Scalp Micropigmentation: Benefits & Side Effects

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/16/2021

By now, most of us are more than familiar with the concept of eyebrow microblading. But have you ever heard of scalp micropigmentation? 

Whether this is your first time hearing the term or a Google search led you to this article, we’re here to fill you in (pun most certainly intended).

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is a special type of cosmetic tattoo performed on the scalp to mimic the look of natural hair follicles. 

Unlike typical hair loss solutions, such as transplants, scalp micropigmentation offers a tattoo-based, non-medical cover up that hides conditions on the scalp and creates the illusion of a thicker mane.

Scalp micropigmentation is performed using a combination of carefully selected pigments, tattoo instruments and artistic skills of a SMP provider. 

When done correctly, it can address many cosmetic scalp conditions, such as alopecia, thinning, the scar from strip harvesting and more.

Who Would Benefit from Scalp Micropigmentation?

SMP is a helpful, non-surgical treatment option for men experiencing hair thinning, loss or other conditions including: scar from hair transplant, hair restoration deformities, regional balding and those who don’t like wearing toupees or wigs. 

A patient with alopecia might also benefit from SMP. Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia (AGA), is the most common type of hair loss in men.

SMP is also a more permanent solution to scalp concealers, which may drip or shed in certain weather conditions.

The Scalp Micropigmentation Process

Scalps have an intricate anatomy and support many underlying structures, such as glands, blood vessels, nerves, muscles and fat. 

That’s why it is critical to find an SMP technician who is experienced and knowledgeable about the anatomy of scalps. 

High-quality SMP treatment centers should have:

  • Certification of SMP training

  • Body art practitioner license on display (depending on state requirements)

  • Bloodborne pathogens certification

  • County health permit

  • Clean and sterile environment with a sink

  • Packaged needles that can be opened in front of the client

  • Barrier protection during treatment (nitrile gloves, mask, barrier tape, and guards on SMP treatment device)

During your initial consultation, the SMP artist will evaluate your scalp and explain the desired outcome. At your first appointment, your SMP artist will lay the foundation for the new look. 

The second treatment is performed after the scalp has had time to heal, and will typically consist of different pigments to fill in more detail around your real hair follicles. 

The gap between the first and second appointments is about one to four weeks. This is to allow the pigments to settle and for the scalp to heal.

The entire process is typically complete after two to three appointments. Each appointment can last up to eight hours. 

It’s also worth noting that, like regular tattoos, micropigmentation work will need touch ups, as the ink/pigment will fade over time. 

buy finasteride

more hair... there's a pill for that

Is Scalp Micropigmentation Safe?

Given the proximity of the scalp to the brain, it’s normal to feel nervous for your SMP appointment. 

As with most procedures, there are potential side effects. However, the benefits of SMP may outweigh the potential side effects, and patient satisfaction is typically very high., 

Potential side effects of SMP can include:

  • An allergic reaction to the ink. Make sure to tell your technician everything you are allergic to prior to getting started.

  • An infection from contaminated equipment. It’s very important that a new, sterile needle is used in the procedure.

  • Unsterile equipment and needles can transmit diseases (human papillomavirus, hepatitis), as well as skin infections caused by bacteria like staphylococcus. 

What Are the Benefits of Scalp Micropigmentation?

There are numerous benefits to SMP, including increased confidence and little to no downtime after the appointment. 

SMP is a great non-surgical alternative for thinning hair, hair loss or someone who is balding, such as a patient with alopecia. 

SMP is great at camouflaging a scar from hair transplant surgery, making it appear as though you have a thicker head of hair, and evening out patchy spots or uneven hairlines. When done correctly, SMP has a very natural appearance.

SMP is a more permanent alternative to powdered and spray-on hair concealers or pigments, and will not drip or shed during a workout or in humid weather.

SMP is also a great alternative for men who aren’t interested in wearing a wig or toupee. 

There is also microblading for you to consider. It is a form of superficial micropigmentation. We have a guide to compare microblading and micropigmentation if you are interested.

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

4.5 average rating

Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product..

Scalp Micropigmentation Alternatives

So, the thought of essentially tattooing your head skeeves you out. While micropigmentation is an accepted practice, we can totally understand where you’re coming from.

That said, we’d be remiss not to mention some scalp micropigmentation alternatives for the needle-shy among us.


Minoxidil is an FDA-approved topical medication used for a patient with alopecia (AGA), or male pattern baldness. 

Topical minoxidil has been considered safe to use; however, some people experience side effects after application. 

The most common side effect of minoxidil on scalps is irritant contact dermatitis. Typical symptoms include itchy and scaly skin.

Wig or toupee

Wigs and toupees are another alternative to SMP. Some toupees are incredibly realistic and are adhered to the scalp with glue. 

This type of customized toupee can last for months if properly cared for.

Hair transplant

Hair transplants are a surgical alternative to SMP. It is a very complex and technical surgery, and can cost thousands of dollars. 

However, the results are typically very good and patient satisfaction is high. Side effects of a hair transplant can include scarring, epidermal cysts and infection.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Most popular

Topical Finasteride

If a pill feels like an overwhelming way to treat male pattern hair loss, this spray with finasteride & minoxidil could be for you.

Minoxidil Solution

Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.

Finasteride & Minoxidil

This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.

Oral Finasteride

If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.

Minoxidil Foam

Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.

Scalp Micropigmentation Takeaways

Whether you’re a patient with alopecia, or you’ve been experiencing hair loss, SMP might be an avenue for you to explore. 

Before undergoing the procedure, be sure to research both the treatment center and SMP technician to make sure that SMP is right for you.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.