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Scalp Micropigmentation vs. Hair Tattoo: What’s the Difference?


SMP and hair tattoo – are they the same? It’s easy to see why one might think so. Let’s set the record straight.

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) and hair tattoos are two cosmetic procedures that are often confused with each other. However, there are some key differences between the two treatments.


What is scalp micropigmentation (SMP)?

SMP is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure that uses a micro-needle to deposit pigment into the scalp. The pigment is applied in a series of tiny dots, which mimic the appearance of hair follicles. SMP can be used to create the appearance of a shaved head, buzz cut, or even a full head of hair. It is also a good option for people who are not candidates for hair transplant surgery.


What is a hair tattoo?

A hair tattoo is a type of tattoo that is applied to the scalp. Hair tattoos are typically more complex and artistic than SMP. They can be used to create the appearance of hair follicles, but they can also be used to create more elaborate designs, such as tribal patterns or logos


SMP vs. Hair Tattoo: Pigment

SMP uses lighter, more translucent pigments than hair tattooing. This gives SMP a more natural appearance, as it mimics the color and opacity of real hair follicles. Hair tattoo pigments, on the other hand, are darker and more opaque, which can result in a more artificial look.


SMP vs. Hair Tattoo: Technique

SMP is applied using a dotting technique, while hair tattoo is applied using a scraping technique. The dotting technique creates a more realistic and natural-looking appearance, as it mimics the way that hair follicles grow in the scalp. The scraping technique, on the other hand, can create a more artificial look, as it can create the appearance of a solid block of color.


SMP vs. Hair Tattoo: Depth

SMP is applied into the upper dermis, while hair tattoo is applied into the deeper layers of the skin. This difference in depth is why SMP is easier to remove than hair tattoo.


SMP vs. Hair Tattoo: Purpose

SMP is designed to create the appearance of hair follicles, while hair tattoo can be used for a variety of purposes, such as creating decorative designs or commemorating special occasions. SMP is typically used to cover up hair loss or thinning, or to create the appearance of a buzz cut or shaved head. Hair tattoo, on the other hand, can be used to create a variety of designs, such as tribal patterns, logos, or even portraits.


SMP and Hair Tattoo Differences


CharacteristicScalp MicropigmentationHair tattoo
CostTypically less expensiveTypically more expensive
LongevitySemi-permanent (lasts for several years)Permanent (may fade over time, but can be touched up)
Natural appearanceCreates a more natural appearanceMay create a more artificial appearance
Side effectsFewer side effectsMore side effects, including a higher risk of infection and allergic reaction
Recovery timeShorter recovery timeLonger recovery time
DesignTypically used to create the appearance of a shaved head, buzz cut, or full head of hairCan be used to create more complex and artistic designs
PigmentUses lighter, more translucent pigmentsUses darker, more opaque pigments
TechniqueApplied using a dotting techniqueApplied using a scraping technique
DepthApplied into the upper dermisApplied into the deeper layers of the skin
PurposeDesigned to create the appearance of hair folliclesCan be used for a variety of purposes, such as creating decorative designs or commemorating special occasions


Does scalp micropigmentation hurt?

SMP can be uncomfortable, but it is not typically painful. The sensation experienced during the procedure often draws comparisons to that of getting a tattoo. In fact, most people describe the feeling as similar to a tattoo, with the prickling sensation as the needle punctures the skin. 

To enhance comfort and minimize any potential discomfort, a topical anesthetic can be applied to the scalp prior to the procedure. This numbs the area, ensuring that the experience is as pain-free as possible for the individual.


Scalp micropigmentation side effects

The most common side effects of SMP are mild and resolve on their own within a few days. These side effects may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Scabbing
  • Sensitivity to the sun

More serious side effects include infection, allergic reaction, scarring, and unsatisfactory results. It’s crucial to work with certified SMP artists to ensure the best results. 


Is scalp micropigmentation permanent?

SMP is considered a semi-permanent treatment. The reason for this is that the pigment, over the course of time, will naturally fade due to various factors such as sun exposure, skin cell regeneration, and the body’s immune response. 

However, this fading is not necessarily a downside. It allows for adjustments and changes as one’s appearance and preferences evolve. While the SMP may last for several years, it will require touch-ups every few years to ensure the results remain fresh and maintain the desired aesthetic.


SMP Treatment Minneapolis, Minnesota

Shapiro Medical Group is a leading provider of SMP in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We offer a variety of SMP services, including SMP for hair loss, SMP for scarring, and SMP for scalp conditions. Call us to schedule a consultation. We serve patients all over Minneapolis and surrounding areas including Golden Valley, Columbia Heights, Roseville, Richfield, and the greater Minnesota area.  

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