Hair Tattoos: The Only Guide You Need to SMP

hair tattoo result
  1. What is a hair tattoo?
  2. Is it right for you?
  3. Can it cover hair transplant scars?
  4. Aftercare
  5. FAQs

Hair tattooing, or scalp micropigmentation (SMP), is a cosmetic treatment designed to reduce the visibility of hair loss. No hair growth occurs after SMP procedures, unlike with hair transplantation. Instead, hair tattooing only creates the illusion of healthy hair growth.

So, what benefits does SMP offer? And what can you expect if you try it?

In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the art of hair tattooing, from the application process to post-treatment scalp-care tips.

Hair tattoos explained

Applying a hair tattoo requires training, skill, and specialist equipment (including microneedles and carefully selected inks). But you wouldn’t visit a tattoo artist in a studio as you would with standard body art. These aren’t traditional tattoos, and the procedure is completely different.

SMP technicians perform hair tattooing in a clinical environment. The technician will use a microneedle to carefully tattoo a specific pigment into the scalp. They will make hundreds or thousands of tiny coloured dots on the scalp’s upper dermis, based on your hair loss and goals.

When the technician has finished the procedure, the pigment will realistically resemble a full head of hair shaved close to the scalp.

A hair tattoo may cover the entire scalp if you have advanced hair loss caused by male pattern baldness (which affects around 50% of men over 50) or another condition. But it can also work on isolated areas to target a receding hairline or bald spot. And SMP can be used to hide scarring on the scalp too.

hair tattooing professional

How do you know if SMP is right for you?

Ideal candidates for this treatment experience different types of hair loss. Patients may show mild recession at the hairline (a “mature hairline”) or more advanced baldness across the scalp. This could be due to genetics, a form of alopecia (such as alopecia areata, affecting around 15 in 10,000 people in the UK), or medication.

One of the main reasons why people may choose a hair tattoo procedure over another treatment, such as a hair transplant, is because it’s faster and involves no surgery. However, it’s cosmetic only: the hair will not regrow, unlike after a transplant.

If you’re considering a hair tattoo, only trust a trained professional to perform the procedure. Otherwise, you may be unsatisfied with the results and feel compelled to cover your scalp when going outside.

Hair and scalp specialists (including trichologists) continually investigate hair loss treatments, including transplantation. Hair restoration is safer and more effective than ever, thanks to the latest techniques. But SMP may allow you to add density to your hair and cover bald spots whether or not you’ve undergone a transplant.

Can hair tattoos cover scars from a hair transplant?

You might feel uncomfortable with noticeable scars anywhere on your scalp, but particularly so at the hairline. Specialists may apply hair tattoos to cover scars from an accident or a surgical procedure (including a hair transplant) and make them less visible.

SMP is a fairly common treatment for patients after undergoing a Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) procedure. During this treatment, a surgeon will remove a strip of skin from the back of the scalp to harvest its follicles. This will cause a noticeable scar of varying lengths, though it may even run from ear to ear.

The only way to cover this scar completely is to grow your hair long, but a hair tattoo can help to reduce its visibility and enable you to wear your hair shorter. However, a Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant is less invasive: donor follicles taken from the back and sides of the scalp are implanted into balding areas individually.

FUT hair transplant leaves a visible scar

What happens after your hair tattoo treatment?

After a specialist applies your hair tattoos, red dots will appear on your scalp. These are temporary: they’ll become dry and fall off the scalp over time. And they’re typically painless.

You may experience mild discomfort during the early part of the hair tattooing procedure, though it should still be less painful than having a standard tattoo applied in a studio. A tattoo artist’s needles will penetrate the skin more deeply than those used for SMP.

While a hair tattoo is a faster, less invasive option than a hair transplant, bald areas of the scalp will stay bald. However, transplantation will lead to new hair growth in those areas within 12 to 18 months of the treatment. You will also have the flexibility to wear your hair at any length after an FUE procedure, without fear of showing your scars.

If you choose a hair tattoo, though, you’ll need to follow several steps to care for your scalp after the procedure:

  • Moisturise your scalp several days following your treatment.
  • Wait approximately two weeks to start shaving your scalp again.
  • Avoid direct sunlight and swimming for at least one month.
  • Use sunscreen to help stop the tattoo pigment from fading.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, as sweat can affect the pigment.

Your scalp technician will provide you with further advice during your consultations and after your treatment. It’s crucial that you allow yourself time to rest and heal properly. However, you can still follow your usual routine the day after your hair tattoo is applied provided you follow guidance from your SMP technician.

Essential hair tattoo FAQs

You’re sure to have questions if you’re considering a hair tattoo. Below, you’ll find answers to some of the most common queries about the procedure:

Will a hair tattoo cause more of my hair to fall out?

SMP treatment won’t stop new hair from growing on your scalp. The main reason for this is that the ink particles will reach the skin’s dermis layer only, and the hair follicles are found further down. SMP won’t damage your hair, and hair in treated areas will grow back as usual.

Do hair tattoos create realistic results?

Trained SMP technicians can achieve realistic results with the latest hair tattooing devices. Your hair should look healthy, dense, and trimmed close to the scalp, creating a natural aesthetic.

It’s important to consider SMP carefully before you try it, though. You should speak to an SMP technician in detail to understand what your procedure will cost, potential side effects, and when you can expect your scalp to fully heal.

hair tattoo pigment colour

Are hair tattoos permanent?

Losing your hair can be a serious issue for some people. You may struggle if you feel your hair is one of your best features and love grooming it. That’s why a hair transplant is increasingly the go-to option for people affected by hair loss. Fortunately, treatments are more affordable and accessible than ever.

However, if you want to cover your hair loss with the look of a buzz cut without restoring growth, SMP may be a viable option. The results may last for a number of years, though touch-ups will be required to maintain the look in the long run.

Can a hair tattoo be removed?

Specialists can remove the pigment with a laser. You will likely need one or two treatments to take the pigment away completely, depending on how much of the scalp is affected.

Can hair tattooing lead to cancer?

At present, there is no evidence to connect SMP with cancer.

Will applying minoxidil to the scalp affect SMP results?

Minoxidil is a topical agent applied directly to the scalp, designed to stimulate new hair growth. 

You may find that the pigment on your scalp fades if you use minoxidil too soon after your treatment. Wait at least two weeks to ensure the inks have dried.

Start your hair restoration journey with the best hair transplant clinic

Scalp tattooing offers temporary coverage if you experience any form of hair loss, from a mature hairline to male pattern baldness. It’s a simple way to add an illusion of extra density, but you will need touch-up sessions to maintain the results.

If you want to restore your hair and achieve fuller, more youthful growth, a hair transplant is the ultimate solution. FUE is the most popular technique (over FUT), and HairPalace offers the cutting-edge FUE2 technique.

Our surgeons use a state-of-the-art handheld micro punch to extract follicles and implant them into one or more areas of the scalp. This leads to healthy growth within 12 to 18 months. Your new hair will match existing strands for a natural look.

If you want to learn more about how our transplants can transform your hair, book a consultation with a member of our team in your area. We’ll examine your scalp, discuss your goals, and help you understand what we can do for you.