You could argue that men suffering from hair loss have too many treatment options. Well, at least according to the internet. A simple search for hair loss treatments turns up countless options, each of which promises to make your hair look better than ever.
One of the options gaining traction in recent years is scalp micropigmentation (SMP), more commonly known by the term hair tattoo or scalp tattoo. In recent years, a growing number of men have turned to these tattoos to hide their hair loss. But does that mean it’s a good solution for male pattern baldness? More importantly, does it actually stop male pattern baldness or just cover it up?
Let’s answer that last question first: No, scalp micropigmentation does not stop hair loss. It simply covers up balding at your crown or a receding hairline.
To answer the first question—is this a good option for you?—we’ll take you through some of the most commonly asked questions.
If you’ve seen a tattoo, you know what a scalp tattoo is, right? It’s OK if you’re shaking your head and saying no.
In 2015, researchers sought to develop a cosmetic tattoo technique to address unsightly scalp and hair conditions. The technique they used (and still use today) combines specialized techniques and conventional cosmetic tattoo instruments and pigments in a stippling pattern on the scalp.
OK, so what does this mean in layman’s terms? Ultimately, a scalp tattoo has some commonalities with traditional tattoos, but the “art” that’s applied to your head is designed to conceal your hair loss.
While the terms are often conflated with one another, there are two major differences between the micropigmentation we’re talking about today and the more traditional tattooing that you’re likely picturing.
First, let’s talk about the artist at your local tattoo shop. That person uses a scraping technique to gain access to the underlying cells of your skin.
The practitioner during micropigmentation, on the other hand, uses a process known as “dotting,” which involves carefully placing small dots in your skin. Additionally, the pigment depth placement required for a scalp tattoo is several layers less than a traditional normal tattoo requires.
The ink used for a scalp tattoo is also quite different. Rather than using a traditional color palette, which can be quite limiting, scalp pigmentation practitioners work to create a custom color that matches the natural pigment of your existing hair.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, micropigmentation is often performed in an office setting with a pen-like instrument or standard tattoo gun. The needle will penetrate a few millimeters into the middle layer of your skin (dermis) and an iron oxide pigment is injected.
That’s probably what you would have guessed. But how badly does this procedure hurt? Like most facets of scalp micropigmentation, this depends.
Although your practitioner will apply a topical numbing agent to your scalp, everyone’s level of pain tolerance is different. While your buddy might say that the procedure barely stung, be careful not to take this as gospel.
Depending on your needs, practitioners across the Internet say that your micropigmentation can last for up to six years.
However, several follow-up appointments may also be required. According to micropigmentation practitioner Michael Cohen, three to four treatments are typically needed for long-term retention, even if it’s only for a small area like a widow’s peak.
In terms of cost, it’s hard to predict what you might pay. Factors that will impact your bottom line include the size of your scalp tattoo, the complexity of your procedure, and the number of follow-up appointments required. Prices can range anywhere between $1200 and $5000.
Unfortunately, no. While micropigmentation has proven to create a realistic looking head of hair, it’s not an alternative to treating hair loss.
The Cleveland Clinic recently reemphasized that while the purpose of the procedure is to recreate the look of natural-looking hair, it’s important to note that this cosmetic procedure does not jumpstart the growth of actual hair.
As we mentioned earlier, only finasteride and minoxidil have been clinically proven to slow down hair loss (and in some cases promote regrowth).
Finasteride is a DHT (dihydrotestosterone) blocker; DHT is a hormone that binds to men’s hair follicles and damages them, ultimately rendering them unable to grow new hair. Finasteride prevents hair loss by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator. When applied to your scalp, it widens the blood vessels, facilitating the flow of blood to hair follicles. This increased blood flow, in turn, delivers more oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles, possibly promoting hair growth.
Now, there are three other options in addition to these two medications—PRP, hair transplants, and dermarolling. The catch is that they require going into a doctor’s office and are often much more expensive.
As its name suggests, during a hair transplant a surgeon adds hair to thinning parts of your scalp by transplanting “new” hair from areas of the scalp where it’s thicker. Although hair transplants can give you a full head of hair, the procedure is expensive and can take years before you see the results you’re after.
A slightly less invasive option is called PRP, which is a treatment process in which doctors inject your own plasma into different parts of your body to promote hair growth. While results may be promising, the studies still aren’t showing as much efficacy as other treatments.
Dermarolling (a.k.a. microneedling) is a treatment that involves piercing your scalp with hundreds of tiny needles to spark the healing process and spur hair growth. Microneedling can only be safely performed in a doctor’s office, and you likely won’t see noticeable results unless you combine it with a topical treatment like minoxidil.
There’s no research that suggests you can’t use finasteride or minoxidil after you get micropigmentation. However, it’s important to note that dermatologists don’t perform the procedure. It’s up to you to choose a practitioner who operates in a sterile environment and only uses materials that are approved by the FDA. Plus, Dr. Raman Madan,, a hair loss specialist and Keeps Medical Advisor, notes: “Keep in mind scalp micropigmentation is based on using shadows to help create image of natural hair, so hair growth may alter this for better or worse.”
There’s a lot to think through here. And even after all of this reading, you still might be unsure of what the best treatment options are for you. This is why we always suggest speaking to a doctor who specializes in hair loss so you can get a treatment recommendation based on your personal situation and preferences.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
If you would like to learn more about finasteride, please see the full prescription information here. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit MedWatch: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm or call 1-800-FDA-1088
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