Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) has become a widely popular treatment for both men and women experiencing hair loss – offering a more affordable, non-invasive alternative to other hair loss methods. But how long does this treatment last? And does it fade naturally? Here’s what you need to know about the durability of hair tattoos.
Scalp micropigmentation (SMP), also known as a hair tattoo, is a non-surgical treatment option for individuals experiencing all forms of hair loss – including minor thinning or complete balding. This procedure has become widely popular among both men and women who want to create the illusion of a full head of hair and is suitable for all hair types, skin colours, and ages, making it a versatile option for everyone.
Similarly to a traditional tattoo, SMP involves the use of a microneedle which deposits tiny dots of pigment into the scalp’s surface, mimicking the appearance of natural hair follicles. The result resembles short stubble hair on the scalp. This non-invasive, precision approach to the appearance of hair loss safely and effectively adds “density” to the hair without actually requiring the use of donor hair like a transplant would.
Hair tattoos offer a significant hair loss cover-up solution that can even help hide scalp scars and skin conditions. Additionally, scalp micropigmentation is considered to be more affordable compared to other hair loss treatments, making it accessible to a wider range of people.
Do Hair Tattoos Fade?
While SMP is an effective solution for the appearance of hair loss and baldness, one concern that comes up time and again, is whether or not the hair tattoo will fade over time. The answer, in short, is yes. Scalp micropigmentation does lighten and fade over time. If done correctly, the fade should gradually and naturally lighten over 2-5 years. On the other hand, if applied incorrectly by an underqualified practitioner, it could last longer and may not look as desired.
On average, a hair tattoo will last about 2 to 5 years before it needs a refresh. A strategically placed scatter of pigment should generally be sufficient to restore your hair tattoo to its original appearance during the touch up.
However, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to scalp micropigmentation fading. Some individuals might require a refresh after 5 years, and some (not many) will have to come back for retouching after only a year or two. The extent of fading will depend on several factors including exposure to the sun, proper aftercare, further hair loss, type of pigment used, technique employed by their SMP artist, and an individual’s immune system.
Factors That Can Cause Hair Tattoos to Fade
Hair tattoos are a cosmetic procedure designed to be long-lasting when done right, but they are subject to fading over time for a number of reasons – the main one being the sun.
Sun exposure is the leading cause of fading in hair tattoos. Similar to how a conventional tattoo is prone to fading with repeated sun exposure over the years, hair tattoos are especially vulnerable due to their location on the scalp, which is constantly on display. UV rays – whether from direct (from the sun), indirect, or artificial (from tanning beds) sources – will cause the pigment in your hair tattoo to break down over time, leading to a loss of colour and vibrancy. This is especially true for individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors for work, such as construction workers, farmers, or lifeguards, and people who live in areas with high sun exposure.
Furthermore, sun exposure can also cause skin damage, which can also contribute to the fading of your scalp micropigmentation. Individuals who have undergone SMP should take extra precautions to protect their tattoo from the sun by wearing sunscreen with an SPF 50 or higher daily, or by wearing a hat or other head covering when spending extended periods outside. Tanning salons should be avoided altogether.
A good SMP artist will explain your hair tattoo’s healing process and aftercare rules in detail. That’s because, in addition to sun exposure, proper aftercare is crucial in helping prevent your hair tattoo from fading. Following healthy habits ensures the best long-term results. One important aspect of SMP aftercare is avoiding water exposure on your scalp for the first 48 hours after the procedure. This allows the pigment to fully set and helps prevent premature fading.
Your skin/scalp care also plays a role in fade prevention. It is important to keep the treated area clean and moisturized. This can be done by using a gentle, sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner, and applying a moisturizing scalp serum or oil daily. Avoid the use of any harsh topical products which include exfoliants, hair dyes, styling products with alcohol, and heat tools.
Believe it or not, your immune system also plays a part in the fading of scalp micropigmentation, because it works to remove foreign particles from the body – including the pigments used in SMP. When these pigments are injected into the skin, the immune system recognizes them as foreign and sends white blood cells (macrophages) to the area to engulf and remove the pigments. This process, known as phagocytosis, can cause your hair tattoo to fade over time. Individuals with a stronger immune system may experience faster fading of their hair tattoos. However, this process does not happen overnight and can take years.
Scalp conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis which cause inflammation and irritation on the scalp can also potentially result in SMP fading quicker. If the scalp is constantly shedding skin cells and hair, the tattooed pigments may be removed along with them.
Certain treatments for these scalp conditions such as topical steroids or light therapy can further contribute to tattoo fading.
Type of Ink Used
Unlike traditional tattoo ink, scalp micropigmentation uses a pigment specifically formulated for the scalp in order to mimic the look of natural hair follicles. As such, the ink used in scalp micropigmentation must be able to blend seamlessly with the individual’s natural hair colour, leaving a natural-looking finish. The pigments used in SMP are designed to resist fading better than traditional tattoos. Instead of bleeding, or turning blue/green, they will typically fade evenly to a grey or brown shade which are colours present in almost everyone’s natural hair follicle. However, it’s important to note that SMP ink is intended to fade faster than regular tattoos.
Another reason hair tattoos fade quicker than traditional tattoos is because SMP is a surface-level tattoo. The pigment is injected into the upper layers of the skin, in a dot-like formation, with a microneedle that is much smaller than even the smallest conventional tattooing tool and doesn’t go as deep. This shallow placement allows for the SMP to retain its shape and not spread, resulting in natural-looking stubble that is more vulnerable to fading. However, on the downside, its proximity to the surface of the skin makes it more exposed to the elements and the skin’s natural exfoliation cycles.
A skilled and experienced SMP artist will use a variety of techniques, such as layering and shading, to add more coverage and density to increase the longevity and overall appearance of your hair tattoo. Whereas an underqualified SMP practitioner may be more prone to mistakes such as overworking the scalp, which can lead to pigment bleeding, premature fading and other issues. It is important to do your research and choose a practitioner who has a proven track record of producing high-quality hair tattoos to ensure the lifespan of your scalp micropigmentation.
How to Remove Scalp Micropigmentation Completely
While it’s true that hair tattoos can fade over time, it’s important to note that the extent and rate of fading will depend on a variety of factors. However, a popular question we get from individuals who are unhappy with their previously done SMP results is:
Will my hair tattoo completely fade over time by itself?
Not likely. While regular touch-ups can be done to maintain the intensity and vibrancy of the pigment, the only way to fully remove scalp micropigmentation is through laser tattoo removal. This medical procedure uses a laser to target the pigment in the tattooed area, breaking it down and removing it from the skin. The laser energy is absorbed by the pigment, causing it to break down and be absorbed by the body, effectively removing the tattoo through the lymphatic system. It is important to note that laser tattoo removal can be a painful and time-consuming process. Multiple sessions are usually required to fully remove the tattooed area, which is another reason why it’s so important to choose a reputable SMP practitioner who can provide quality results and discuss the potential risks of the procedure with you.
Scalp micropigmentation can be a great solution for those looking to address the appearance of hair loss. While SMP can gradually fade over time, the extent and rate of fading will depend on a variety of factors including the quality of the initial application and post-care. To ensure that your SMP will ultimately fade as desired years down the line, it is crucial to choose a qualified and experienced practitioner.
At Foli Sim, we understand the importance of choosing the right practitioner for your SMP needs. That’s why we only work with highly-skilled and qualified practitioners who have been trained to the highest standard. Communication is key, and our SMP artists are happy to guide you through the process answering any questions you might have. As industry leaders in scalp micropigmentation, client safety and comfort is our main concern at Foli Sim.
If you’re thinking about getting a hair tattoo but don’t know where to start, our team is available to help. We offer complimentary in-person, phone, and video consultations to discuss options and create a customized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and needs. Visit us at one of our three locations across Australia today, Or Contact us now via our website.