What to Know About Scalp Micropigmentation

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on August 12, 2022
4 min read

Scalp micropigmentation is a cosmetic procedure that makes your hair look fuller. It's also sometimes called a “hair tattoo.” This procedure covers bald spots or thinning hair, but it doesn't treat hair loss itself. 

During scalp micropigmentation, a provider uses a thin needle to deposit tiny dots of color on the scalp. The dots vary in size and depth, creating the appearance of thicker hair. Scalp micropigmentation can cover thinning areas on your scalp, birthmarks, or scars. It can also be used to create the look of a buzz cut on someone who is bald. 

Scalp micropigmentation is a way to conceal thin hair and bald spots permanently. The procedure doesn't require surgery or anesthesia, so you can quickly get back to your normal routine. There aren't many side effects to the tattooing process, but minor redness may last several hours.   

Compared to hair transplant surgery, scalp micropigmentation is less invasive because it requires no surgery or incisions. It's also less painful, costs less, and doesn't require any downtime. 

Hair loss is frequently progressive, meaning that it worsens over time. Millions of people are affected by conditions that cause hair loss, such as: 

Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss. In autoimmune diseases, the body attacks itself. In the case of alopecia areata, the body attacks hair follicles, resulting in unpredictable hair loss. For some people, the follicles heal and hair grows back, while for others, hair loss is permanent.

Chemotherapy-related hair loss. Chemotherapy attacks rapidly growing cancer cells in the body. It also attacks other types of rapidly growing cells such as those in your hair roots. Not all types of chemotherapy cause hair loss, and the hair loss from chemotherapy is usually temporary.

Female pattern hair loss. While most people think of hair loss as primarily affecting men, over 50% of women also experience hair loss. Any woman can experience female pattern hair loss, but it's most common in women who are over 40, those who are going through menopause, and those with a family history of female pattern hair loss. 

Male pattern hair loss. Male pattern hair loss is the most common cause of hair loss in men. More than half of white men show some signs of male pattern hair loss, such as thinning hair, baldness, or a receding hairline.

Scars or birthmarks on the scalp. Scars or birthmarks on the scalp can show through the hair. Scalp micropigmentation can cover these marks. 

As with any procedure, you should weigh the benefits and risks before you decide if scalp micropigmentation is for you. 

Scalp micropigmentation isn't a treatment for hair loss. It doesn't help you grow hair or change your natural hair-growth pattern. However, it won't cause additional hair loss or damage your existing hair follicles. 

As with any procedure, it's important to find a skilled provider. A single session of scalp micropigmentation can take up to five hours depending on the size of the area to be treated. You may need two or three sessions to achieve optimal results. 

You should follow your provider's instructions, but you can generally expect the following before your scalp micropigmentation procedure: 

  • You'll be asked to wash your hair and scalp before your appointment. 
  • Your provider will mark the areas they'll be treating during your session. 
  • If you’re completely bald, your provider may create a hairline based on your facial structure and age. 
  • You and your provider will work together to find pigments that match your hair color. 
  • Your provider will use a numbing medicine to reduce your discomfort. 

During your micropigmentation session, you can expect the following: 

  • The needles are thinner and smaller than those used to apply tattoos, so the procedure won't be as painful. 
  • Your provider will use these small needles to make dots on your scalp. 
  • Your treatment may take up to five hours. 
  • You may need more than one treatment.
  • Each treatment will add more pigment your hair look progressively fuller and more natural. 

Although there's not much downtime required after scalp micropigmentation, you may have to avoid some activities for several days, including: 

Getting your scalp wet. You'll need to wear a shower cap when you shower or bathe to keep your head dry. You shouldn't wash your hair or scalp until your provider says it's okay. You should also avoid heavy exercise, which can cause your scalp to sweat. Avoid steam rooms or hot, steamy showers for the same reason. In general, avoid any hot environment that can cause you to sweat. 

Sun exposure. Avoid exposing your scalp to the sun. 

Scalp micoropigmentation does have some risks. The biggest risks are associated with using an unlicensed or inexperienced provider. These risks include: 

  • Allergic reaction to the pigments used 
  • Unnatural appearance 
  • Infection from needles that aren't properly cleaned between sessions 

You can reduce these risks by taking the following precautions: 

  • Only use a licensed provider who is experienced in scalp micropigmentation
  • Ask to see examples of the provider's work
  • Discuss all of your allergies with your provider before your treatment 
  • Avoid scalp micropigmentation if you're prone to forming keloids (large scars)