What is Scalp Micropigmentation?
Scalp micropigmentation has quickly become one of the leading alternative treatments for hair loss. Approximately 56 million men suffer from male pattern baldness as well as women suffering from some type of hair loss. Medications, potions, topicals and even hair transplant surgeries have been only a temporary solution. Many have now turned to scalp micropigmentation which has quickly become an acceptable solution. This is the practice of tattooing tiny points on the scalp which are intended to resemble buzzed or shaved hair follicles.
Scalp micropigmentation can also be known as trico/tricho pigmentation and various other terms but the most widely used term is SMP (MS-multi-session). Scalp micropigmentation multi-session providers claim their method as permanent, but in fact only lasting at the very most 5-7 years. Tricopigmentation honestly claims that their system is in fact temporary by utilizing different pigments and lasts a maximum of a year or two. However, both are still temporary applications as they both eventually require complete reapplications and touchups perpetually.
Due Diligence is the Key
There are no laws pertaining specifically to this field, but it is mandated by most states' general tattoo laws. With no oversight, this field is literally the “wild west” and anyone whom buys tattoo equipment off EBay or takes a 3-day on line course is now “certified” and ready to have at your scalp. With the amount of money that is involved (average of $4,000 for a Norwood 5), scalp micropigmentation “artists” are everywhere and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Many work unlicensed and under the radar, working out of hotel rooms or their private residences. Many spend thousands of dollars to remain the prominent advertisers on Google, buying their way to the top. Others list numerous locations on their website to appear larger, but in fact those locations don't exist.
The potential recipient must practice extreme due diligence when seeking the proper provider. You must not limit yourself to strictly location or choose the company that is around the corner. The best advice is to thoroughly investigate the company/companies you are considering. Don’t always believe what is on that fancy website or chose the first company that pops up in Google Adwords. Contact each company you are considering and ask to speak to the person that will in fact be performing your scalp micropigmentation and don’t permit yourself to be pushed off to a high-pressure salesperson. Misrepresentation seems to be the rule of thumb and runs rampant in this industry. This is an elective cosmetic procedure so be sure you have all your questions answered and you have peace of mind.
Which Scalp Micropigmentation Method is Right for Me?
There are in fact three types of methods of scalp micropigmentation; multi-session, tricopigmentation, or permanent one-session, regardless of different providers’ claims. The most widely known application is the multi-session application (termed SMP-MS for the purpose of this article) as above that utilize various types of commercially-available equipment and needles. This method lasts anywhere from 3 months to 7 years but requires multi-sessions (3 sessions but up to as many as 9 and more) to complete the end look over a period of many weeks/months.
Let’s review the definition of “temporary.” "Lasting, existing, serving, or effective for a time only; not permanent." Trico/ tricho pigmentation is also applied in multi-sessions, but is intended to be temporary only by fading out completely with a few years.
Now let’s review the definition of “permanent.” "Existing perpetually; everlasting, especially without significant change." The only true permanent application is a US patented proprietary system (The Weston System) that does not use the generic term of SMP and requires only a one session application that lasts a lifetime.
There is controversy surrounding the SMP-MS, trico/tricho scalp micropigmentations and permanent method, mainly from practitioners of each sector of the field to the other. However, this industry as a whole has increasingly evolved into an accepted practice in the last few years for hair loss sufferers.
It is first advisable for a better understanding to know the distinct differences between both these three methods which I will discuss the differences between the three.
SMP-MS (Scalp Micropigmentation Multi-Session)
This is the prominent method in the industry only because 99.9% of providers offer this method exclusively and advertise heavily. However, this method is quickly giving away for the preference for the one-session, permanent application. Applied in “sessions” spreading one to two weeks apart, this method is applied in a layering process. Using a single needle, the application is made with a dot, dot, dot type of telegraph application, failing to stretch the skin as required in any tattoo application. Penetrating only the very top layer of the dermis with each application, this method fades dramatically (termed pigment retention b y these providers) between each session. To accurately understand the constant fading issue with these methods, the natural exfoliation process drastically affects the multi-session methods as it is a never-ending battle with reapplications after reapplications because the pigment is only placed in the very top layer which constantly naturally exfoliates itself. This is why these methods need to be reapplied every few weeks. Typically, multi-session providers claim that 3-5 sessions are the average but can be as many as nine. Some recipients have reported up to 12 sessions over a year with no results.
The single pin commercially-available needle used in SMP-MS does not hold enough pigment to embed under the skin for a long-lasting effect because of the lack of a “cup” in the tip. The majority of the pigment is wiped off as it penetrates the scalp skin and the only “points” that remain are the points that were placed too deep into the skin. See YouTube demonstration.
The downside is that so many sessions can also result in a solid fill look of the scalp. Natural scalps have skin showing through and these methods do not permit that natural look. Numerous trips for repeat sessions can be a burden to some recipients, taking time off work as well as dealing with an unfinished SMP-MS for weeks or even months at a time. Many of these companies offer “pay as you go,” paying for each session. This can be desirable financially to some people, but if you are short on cash, you will have an unfinished procedure. Also, the client is quick to be blamed for a poor outcome and additional sessions are required at additional cost. (How big is your checkbook?).
But with the right experienced artist, you can receive an acceptable result. But you will need to be patient until the final results are completed. You will also need to research the thousands of companies offering this method throughout the world.
TRICO PIGMENTATION OR TRICHO PIGMENTATION
Much like the description above for SMP-MS, these methods can be somewhat confusing, as trico pigmentation by the first developer of this method in Italy openly admits and advises their customers that this is a temporary application only. Still requiring a minimum of three sessions, it is intended for those who do not want a longer-term application.
While both trico and tricho are impressing sounding terms, these are words derived from the Greek language meaning “pertaining to hair.” So either one is still hair pigmentation. As of recently, a UK company has announced “Advanced Tricho Pigmentation.” However, their description of same mimics their previous method known as SMP-MS. There is nothing advanced about it.
Another “method” and derivative of this procedure was recently found being termed: “hyperrrealistic tricopigmentation.” Let’s just break this fancy phrase down. “Hyperrealism” is a genre (music or literature) of a painting or sculpture resembling a high-resolution photograph. So let’s put this phrase together in English: "A high resolution photograph pertaining to hair pigmentation." Now, is this really what you want done to your scalp?
Like the SMP-MS method as above, a pleasing result can be achieved with trico/tricho pigmentation. Again, being patient until the final results are completed. As of now, trico-tricho pigmentation is mainly available in Europe, with several companies now offering it in the USA and Canada.
Either of these methods (SMP-MS and tricho/tricho/and even "hyperrrealistic tricopigmentation") are still temporary, from 3 months to 7 years and requires multi-sessions and complete reapplications. It seems to be the battle of whom can come up with the most confusing terms to set theirs apart, only to offer the same multi-session method.
PERMANENT, ONE SESSION METHOD
This method was developed by Mark Weston in 2009 and received registered patent status in 2015.
The needle used in this method was developed and patented specifically to replicate a hair follicular unit for scalp micropigmentation exclusively. Utilizing a 3-point needle that is the same size of the single-pin needle used in SMP-MS and trico/tricho pigmentation, this method permets placement of the pigment deeper into the scalp without the threat of merging, and beyond the layers of skin that naturally shed daily. Unlike the SMP-MS and trico/tricho pigmentation single needle, this needle is configured with a micro cup in the tip to hold sufficient pigment for embedding pigment under the skin. This method is applied using a tattoo method, stretching the scalp skin with each penetration, unlike th other methods available.
For this reason, properly trained artists are able to achieve a one-time application that results in an immediate permanent (lifetime) application with no touchups. This method is only available at licensed Weston Centers in the US and Mexico.
THE FINAL DECISION: One must complete their due diligence and decide which provider and which method would best suit their needs, the provider that offers the SMP-MS (scalp micropigmentation multi-session), trico/tricho pigmentation method or the permanent single-session Weston System method.
In any of these methods, investigate the prospective company closely. Time in business, background, proper licensing, artist(s) experience, etc. This is a cosmetic appearance that affects your self-esteem and your everyday life. Make sure you make the best decision for you. Think about whether you really want to sit through multi-sessions numerous times with constant reapplications or just once with the permanent method developed by Weston.