Much of the confusion that surrounds scalp micropigmentation is caused by folks lumping it together with microblading, but they don’t actually do the same thing. “Microblading relies on small strokes, semi-permanent ink, and a blade that cuts into the skin – it’s totally different,” says Jara.
It’s also easy to get lost in the jargon around tattoos. “Essentially, we’re tattooing just like a body tattooist, except we’re strategically using smaller, finer needles to replicate the size of tiny hair follicles,” says Hernandez.
A needle for this procedure only penetrates 1.5 to 2 millimeters into the top layer of the dermis. “This is the sweet spot for scalp micropigmentation,” says Jara. “If the needle only hits the surface layer of skin, cell turnover causes the pigment to quickly fade. Go too deep into the subcutaneous layer and the pigment loses its shape and spreads out, staining the scalp with round blotches.”
Overall, scalp micropigmentation can be useful for someone seeking a purely cosmetic improvement for hair loss, says Michelle Henry, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist who also specializes in hair restoration. “But it’s important to understand that it doesn’t cause hair to regrow,” she says, adding that scalp micropigmentation won’t damage the hair follicle either. “If someone has a tattoo on their arm, it doesn’t become an alopecia area, so the procedure shouldn’t inhibit hair growth.”
Who is a good candidate for scalp micropigmentation?
Those dealing with hair thinning, alopecia, and visible scalp scarring from hair transplants or surgeries will benefit most from scalp micropigmentation. “A main area of concern for men is the hairline and crown,” Jara says. “For women, it’s usually the temples and the spot where they consistently part their hair.”
If you have an underlying skin condition though, proceed with caution. “The type of patient who may want to speak to their dermatologist first has a lot of keloid scarring and gets what we call a ‘spontaneous keloid’ from something as tiny as an acne scar,” notes Dr. Henry. There are also possible risks for those with active eczema or psoriasis, she says, since they have a tendency to flare up in areas of trauma.
Does scalp micropigmentation work if you already have hair?
The short answer is definitely. There is a range of options depending on the pattern of hair loss. Those with a thinning head of hair can have follicles tattooed onto areas where there is still hair growth to create the appearance of lush volume (also known as “Hair Density Scalp Micropigmentation”).