What is Scalp Micropigmentation or SMP?

You may have already heard of microblading for full brows. Did you know there’s a similar practice for your scalp? This procedure is known as scalp micropigmentation (SMP), which creates the illusion of fuller hair.

But what’s the exact difference?

Although both fall under the category of micropigmentation, [microblading and micropigmentation] are very different methods of implanting pigment,” explains Michal Cohen, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist and SMP practitioner.

While microblading is typically done with a manual blade, micropigmentation is performed using an electric tattoo device. This is because more power is needed to penetrate the skin on your scalp, which is thicker than the skin under your eyebrows.

How does SMP work, and who can benefit from it?

The goal of SMP is not to create hairlike lines as you would when microblading eyebrows, but instead to use tiny, layered dots in different hues of black to replicate the look of a shadow on your scalp. This style, referred to as pointillism, is done to create natural-looking depth and definition.

A skilled practitioner will work to ensure the dots look like natural hair follicles and blend in seamlessly with your existing hair and complexion.

This process may be useful for people who experience all forms of hair loss. This includes folks with:

  • Alopecia totalis and universalis

  • Scarring alopecias

  • Thinning hair or diffused hair loss in women

  • Male pattern baldness

Male pattern baldness

Does it hurt? What’s the process like?

So, just how painful is this procedure? Although is it not painless, the procedure is tolerated by almost every client. The discomfort largely depends on your pain tolerance.

Once you have done your research and sought out a responsible and skilled SMP artist (more on how to do this below), you’ll likely have an initial consultation. During this meeting, your practitioner will prep you for what to expect and how you should prepare beforehand.

For example, here are some general guidelines:

Shower before each treatment. You won’t be able to wash or wet your scalp (this includes sweating excessively) for four days after each appointment.

Each treatment typically takes between 1 to 2 hours.

How many treatments you need will depend on the amount of scalp getting SMP. Even if it’s only for a small area like a widow’s peak, on average 3 treatments are still needed for long-term retention since SMP is a process of layering color.

Treatments will be scheduled a week to a few weeks apart.

In the week or weeks between treatments, don’t go swimming, use steam or sauna rooms, or take extremely hot showers that may cause a steam storm.

Avoid exposing your scalp to the sun for the first four days (wearing a hat is fine). On the fifth day after treatment, you can expose the treated skin to sun for one hour, or 45 minutes if you have very fair skin.

Keep in mind, though, that less sun exposure to the treated area means better long-term retention.

How much does it cost, and how long does it last?

The price of SMP varies depending on how much of your scalp needs to be covered. Treatment typically between runs between $1000 to 4,000 depending on the coverage area.

Micropigmentation is considered semipermanent. While the effects may last up to eight years, the treated area will fade over time since all skin naturally exfoliates itself.

While the color may lighten, it’ll only change if an incorrect pigment is used. That is why SMP clinics do not use tattoo inks, but a specialized ink just for SMP.

That said, if you have very dry skin, fading is likely to happen more quickly. As the skin tends to flake with dry skin, this can inadvertently exfoliate the pigment off at a quicker rate.

Are there any risks involved in this process?

Scalp micropigmentation is a safe procedure. The most important thing is to get an experienced SMP artist to do the treatment. There is no formal training required to become an SMP artist (the same goes for microblading). It is for this reason that it really is vital that you do your due diligence when searching for a reliable practitioner and look at their before and after photos.

How to find the right SMP practitioner for you

Before you decide on an SMP practitioner, it’s crucial to do your homework. Make sure to visit the office where the service will be performed.

When it comes to licensing and the general regulation of SMP, it varies by state. For example, in California, the process for practicing tattooing, branding, body piercing, or permanent makeup (SMP is included in this) is licensed and regulated the exact same way. That said, a licensed tattoo artist can often make the shift to SMP with little to no training.

Cohen explains that tattoo parlors or artists shouldn’t be offering these types of services. “If you see any tattoo parlor or artist offering a similar service, run the other direction,” she says.

Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns, “Consumers should be aware of the risks involved [with tattoos and permanent makeup] in order to make an informed decision,” especially as the FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.

Cohen, who was formally trained specifically in SMP by expert Zang Miah of Zang SMP, says that results can be disastrous if done by an inexperienced practitioner.

If you feel any hesitation toward the practitioner, Cohen warns that this is a sign that the environment isn’t the best fit for you. Simply put, trust your gut.

You’ll also want to find out more about the practitioner’s background, such as who trained them, length of their training, and seeing their portfolio. It may also help to speak with a few of the practitioner’s former clients about their experiences.

Ultimately, it is essential to remember that SMP is an investment. But if done correctly by a qualified and trained artist, SMP can be a truly confidence-boosting procedure with no downtime.

At His Hair Clinic | in Toronto and Richmond Hill, the technicians are professionally qualified, being trained by the originator and inventor of SMP, Ian Watson from the United Kingdom. Give them a call at 647-492-5022 or visit the site at

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