Scalp micropigmentation: A temporary hair tattoo

Published on September 20, 2020
Updated on August 13, 2021
A technician performs micropigmentation on a man's scalp
Micropigmentation is a cosmetic treatment similar to getting a tattoo, but will fade over time.

If you’re struggling with hair loss, your cosmetic options can be somewhat limited. A lot of people try using wigs, toupees, or even hair crayons. But realistically, all of these require daily applications and aren’t very good options – at least, not long-term.

The only way to stop hair loss is by using a hair loss treatment, like minoxidil, finasteride, or low level laser therapy. However, these can take a few months to work. And they’re not guaranteed to work for every type of hair loss.

If you’re still exploring your options and want to make your hair look thicker in the meantime, a semi-permanent tattooing procedure known as scalp micropigmentation might be a good solution. Getting a temporary scalp tattoo might sound strange, but it’s more common than you might think.

What is scalp micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation is essentially a type of temporary hair tattoo. An aesthetician or cosmetologist applies colored pigments to the skin around your head, making it look like you have fuller, more voluminous hair. 

According to a study from the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, people who get a scalp micropigmentation procedure generally have tiny dots or circles tattooed onto their scalp. This specific pattern is chosen to mimic the appearance of hair follicles when hairs have been shorn down close to the scalp. On a shaven or bald head, these tattoos look like a buzz cut or close shave.

But there are actually several different types of micropigmentation, and these techniques can technically be applied to any part of the body. The exact form and technique you’ll require will depend on your hair type and where on the body the procedure is being applied. 

Microblading and microfeathering: other types of micropigmentation 

Chances are that someone you know has already tried out some form of micropigmentation. The most popular version of this procedure is done to make eyebrows look thicker and fuller. This type of micropigmentation is usually specifically referred to as microblading or microfeathering. These techniques involve the application of very fine, shaded lines that closely resemble hair.

Hair tattoo techniques like micropigmentation are used on the scalp, but they can also be applied to other parts of the body. And while most head hair tattoos are created using an electronic tattoo gun, which applies tiny layers of dots to your scalp, multiple micropigmentation techniques might be applied based on your hair type, hair cut, and hair style.

For instance, an aesthetician might use a different micropigmentation technique when creating a hairline tattoo or when tattooing the area that runs between your scalp and your sideburns. This is because these areas often have a larger proportion of thinner, finer baby hairs.

It might make sense to use a technique like microblading or microfeathering around your hairline and sideburns, particularly if you have long, fine hair. But in order for scalp tattooing to look natural, it needs to be applied in a different way. 

Microblading and microfeathering wouldn’t look very good on the top of your scalp. This is why most people going in for scalp micropigmentation procedures end up with a result more similar to a hair follicle tattoo.

Pro Tip: If you’ve never gotten scalp micropigmentation before and like to dye your hair, make sure you consider your hair color before getting your procedure.

Your aesthetician will choose a color to use when performing the micropigmentation procedure — usually the color that matches the hair closest to your scalp. If you get a dramatically different pigment to your natural hair color — like blonde to black or vice versa — your scalp may look a bit strange as your hair grows out. 

How long does micropigmentation last? 

Unlike the temporary tattoos you used as a kid, scalp tattoos aren’t stuck on and won’t wash off after a few days. Instead, Hair and Scalp Treatments: A Practical Guide says that micropigmentation is more similar to a regular tattoo, as a pigment or stain is deposited into the upper layers of your skin. This type of semi-permanent hair tattoo is also sometimes referred to as microshading or scalp staining. It usually lasts a few years, though it might last between 5 and 10 years if you’re lucky!

Your body naturally sheds skin and hair every day. Over time, this natural exfoliation will cause your scalp to shed some pigment and your hair tattoo to fade. You’ll eventually need to get another micropigmentation procedure if you want to maintain the same look. 

Some aestheticians recommend regular reapplications, particularly if you want to maintain a specific shade of pigment. How often you require such reapplications will vary based on your skin type. Drier skin often loses the dye faster than oily skin.  

​​Is scalp micropigmentation painful?

Micropigmentation shouldn’t be too painful, as some type of numbing agent is applied before each procedure. The amount of pain you experience can vary based on the type of anaesthesia applied, though. It’s not unusual for your skin to feel irritated and sensitive for a few days after. 

Micropigmentation might also hurt your pocket as multiple treatments are usually required. Hair and Scalp Treatments: A Practical Guide says that these tattoo sessions can last as long as 8 hours. Generally, people need at least two sessions, but some need as many as four sessions in total.  

Micropigmentation procedures don’t usually last more than a few years. If you find that you like the look but don’t want to continually get these treatments done, you could also consider getting a permanent hair tattoo. Although this procedure is likely to be much more painful as the dye is applied deeper in the skin, it’s usually a one-off experience.

Who should get scalp micropigmentation? 

Just about anyone can get micropigmentation done, as long as you don’t have any medical issues or skin conditions that make the procedure risky. That being said, results can differ a great deal and scalp micropigmentation isn’t suitable for everyone.

If you’re looking into getting a temporary hair tattoo, you’ll need to talk to a professional. Given that the tattoo is being directly applied to your scalp, your skin’s health makes a big difference. How dry or oily your skin is can also play a role in how well your body takes up the dye. Similarly, skin color can also impact how well the dye shows up after treatment.

Your results can also vary depending on other factors, including your hair type, hair color, and hair density. The amount and type of hair loss you’re experiencing is also very important. Your hair loss symptoms and the rate at which they are progressing will also determine how many treatments you need. 

Micropigmentation for male pattern hair loss 

Micropigmentation might not be the ideal solution for someone with male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia), which is gradual and progressive. Since this treatment is temporary, repeatedly reapplying this treatment would be bad for your budget. And since micropigmentation does nothing to counteract hair loss, your hair loss would eventually progress to a point where you’d need to shave your head in order for your hair tattoo to look natural.  

That being said, micropigmentation could be a great strategy for someone trying out new hair loss treatments. If you’re in the process of trying out minoxidil, finasteride, or low-level laser therapy, micropigmentation could be ideal. This semi-permanent tattoo would help your hair look fuller and thicker while you wait for the treatment to start regrowing hair. 

The average hair loss treatment takes at least 3 months to produce results. This delay is mainly due to the hair growth cycle, as it takes time for your hair follicles to grow new healthy hairs. Micropigmentation is an easy, fast way to fill in bald spots and make your hair look more thicker while you wait for your hair loss treatment to start working.

Studies in the Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global Open Journal and Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America Journal have also reported that scalp micropigmentation could be a good strategy if used with hair transplantation techniques. Micropigmentation can fill in patchy areas or scars that can occur from transplants like follicular unit extraction (FUE) or follicular unit transplantation (FUT).

Micropigmentation for other types of hair loss

Scalp micropigmentation can be useful for people with most other types of hair loss, including scarring alopecias, chemotherapy-related alopecia, alopecia areata, and frontal fibrosing alopecia. In some cases, people with these types of hair loss might also find microblading, microfeathering, and other micropigmentation techniques beneficial, too. 

People with chemotherapy-related hair loss or alopecia areata, an autoimmune form of hair loss that can affect various areas on the body, might find micropigmentation particularly helpful. If hair loss is affecting multiple parts of their body, the cosmetologist can perform different techniques to address each area. For instance, scalp micropigmentation can be done to patches where there is scalp-based hair loss, while microblading or microfeathering can be done for hair loss affecting the eyebrows. 

The temporary nature of this procedure may not be ideal for people with pattern hair loss. However, it’s ideal for people with temporary or occasionally recurring forms of hair loss, like alopecia areata or chemotherapy-related alopecia.

If you have a more permanent scar, burn, or birthmark you’re trying to hide, you may still be able to get micropigmentation. However, dyes may not be appropriate to apply to skin in some of these cases. If the dye isn’t an issue, though, it may be worth considering a more permanent scalp tattoo so that you don’t have to repeatedly get micropigmentation procedures done. 

Micropigmentation: A temporary hair tattoo that’s worth it

Scalp micropigmentation is essentially a temporary head tattoo to hide baldness or bald spots. Since it only lasts a few years, it’s just a short-term strategy for hair loss. This doesn’t make it worthless, though. It can be particularly ideal for people with alopecia areata or scarring alopecias, who have scars or patchy spots of hair loss.

If you have pattern hair loss, micropigmentation can also be a great way of filling in the gaps while you wait for your hair loss treatment to start working. It can even be used alongside other strategies, like hair loss transplants.

Talk to your cosmetologist or aesthetics practitioner to see if micropigmentation might be a good option for you. You might also want to consider using a FDA-approved hair loss treatment, like minoxidil or finasteride, as well.

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.

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