Many of us have experienced hair loss issues at some pint in our lives. It may surprise you to know, globally, hair loss will effect 40% of men by age 35.
If you are like me, you will have spent more time that you might want to admit googling hair loss remedies to find that miracle cure. More often than not somewhere in the search results you will likely have seen hair tattoo or scalp micropigmentation.
Hair tattoo versus Scalp micropigmentation
Whats the difference between a hair tattoo and scalp micropigmentation? Are they the same thing? Are they different, and if so how?
Let me start by confirming, hair tattoo’s and scalp micropigmentation are the same thing at least today they are.
Although… they haven’t always been…
Back in the day before scalp micropigmentation was invented (pre 2007), hair tattoos were around. Not as we know them today though. Back then they were as bad as they sound. It was a case of tattoo artists having a go at creating what looks like hair on a persons scalp. Sadly, usually with disastrous results.
Tattoo artists generally would try two different methods of creating a hair tattoo.
Firstly many tattoo artists have tried to tattoo, what looks like strands of hair onto people scalps. Sounds great in theory. The reason this method will never work is the needles are far to big. Doesn’t matter how skilled the artist is, they will never be able to create what looks like real strands of hair on the scalp.
The second method, although better is still not effective. Tattoo artists would often try to create hair tattoo’s by tattooing dots onto people heads. To give the look of a buzz cut. Although this method loosely resembles what scalp micropigmentation is today it was still riddled with problems. Namely, the wrong type of tattoo pigment was used. The needles were far too big and the tattoo pigment was deposited far to deep into the scalp.
Why does these variables matter for creating a hair tattoo?
Scalp micropigmentation pigment is carbon based. It is a cosmetic form of powdered carbon that gives the colour to the SMP pigment we use. This is probably the most important factor.
Cast your mind back to your high school days. You might remember from chemistry class that carbon is an element on the periodic table. Everything in the universe is made up of one, or a combination of the 118 elements of the periodic table
Elements are the simplest form of matter on in the universe. They are the building blocks for everything else. Elements, including carbon, can’t be broken down any further (unless you can split an atom). so we can be safe in the knowledge that as it ages in the skin it can’t change colour.
Furthermore humans are made of carbon approximately 18% of our bodies are carbon. Suggesting that it is unlikely anyone have an allergic reaction to the pigment.
Tattoo pigments on the other hand are made of many different ingredients, sometimes even heavy metals. Once in the skin, tattoo pigments have a tendency to break down. This causes the pigments to separate into their constituent colours resulting in discolouration. For this reason, many tattoos have a blue/green hue to them after a few years.
The depth at which pigment is deposited for scalp micropigmentation is shallower than tattoos. Approximately half the depth into the skin.
Why is this important?
The skin is made-up of several layers. For the purposes of this articles we are interested in the dermis layer. This is the layer beneath the top layer that we can touch (epidermis). Pigment for both tattoos and scalp micropigmentation is deposited into the dermis.
Tattoos are deposited into the lower portion of the dermis and scalp micropigmentation pigment is deposits into the upper layer and for good reason.
The lower part of the dermis is where most of the blood vessels and hair follicles etc are. This is why when someone gets a tattoo there is usually bleeding and scabbing as it heals.
Scalp micropigmentation pigment is deposited into the upper dermis because it’s mostly made up of collagen, lumen and elastic type fibres. This results in minimal if any bleeding at all during treatment. Also whilst healing there is no scabbing.
This is great for our clients and an added bonus however, this isn’t the reason we deposit it in this layer.
If pigment is deposited to deeply its at risk of migration. The blood flowing through all the blood vessels every monet of every day can pull at the pigment cause the edges to blur over time. Many tattoos have blurry edges after a few years in the skin, albeit it subtly because the blurryness is dwarfed by the overall tattoo design.]
Its extremely important that there is no pigment migration wiu SMP. If the pigment started to move this may have the effect of worst case scenario all the dots join up creating whats known in the industry as helmet head. This would be a disatour as we need all these little deposits to stay nice and crisp and clear.
Arguably the downside to SMP being deposited shallower is it will fade quicker than a tattoo. This is true, SMP does fade a little quicker. It will never completely fade but it is quicker to fade than a tattoo because its closer to the surface of the skin. Hence closer to the sun’s UV rays which is what causes most of the fading.
But……. As a scalp micropigmentation artist and as a client of the treatment myself, i’m glad it fades.
The statement above may sound counterintuitive but when you give it some thought you realise why fading is good. Not necessarilly for a tattoo but definetely for scalp micropigmentation.
I’m now 41 years old. When I had my SMP treamtnent i was 34. My hair colour at the time was a mid to light brown. you guessed it?
Now as I travel into my forties my hair is becoming greyer and greyer. Guess what though…. so is my scalp micropigmentation. At roughly the same rate as my hair. What this means is i’m not going to reach a pit where my `SMP is so dark compared to my liughtening hair that it look ridiculoius.
Touch up for SMP treatments are recommended every 4-6 years. This doesn’t mean the full 3 sessions again, rather, one sessionor even half. When that time comes the artist simply matches the colour of your hair at that time. In effect your SMP is always going to match the shade of any hair you still have, its quite geniuos I think.
Lastle we come to….
This doesn’t take much explanation to be honest. Typical tattoo needles are 0.35 mm in diameter. If I was to use this size of needle on one of my clients it would literally look as if I had drawn dots on with a sharpie pen. SMP simply wouldn’t be a viable hair loss treatment if this was the needle size.
SMP needle cartridges are a lot smaller. The average size is 0.20mm in diameter. Even in the last year the technology has moved on. Needles of just 0.17mm are now available allowing us artists to simulate the size and shape of real hair follicles flawlessly.
Tattoo Artist V SMP Artist
I trained to be a scalp micropigmentation artist not long after i received my own treatment. I have treated thousands of scalp, male and female. Every skin type and tone imaginable. However I am not a tattoo artist, I have never given anyone a tattoo nor would I ever attempt it as it would be a disastour. I am a specialist. Just as a tattoo artist is a specialist. They are not qualified to carry out scalp micropigmentation treatment nor should they without specific training. Don’t misunderstand me, there are some amazing tattoo artist out there and they are extremly skilled in wehat they do but for that very reason they should never attempt SMP. They use more pressure, deposit the pigment deeper and have the muscle memory that comes with this. If they tried to carryout SMP it would look terrible.
If a painter and decorato tried to spray a car it would not look good. the llaquer would be running all over the place. Just as if a vehicle spray painter tried to gloss some door facings there would be all gloss all over the door. Sure they are both by definition painters but the rades are still very different.
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