensive hair products or styling tools are no longer needed; the look is permanent and simply requires basic scalp hygiene.

  • Moreover, SMP's long-term cost-effectiveness is another advantage. While the upfront cost may seem substantial, there are no ongoing costs, making it a more economical solution than lifelong hair loss treatments and products.

  • Lastly, one must recognize the psychological benefits. Hair loss can significantly impact self-esteem and mental well-being. SMP can restore not just hair appearance but also confidence and self-image. Our clients regularly report a significant boost in their quality of life post-treatment, showcasing the profound impact SMP can have beyond cosmetic improvement.


Is SMP Safe? What Are The Risks Of SMP?

While SMP is a generally safe procedure, especially compared to surgical hair restoration methods, it is not entirely without risks or potential complications. Understanding these is crucial for anyone considering the procedure.

  • First, as with any procedure that breaks the skin, there is a risk of infection. This risk is minimized by following strict hygiene and aftercare procedures and ensuring a certified practitioner performs the SMP in a professional, clean environment.

  • Another risk involves allergic reactions. Although rare, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the pigment materials used during SMP. It's important to discuss any known allergies with your practitioner beforehand, and a patch test can ensure there's no adverse reaction to the pigments.

  • Pigment migration is a possible complication where the pigment spreads from the original dot to create a blurred effect. This effect is typically due to the practitioner implanting the pigment too deeply or using improper techniques. Quality of work varies by practitioner, so selecting someone with experience and a proven track record is vital.

  • Additionally, there can be dissatisfaction with the results. These feelings could be due to unrealistic expectations or poor quality work, such as incorrect pigment color, unnatural hairline design, or uneven density. It underscores the importance of thorough consultations and clear communication with your SMP artist before proceeding.

  • It's essential to weigh these risks against SMP's benefits and discuss all concerns and questions with a qualified SMP practitioner before proceeding with the treatment.


Does it Hurt?

Potential pain is a common and natural concern for anyone considering Scalp Micropigmentation. Generally, clients report a range of sensations during an SMP procedure, with some clients falling asleep during the procedure while others experience mild discomfort. It is a lower level of discomfort than a traditional tattoo, as the sensation feels similar to quick, light pricks on the scalp.

Several factors can influence the level of pain experienced during SMP, including the individual's pain threshold, the area of the scalp, and the session duration. Areas of the scalp with more nerve endings, such as the temples and hairline, might be more sensitive.

At The Scalp Shop, we have intentionally cultivated a cozy environment with good music, movies, a comfortable chair, and soothing tea so you can relax and feel at ease during the procedure. Our SMP practitioners are sensitive to their clients' comfort levels and can offer breaks during the session if needed. If you have any concerns regarding pain let us know during your consultation so that we can provide reassurance and make the process as comfortable as possible.


How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of SMP can vary widely, making it essential for potential clients to understand what might influence the final price. Typically, SMP treatments are several thousand dollars. The total cost depends on the extent of the addressed area, the complexity of the work required, and the number of sessions needed.

The practitioner's expertise and reputation can also significantly influence the cost. At The Scalp Shop, our SMP artists charge $1500-$7000 (depending on the extent of the hair loss), but this comes with the bespoke artistry and consistent quality of our results. The average cost would fall into the range of $2500 -$4500 for the average client. 

If you are interested in a personalized estimate, we recommend that you book a free consultation where one of our practitioners can discuss your specific needs and goals to provide an accurate quote.


How Long Does it Last?

Scalp Micropigmentation's longevity is one of the many reasons for its increasing popularity. Typically, SMP can last for years while only requiring touch-ups every 3-6 years. The duration varies from person to person and depends on several factors, including the individual's skin type, lifestyle, and how well they follow aftercare instructions. Exposure to the sun, frequent swimming, and other activities can accelerate the fading process, so an understanding of the individuals lifestyle and proper scalp care is essential to achieve the desired results.

Generally, the pigmentation will retain its appearance for years, gradually fading. This fading is natural and subtle, while periodic touch-ups can keep the look fresh and natural. These touch-up sessions are less extensive and less expensive than the initial treatment.

It's also worth noting that because SMP involves depositing a carbon-based pigment into the top layer of the scalp, the fading process doesn't result in color change but rather a lightening of the shade.


What is the Recovery Time After Scalp Micropigmentation?

The Scalp Micopigmentation recovery time is generally much shorter than other options for hair restoration. Most clients can return to their daily activities within the same day, with a few precautions to ensure proper healing and pigment retention. However, the scalp may take several days to recover entirely from the procedure, and there are specific guidelines to follow during this time.

Does Scalp Micropigmentation Grow Hair?

Scalp Micropigmentation does not stimulate hair growth or lead to new hair development. It is a cosmetic procedure that creates the look and appearance of hair by applying natural pigments to the scalp. While SMP can significantly improve the appearance of the scalp by creating the look of a fuller head of shaved hair or adding density to thinning areas, it does not affect hair follicles or alter the body's natural hair growth processes.

SMP is an excellent option for individuals looking for a non-surgical solution to hair loss. It offers aesthetic enhancements and camouflages baldness or thinning areas. However, it's important for individuals considering SMP to understand that while the procedure can dramatically change how the scalp looks and boost self-confidence, it does not cure baldness or reverse hair loss.

Other treatments or hair transplant surgery may be appropriate for promoting hair growth. These treatments work differently from SMP to stimulate hair growth or redistribute hair follicles to thinning areas.

Does Insurance Cover Scalp Micropigmentation?

For most people, SMP will be an out-of-pocket expense. Therefore, it's essential to consider the costs carefully and discuss pricing and payment options during the consultation phase. To make it easier for our clients, we offer financing options through a trusted partner, letting you apply in minutes.  

SMP procedures are considered cosmetic and are not covered by most insurance plans. However, there are exceptional circumstances where coverage might be possible. If you are pursuing SMP for medical reasons, such as camouflaging scars from surgical procedures or injuries, or if it's part of the treatment for specific medical conditions like alopecia areata, patients might have a case for insurance coverage. In these scenarios, you often need a doctor's recommendation or a medical necessity letter stating why SMP is required.

If your situation might warrant an exception, contact your insurance provider directly to discuss your case. Ask about the details of your coverage and what documentation is necessary to support a claim for SMP. 

How Does Scalp Micropigmentation Address Hair Loss?

Scalp Micropigmentation addresses hair loss by creating the illusion of hair follicles on the scalp, which can significantly improve the appearance of balding or thinning areas. Here's how SMP tackles various aspects of hair loss:

  • Creating the Appearance of Hair Density: By carefully placing pigment dots among existing hair follicles, SMP practitioners can reduce the contrast between the hair and the scalp, masking the areas where the scalp is visible through the hair.

  • Defining and Restoring Hairlines: SMP is highly effective in restoring receding hairlines. Practitioners can create a natural-looking hairline that complements the individual's facial features and head shape, removing years from the individual's appearance and restoring a more youthful profile.

  • Concealing Scars: SMP can cover scalp scars from injuries, surgeries, or previous hair transplant procedures. Blending pigment into the scarred area can significantly reduce the scar's visibility, seamlessly integrating it with the surrounding hair.

  • Creating the Look of a Full-Shaved Head: For those with advanced hair loss or complete baldness, SMP can create the appearance of a full head of closely shaved hair or a buzz-cut. This look is achieved by evenly distributing pigment dots across the entire scalp. This look requires skill and precision to ensure a natural and uniform appearance.

  • Camouflaging Conditions Like Alopecia: SMP can be particularly beneficial for individuals with alopecia areata, totalis, or universalis, where hair loss can be patchy or complete. SMP minimizes the appearance of bald spots or total baldness, helping to restore a look of uniformity and wholeness to the scalp.

It's important to note that while SMP offers a cosmetic solution to hair loss, it does not prevent future hair loss or promote hair growth. It's a management technique that effectively masks visible hair loss symptoms, providing a long-term aesthetic solution.


Does Scalp Micropigmentation Work for All Hair Types?

SMP is a versatile procedure that can be effective for virtually all hair types and colors. Small Micropigmentation mimics the natural appearance of hair follicles, making it a suitable solution for individuals with varying hair textures, densities, and shades. Here's how SMP works across different hair types:

  • Straight Hair: SMP can add density to thinning areas or create a new hairline for individuals with straight hair. The pigments are applied to blend seamlessly with the natural hair color and follicle size, enhancing the appearance of a fuller head of hair.

  • Curly or Wavy Hair: For those with curly or wavy hair, SMP can effectively fill in gaps and create the illusion of depth. The SMP technique can match the unique curl pattern and ensure that the pigmented areas complement the natural hair.

  • Coarse or Thick Hair: While individuals with coarse or thick hair may have more density, SMP can still be beneficial in addressing receding hairlines or bald spots. The practitioner can adjust the pigment placement and density to ensure a natural transition between the treated and untreated areas.

  • Fine or Thin Hair: SMP is particularly effective for people with fine or thin hair. It can significantly improve the scalp's appearance by reducing the contrast between the hair and the scalp, making the hair appear thicker and denser.

  • Different Hair Colors: SMP is not limited to a specific hair color. The pigments used can be customized to match a wide range of hair colors, from black to blonde and everything in between. At The Scalp Shop, our SMP artists use carbon-based pigments to achieve the closest match to the individual's natural hair color.

  • Age and Gender: SMP is suitable for adults of all genders. It offers a hair loss solution for men and women dealing with hair loss or thinning hair, providing a cosmetic enhancement that boosts confidence and self-esteem.

Will I Need to Shave My Head?

Whether or not you need to shave your head for Scalp Micropigmentation depends on several factors, including the extent of your hair loss, the desired outcome, and your existing hair length and style:

  • Practitioner's Advice: The best course of action is to follow the advice of your SMP practitioner. During the consultation, discuss your current hair situation and what you hope to achieve with SMP.

  • Extensive Hair Loss or Baldness: Your practitioner may recommend shaving your head before sessions if you have extensive hair loss or are already bald. For SMP to create the look of a full head of shaved hair, having the scalp shaved allows for a uniform appearance and can enhance the natural-looking results.

  • Thinning Hair: If you have thinning hair but are not completely bald, you might not need to shave your head. However, trimming the hair can make the process easier and improve visibility during pigment application.

  • Desired Look: Your desired final look plays a crucial role. If you prefer the appearance of a full shaved head, shaving before the procedure may be advisable. However, shaving your head may be counterproductive if you aim to use SMP to add density or mask certain areas.

Ultimately, the need to shave your head depends on your circumstances and the goals you wish to achieve with Scalp Micropigmentation. Open discussion with your SMP provider ensures your treatment aligns with your aesthetic preferences and lifestyle.

About The Author: Gio James

Over the last 20 years, Gio has used his lifetime of experiences to bring a creative touch, extraordinary eye for detail, and artistic expertise to the hair loss industry. He has been quoted by The New York Times as "an innovator" and was an early pioneer in scalp micropigmentation. Since then, The Scalp Shop in New York has become THE destination for realistic SMP and an experience that's fun, inspiring and uplifting. Through The Scalp Shop, Gio has been able to change lives beyond the chair and restore the confidence people have in themselves. 

Gio Scalp Shop
Gio The Scalp Shop

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