Home | What is Scalp Micropigmentation?

What is Scalp Micropigmentation?

Scalp Micropigmentation is a new and advancing treatment used to improve the appearance of hair density, by applying a cosmetic tattooing technique to the scalp.

SMP only began circulating more widely around the UK in 2005, the aim of this procedure is to replicate the appearance of natural looking depth, by creating a shadow on the scalp using tiny layered dots in different tints of black.

Who might consider Scalp Micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation is available for a wide range of people, but is not advised if you suffer from either scalp acne or psoriasis, as it can spread and lead to flare-ups. It also may not be a suitable option if you suffer with keloids, due to the risk of scarring.

Those who may be able to benefit from the appearance of increased hair density created by SMP are men and women who suffer from one of the following conditions:

  • Hair thinning
  • Alopecia areata
  • Male pattern baldness, including those who have suffered complete balding and are looking for a shaven hair appearance.

Be aware that scalp micropigmentation is not a procedure to thicken the hair, it is an illusion to make the scalp appear more dense.

Key information about SMP

Price The cost of treatment varies depending on your provider and how large the treatment area is, you can expect the price overall to be somewhere between £800-£4000.
Recovery Little downtime is required, typically you can’t wash your hair for 4-5 days after treatments, and should avoid activities such as saunas and steam rooms for around a month.
Results Results are almost immediate, although are semi-permanent and touch ups are recommended every 3-5 years. Those that suffer from dry skin can expect the pigmentation to fade more quickly.
Risks Scarring, allergies and infections are some risks associated with SMP, but the chances can be significantly reduced with the right practitioner.

Do your research

Sadly, scalp micropigmentation is not well regulated at all in the UK and, scarily, training is only obligatory, meaning no formal training is required to perform this treatment!

As the results of SMP are largely based on the practitioner's expertise and technique, extensive research should be performed if you are considering this treatment.

Some risks of having this procedure performed by a practitioner with little to no training are:

  • Use of incorrect equipment/ink
  • Incorrectly placement of the ink
  • Unsanitary or non-sterile conditions
  • Poor risk assessment/management
  • Inexpert technique, such as allowing the needle to insert too far into the skin

Leading to:

  • Unnatural results:
    • Blue tinged ink colour
    • Hair lines with bad symmetry/placement/shape
    • Dermal staining (loss of definition and crispness)
    • Appearance of marker pen dots
  • Damage to existing hair follicles
  • Flare up of existing conditions
  • Quick fading of ink
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Allergies

Pros and cons of SMP

Pros Cons
Can offer life-changing results when performed by a skilled professional Unregulated practitioners performing treatment can lead to undesirable outcome
Minimal downtime Semi-permanent
Quick results following procedure Does not actually thicken/repair hair
Offers a shaven hair appearance on male baldness Sessions often require sitting for 4-5 hours and can be uncomfortable
Minimal maintenance Top-ups required every 3-5 years - which could work out quite expensive overall

Alternatives to SMP

If you are looking for the appearance of increased hair density but are not sure whether SMP is right for you, it might be worth considering a range of hair restoration procedures.

As hair loss specialists, our resounding advice is always to seek an expert option. Getting to the root cause of the issue will prevent further loss in the future and will pinpoint the right treatment for you specifically.

Hair Transplantation

The main difference between hair transplantation and SMP is that rather than concealing or masking the appearance of hair loss, hair transplants offer real hair growth and improved hair density beyond the scalp. Hair transplants, on the face of it, are more expensive procedures however when considering this typically as a one-off payment, with less to no top-up requirements, it can be overall a much cheaper solution. Hair transplantation is suitable for a range of hair loss patients, including those with extensive hair loss/balding.

The procedure involves extracting permanent hair follicles from a different part of the scalp and implanting them into the thinning or balded area, allowing the area to begin growing hair shafts again. The natural-looking results offered by hair transplantation are a permanent fix. With multiple methods of hair transplantation available and the latest innovations in graft harvesting, there is an option out there for every hair loss sufferer. Find out if a hair transplantation is the right option for you here.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Hair Strengthening Treatment

PRP is a leading, non-surgical, hair loss treatment for both men and women. The treatment results in increased collagen production in the scalp, which heals and strengthens existing hair follicles and stimulates dormant ones, resulting in thicker hair.

Similarly to SMP, this treatment requires little to no downtime, the difference is that this treatment repairs hair follicles from the inside, rather than concealing the appearance of thinning. Unlike SMP, PRP can also offer great results for those suffering from psoriasis and other scalp conditions. PRP can be used on its own or alongside many other leading hair loss treatments, even hair transplantation, to enhance overall results.


Microneedling is a powerful treatment designed to promote healthy hair growth. Using a specialist needling pen, the inner layers of the scalp are punctured to stimulate the body’s healing factors and generate collagen, which helps strengthen hair follicles.

Microneedling can be used as a stand-alone procedure, or combined with other treatments to optimise results. Like SMP, a pen-like device is used to puncture the skin, although the device used for microneedling has more needles and is designed to go deeper into the layers of skin, in order to activate the body’s natural healing process and stimulate collagen production. Microneedling uses no pigment/ink, and hair density is improved naturally.


Minoxidil is a topical treatment that is FDA approved for use on men and women to increase hair growth and reduce the signs of thinning. Minoxidil is non-invasive and available as either a liquid or foam to be applied directly on to the scalp. The science behind minoxidil is that it enlarges the scalp blood vessels, allowing more blood, oxygen and nutrients to circulate the scalp and nourish the hair follicles. Results can start appearing as early as 8 weeks with consistent use.

Another FDA approved medication, Finasteride, is the most effective medication for the treatment of male pattern baldness. This oral treatment is only suitable for men, and provides even better results when combined with minoxidil topical treatments or other procedures that stimulate hair growth. Scientifically-proven for reducing hair loss and strengthening existing follicles, most men start to notice results around 6 months in to treatment.

Both medications are fairly low-maintenance and budget-friendly options for hair loss sufferers, and can be combined with other treatments, such as microneedling and PRP. Long-term hair loss sufferers can also benefit with continued use. When undergoing SMP, you may be asked to suspend Minoxidil for a term to allow complete healing, but Finasteride can usually be continued as normal.

Getting expert advice

When it comes to hair loss, it is crucial to get to the root cause of the problem.

Masking the effects of hair loss does not prevent further loss from occurring in future, and more can be done to help if you take action sooner. Seeking professional hair loss advice will support you in finding a tailored solution that is suitable for the cause of your loss, the extent of thinning/balding and your desired outcome. If you would like to discuss a tailored solution with an expert hair restoration specialist, get in touch with our friendly team to arrange your free, no-obligation, consultation today!