We’re living in the golden age of hair restoration treatments, and there are more options on the table than ever before. Walk into any mainstream retailer to find a treasure trove of various supplements, oils, shampoos, and solutions that help promote healthy hair. Even if they may not be the miracle cures for balding, they can be powerful allies in the fight.
Hair restoration professionals are also leading the way with new research and inventions on the medical front and alternative treatments, therapies, and surgeries. Hair transplantation has an extremely high rate of success and satisfaction, not to mention less invasive treatments like microneedling or red light exposure.
More recently, a procedure called scalp micropigmentation is in the spotlight, taking a totally different approach than the usual implantation and stimulation methods we know.
Let’s examine the ideas behind SMP, the processes that bring it to life, and how to determine if it’s the right treatment for you.
SMP is unlike any other type of hair restoration method. Rather than looking to implant or grow your natural hair, SMP aims to create the illusion of hair in a far more permanent way.
This is accomplished using an instrument that operates similarly to a tattoo gun, with enough power and precision to make hundreds or thousands of individual markings on the scalp, where the skin is much tougher and more resilient than the rest of the body.
Some may draw parallels to microblading, a technique done with a manual blade on the eyebrows, but SMP requires more advanced technology and a better understanding of natural-looking hair patterns to achieve an optimal result.
Like other cosmetic procedures, there is a big artistic component to SMP and not every practitioner has the skill or experience to pull it off correctly. Now that the treatment is becoming more widespread, it’s important for clients to go into it with a real understanding of the procedure and hold technicians to a high standard.
The ideal candidate for SMP treatment has a few key characteristics. First, they must be comfortable wearing their hair extremely close to the head, which might be a tricky compromise for some people to make right off the bat.
Many folks are attached to wearing longer hairstyles and fashioning their locks in different ways, even after significant hair loss on the scalp. SMP is only for people who are willing to commit 100% to wearing a close-shave look up top and maintaining the rest of their hair almost every day.
With that in mind, almost anyone can successfully undergo SMP and achieve desirable results, which is not the case with other types of hair restoration methods.
While most SMP clients are dealing with androgenetic alopecia – standard male pattern balding – there are also many people who seek the treatment because they have lost hair from chemical or medical reasons outside their control, such as cancer or an autoimmune condition like alopecia areata.
People who have suffered trauma like cuts, scars, and even burns may find that SMP is the best course of action to create an aesthetically pleasing look along the hairline or wherever else they might have permanently damaged their scalp.
Clients who have already undergone procedures like FUT strip surgery or FUE might also find that SMP is a great way to cover up unsightly scarring on the back of the head. Ideally, the same doctor who performed the transplantation can do the SMP procedure as well.
This is great news for patients who have tried all other forms of hair growth and stimulation methods, only to find themselves back at square one over and over. SMP is therefore marketed as the “only true” permanent method of hair restoration, even though the statement is not totally accurate given that true hair is not technically revived or restored.
Compared to highly involved surgeries like FUT or FUE, the process of SMP is fairly straightforward. This isn’t to say the procedure is easy or can be done by just anyone, but there are certainly fewer moving parts and a lower likelihood of complications.
It starts with a consultation process that can be done online or in-person. The client will sit down with the surgeon and describe their situation in context with relevant details. The surgeon will assess the scalp and ask questions to determine the preferred look.
At this stage, the surgeon will look at things like the current rate of hair loss, the density of the hair on the head, the color of the hair in contrast to the skin tone of the scalp, and other factors that will influence how they will perform the procedure.
One might think that everyone’s hair looks the same when it’s trimmed down to the shortest possible length, but there is actually quite a lot of variation between individuals, even if their hair appears to have similarities when grown out and styled. This is what the consultation process is all about, and it’s the time for any and all questions to be answered in full.
Clients will schedule a date for SMP ahead of time, and the day of the procedure will require a day off from work and other commitments.
At the clinic, patients may be given a local anesthetic or take pain meds ahead of time to minimize discomfort. They should also eat a hearty meal ahead of time and avoid smoking, alcohol, or any other blood-thinning substances in the days leading up to the procedure.
When the client is seated and comfortable, the actual SMP process will begin. The technician will have an exact strategy for allocating the microdots to ensure there is no ambiguity throughout the process.
The technician will then begin to administer these microdots in short clusters in accordance with the blueprint. Depending on how much coverage is required, the procedure can take anywhere from three to five hours.
Some SMP treatments are so extensive (covering the entire scalp) that multiple sessions are needed. While some professionals can do the job in one long super-session, clients may request that they spread out the labor over several weeks or months to make things easier.
All in all, the speed and comfort of an SMP procedure are quite impressive. Most clients report very little pain, even without anesthetics. It is said to be less painful than a tattoo because the penetration of the instrument only goes through the very top layer of the skin.
In terms of recovery and care, clients should take some precautions for about a week after a session, making sure not to touch the treated area and minimizing friction with clothes, pillows, bedsheets, and hot water.
Clients should also avoid strenuous physical activity or anything that causes them to sweat. The treated area must be kept cool and clean, so that trip to the beach or hiking in the mountains will need to wait. Many people also decide to take time off work to fully heal and minimize the risk of unwanted stress and strain.
There may be some redness and inflammation in the affected area in the days after the procedure, but this is perfectly normal. It’s important to get in contact with the clinic or doctor if anything seems unusual or discomfort increases unexpectedly.
SMP treatment costs will vary between clinics and technicians, but clients can expect to pay anywhere between $1000 and $300 per session. This means that a complete treatment could very well cost over $3500, given they opt for the highest quality SMP in their region.
Clients also need to take care of their SMP just like they would a tattoo or another type of cosmetic treatment. They should apply protective sunblock prior to outdoor exposure or wear a hat if they expect a very long day in the sun.
SMP can indeed fade slightly over time, and it requires a bit more upkeep than someone might be accustomed to, but it’s worth it when done correctly and cared for.
Since there are no strict regulations in SMP, clients must watch out for red flags and stick with reputable, certified treatment centers. They should ask about things like practitioners’ licenses, health permits, pathogens certifications, and any other credentials that prove they are legitimate operators.
Any uncertainty about sanitation or the sterility of the environment is a no-go, so it’s worth reading reviews and testimonials online before even considering a consultation.
The best approach is to stick with a qualified hair restoration specialist who has extensive experience in the field of SMP and can provide helpful guidance for every aspect of hair loss.
Still, you have so many questions about scalp micropigmentation and your own personal goals: Will it hurt? What kind of results can I expect? Are my expectations realistic? Micropigmentation is not a common topic of discussion. So, who do you turn to?
A successful process starts with a consultation with a scalp micropigmentation expert who truly wants to understand your personal goals. Dr. Jae Pak of Jae Pak, M.D. Medical is a board-certified physician and a scalp micropigmentation specialist with 15 years experience. With a complementary background in engineering, Dr. Pak uses precision-like skill to bring his patients a natural and balanced hair line they can be proud of. He has dedicated his career to helping his patients achieve natural-looking results and a happier life.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Pak today and discover what scalp micropigmentation can do for you.
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