Hair tattoo: how does it work, how long will it last?

How does hair tattoo work

Hair tattooing is one of the newest hair loss treatments on the market — but unlike most other options, it doesn’t actually restore the hair. 

Instead, a hair tattoo is intended to simply create the illusion of hair growth on the scalp. 

But how effective is it? How long do the results last? And how much does a hair tattoo in the UK cost?

We’ll answer these questions, and more, below! 

What is a hair tattoo?

Hair tattooing (also known as scalp micropigmentation) is a non-surgical, cosmetic treatment that helps to reduce the visibility of hair loss. 

It’s not a hair transplant. And it’s not a topical solution that encourages the hair to grow back in specific areas. 

It involves “drawing” hair onto the scalp with a handheld tool — a process similar to applying a standard tattoo. And as no surgery takes place, no hair will grow back. This is purely cosmetic. 

If you’re looking to fully restore your hair, you should consider a hair transplant instead — today’s most cutting-edge hair transplant prices are more competitive than you may expect. 

What is hair tattooing good for? 

A hair tattoo may be a valuable option for people who have experienced hair loss in one form or another but may be unable (or unwilling) to try a hair transplant. They might be an unsuitable candidate for hair restoration surgery or be advised against it. 

For example, people affected by any of the following conditions might consider a hair tattoo:

  • Alopecia 
  • Male pattern baldness 
  • Female pattern baldness 
  • Thinning hair 
  • Cancer 

Hair tattooing can cover the full scalp and replicate the look of a shaved head. Or it may be applied to one or more areas to add density and cover balding/thinning spots (such as around the temples or hairline). 

A hair tattoo can also be used to mask scars on the scalp caused by an injury, operation, or a hair transplant procedure. 

In the latter case, an FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) treatment involves removing a strip of skin from the back of the head. A surgeon will harvest the hair follicles from this and implant them into the bald areas on the scalp, cultivating new growth. 

FUT hair transplant leaves a visible scar

But an FUT treatment will leave a visible scar (see above) that can only be covered by wearing the hair in a longer style than you may want to. But a hair tattoo will help to reduce the scar’s visibility and keep the surgery more discreet. 

How does hair tattooing work?

A trained practitioner will carefully apply a hair tattoo to the scalp using a microneedle. They use layered, tiny dots to mimic the natural pattern of hair follicles. The pigment should be matched to your skin tone to achieve a realistic look. 

hair tattooing professional

Hair tattooing is usually completed across multiple sessions, particularly if you have a large area to be treated across the scalp. The length of each session will vary depending on the amount of work required to achieve your ideal aesthetic. 

Your practitioner may recommend leaving one week or more between sessions to allow the scalp time to heal. 

The first session is focused on establishing a foundation for the tattooing to follow, laying the microdots in a pattern that matches the hair follicles for a natural effect. 

Your practitioner will add more microdots during subsequent sessions and build the layering. 

Does the tattooing method hurt and are hair tattoos safe?

You may experience some discomfort during the hair tattooing process, as you would with a standard tattoo on any other area of your body. 

However, a hair tattoo is only applied to the outer layer of the skin, so it should be significantly more comfortable than a conventional tattooing session. The practitioner will also use an anaesthetic before the session to help reduce any discomfort you might feel. 

Hair tattooing is believed to be safe, though it’s possible that some people may be allergic to the pigment. Infection is another potential risk to consider. 

Generally, the procedure is more likely to be safe if you visit a reputable practitioner who applies hair tattoos in a clean environment. Anyone who undergoes a hair tattooing session should avoid the following for a few days:

  • Swimming and showering (to keep the scalp dry)
  • Shaving the scalp (until told otherwise)
  • Direct sunlight 
  • Physical activities that cause you to sweat 
  • Steam rooms and saunas 
  • Shampooing or moisturizing the scalp

Do hair tattoos look realistic? 

choosing the right pigment colour is essential for a sucessful hair tattoo session

Hair tattoos can look remarkably realistic when applied by a skilled, experienced professional. Good results will be indistinguishable from natural hair cut close to the scalp, creating an even shadow in the treated area. 

However, hair tattooing isn’t guaranteed to achieve the outcome you want or expect. 

It’s possible that the practitioner could:

  • Use the wrong pigment for your hair and create a bad match for your skin tone and existing hair
  • Make the dots bigger than they should be 
  • Cause the hairline to be too high or too low 

Anyone considering a hair tattoo should take the time to research local options to find the best, most trustworthy practitioner. 

Look into their experience, their testimonials, and try to find reviews from previous customers. Never rush into a decision because of an unbelievably low price or limited-time special offer. 

Will a hair tattoo last forever?

A hair tattoo won’t last forever — it’s considered semi permanent. 

Why? Because the skin will exfoliate itself naturally over time and the pigment will fade. But the results can last from around five to eight years. 

However, your hair tattoo could fade sooner if you have dry skin, as flaking can cause unwanted exfoliation. 

Touch-ups will be required every few years to maintain the results of a hair tattoo. You should keep this in mind before you commit to this treatment option yourself: the cost of repeated visits to a practitioner will add up over the years and make this an expensive solution in the long run. 

How much does a hair tattoo cost?

Hair tattoo costs vary based on the extent of hair loss and the amount of scalp to be covered. 

For example, if your hairline is receding and you want to lower it with a hair tattoo, you might pay around £300 per session. This should be a fairly straightforward process. 

But more expensive hair loss will demand more pigment and time to cover. If your hair is at the fifth stage on the Norwood scale, you could pay between £1,000 and £2.500 at some clinics. 

Again, though, touch-ups will be required every few years if you intend to keep your results at their best. This can drive the overall hair tattoo costs substantially higher over a number of decades. 

Do hair tattoos always work? 

Hair tattoos can lead to unsatisfactory results or negative side effects. 

hair tattoo result

For example, the pigment’s colour could change to a distinctive blue tone over time if a practitioner uses standard tattoo ink and injects it too deeply. This is also a risk if the microneedle is contaminated before the session. 

Potential side effects include:

Redness 

Your scalp may become red as soon as your hair tattoo is applied. This can be concerning, but it should fade after a day or two. 

Itchiness 

Your scalp might feel itchy after the hair tattooing session ends, but it should go away after a few days while the scalp heals. 

Tightness

Scabs will form on the scalp as the skin heals, and this can create a feeling of tightness in the treated areas. This may be irritating but the skin should feel looser once the scabs are no longer an issue. 

Swollen lymph nodes

The lymph nodes may become swollen after a hair tattoo is applied. This occurs if pigments reach the bloodstream, cannot be broken down, and collect in a lymph node. 

Swelling should fade and vanish with time. But swollen lymph nodes can also indicate that you have an infection unrelated to your hair tattoo. It may be worth speaking with your doctor if you’re concerned. 

FAQ

What is this method good for?

A hair tattoo is an effective option for people affected by hair loss who want to create the look of healthy hair growth on one or more areas of the scalp. Hair tattoos can also cover scars on the scalp, such as those resulting from FUT.  

Does it hurt?

A hair tattoo procedure can be mildly uncomfortable at times, but the practitioner will use an anaesthetic to numb the area before they begin. 

How long does a tattoo last?

A hair tattoo can last from around five to eight years, but touch-up sessions will be required every few years to maintain results. It will fade over time as skin on the scalp naturally exfoliates, though this may occur sooner if you have dry skin.