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Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo?

If you wanted to explain scalp micropigmentation to someone with only two worlds, you’d probably call it a “hair tattoo” or “scalp tattoo.” While it’s mostly accurate, there are a few significant differences between scalp micropigmentation and traditional tattooing.

What is Scalp Micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation, or SMP for short, is the process of adding permanent cosmetic pigment to the shallow layers of the scalp. It’s a safe, non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment to recreate hairlines, cover bald spots, and add density. SMP creates the illusion of natural-looking hair follicles

SMP & Traditional Tattoos: Four Major Differences

#1 – Traditional Pigment VS Natural Pigment

Traditional tattoo artists use iron oxide-based pigments in various colors, from neutral shades to bright purples and blues. SMP pigment is made of organic, carbon-based ink that only comes in natural colors to match skin tones and natural hair colors. Traditional tattoo ink separates over time, which is why tattoos look “smudged” and “blurred” over time. SMP pigment stays in the same spot without separating to keep the look of natural hair follicles but is more vulnerable to UV rays.

#2 – Tattoo Needles VS SMP Needles

Traditional tattoo artists use a variety of needle sizes, which are much larger than scalp micropigmentation needles. SMP artists use a 3-point microneedle, and it’s over 75% smaller than the smallest needle traditional tattoo artists use. The tiny yet effective needle is so small because it needs to recreate natural-looking hair follicles. 3-point microneedles prevent ink from spreading and cause less pain for the client, which also depends on your pain tolerance.

#3 – Pigment Placement

Scalp micropigmentation artists place pigment on the top layer of skin called the epidermis. Traditional tattoo artists put ink in the dermis below the epidermis layer. Because traditional tattoos are deeper, they cause more pain than scalp micropigmentation. SMP treatment requires less contact with the needle and less pressure applied to the scalp.

#4 – Different Procedures

Typically, the process is pretty simple when you get a traditional tattoo. You go, discuss designs, and the artist draws up an approved design, and then you start tattooing. Scalp micropigmentation requires more preparation before the treatment and specific post-procedure steps to heal properly. SMP can take as many as four sessions to be completed, along with touch-ups every five to six years, while traditional tattoos can be finished in one session and don’t need touch-ups nearly as often.

Keep in mind that…

Tattoo artists are NOT scalp micropigmentation technicians! You can be the best tattoo artist in the country, but it doesn’t mean you can do scalp micropigmentation. You must receive specific training and earn a certification to become an SMP technician. Rainier Ink offers a scalp micropigmentation and permanent makeup training program!

Rainier INK and SMP Academy

Rainier INK is the top scalp micropigmentation company in Washington! No two heads of hair are alike, but we can create what you need for your scalp and facial structure. We can add density, cover scars, and restore hairlines PLUS we offer lip blushing, a permanent makeup service. Book your FREE consultation today!


At Rainer Ink, we’re passionate about what we do, and you’ll see that in your final result! Schedule your free consultation today.
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