Head INK. How Tattoos are a New Solution for Hair Loss
Will I Still Want that Tattoo in Fifty Years?
Do you remember when your mother warned you that the tattoo you desperately desired as a child would remain on your body for the rest of your life? For those of us who wanted to reincarnate the dancing Petunia from Nickelodeon’s show, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, mom’s fear-invoking advice was a good thing. For men who fight hair loss with a barrage of temporary and expensive pills, hairpieces, or transplants, however, permanent and relatively cheap tattoos may be just what the self-esteem ordered.
“You know what, Mom. I do want this tattoo to last forever.”
Men have the option of having tattoos replace thinning (diffusing) hair, receding hairlines, and alopecia. The procedure is known as micropigmentation or scalp micropigmentation. SMP involves small dots of pigmentation being injected into the surface of the scalp in a hair-like pattern. The pigment is only injected two layers deep into the epidermis, while traditional tattoos are five layers deep. The pigments selected match natural hair colors and skin tones. If correctly administered, the final product is a scalp that appears to have natural, close-cropped hair, or a fuller appearance in thinning areas.
One Hairstyle to Rule Them All
The major drawback of SMP is that recipients will be stuck with one hairstyle. Unlike hair transplants that allow recipients the freedom to grow and style their hair, SMP only simulates a buzzed head. Once an SMP procedure is complete, the recipient will rock a shaved head for the rest of his life. Compared to a head that would be permanently bald, however, I see no issue with preferring a permanent buzz-cut. Some men look their absolute best with a close shave.
Scalp Micropigmentation vs. Hair Transplants
SMP procedures also are less invasive, expensive and time-consuming when compared to hair transplants. Hair transplants involve removing hair follicles from one area of the head to another. Hair transplants are expensive, leave scars, require touch up surgeries and the perpetual use of products like Finesteride (Propecia) and Minoxidil (Rogaine). Due to the natural hair cycle, many men have to wait longer than a year to fully assess the results of their hair transplants. As hair loss continues to progress, recipients risk looking awkward as the rest of their hair recedes from their new permanent hair.
In comparison, SMP procedures are shorter in duration and recipients can assess their results within a few weeks. Adjustments to color and hair density can also be corrected faster and with far less hassle than fixing hair transplants. Generally, an SMP procedure includes few sessions within the first month to optimize results. SMP procedures are permanent tattoos so recipients do not need to keep up with expensive medications to maintain their existing hair.
How Much for that Ink?
While the average hair transplant can cost between 4,000 to 15,000 dollars (with the need for additional surgeries), SMP procedures cost far less. Filling in areas of thinning hair, covering hair transplant scars or addressing receding hair lines may only set a recipient back a few hundred dollars. The more expensive SMP procedures to cover the entire head of someone with severe hair loss(A Norwood six or seven) may cost between 5,000 to 6,000 dollars.
The Cons of Scalp Micropigmentation
SMP is a newer procedure. Long term results are still largely unknown. Given time, tattoo ink typically sinks deeper into the skin and can change color. However, several clinics claim their ink and procedures are different and will not change colors like ink used in ordinary tattoos. Nevertheless, follow up or corrective procedures may be needed within three to ten years to maintain a natural appearance.
Advice on Selecting the Proper Clinic
Like hair transplants, the success of scalp micropigmentation depends on the skill and artistry of the individual who administers the procedure. Creating proper hair density, color range, and a natural hairline requires as much artistry as technology. Candidates for both hair transplants and scalp micropigmentation need to be diligent in selecting the proper clinic for their procedure.
When deciding on a proper clinic, carefully study the hairlines and temple regions of former clients. These tend to be problem areas that separate the more successful clinics, physicians, and technicians. If possible, interview former clients to learn from their experiences and to help ensure a positive outcome.
When choosing options for SMP, stick to options that create natural hairlines. A thirty-five year old should not choose a sharp hairline that runs straight across his head with no recession at the temples — it looks weird. Remember that some recession at the temples and softer hairlines look far more realistic on men in their twenties and thirties.
While no procedure for treating hair loss is perfect or risk free, scalp micropigmentation appears to be a great option for men who look great with a shaved head. I am constantly amazed how even a hairline of stubble can reframe the face and help men look ten to fifteen years younger.
Like hair transplants, the success of the procedure depends on the skill of the physician or technician. The key for success is replicating a natural result.
SMP procedures are less expensive and far less invasive than hair transplants. A non-surgical, permanent solution is more than welcome in the battle against hair loss.