Micropigmentation (Permanent Makeup)

Micropigmentation is a process that involves using tiny micro-needles to place permanent tattoo ink or semi-permanent pigment on the skin for cosmetic reasons. The look of dense natural hair follicles is created during a scalp micropigmentation procedure while cosmetic semi-permanent makeup micropigmentation involves enhancing the lips, brows, or lash lines of the eyes with complimentary colors.

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Medically Reviewed by William A. Kennedy III, MDLast Reviewed 02.27.2019

Summary

In decades past, the more liquid-like tattoo ink created an unnatural appearance for cosmetic tattooing. These days, advanced micropigmentation features pigments that are thicker and more natural-looking than tattoo ink. The pigments can be used to mimic the appearance of short hairs on the scalp or brows, eyeliner on the eyes, and a natural reddish or pinkish hue to the lips.

Micropigmentation has grown so popular that more than one million photos and videos on Instagram use the hashtag. Like the name suggests, a micropigmentation procedure involves very small needles being used to impart pigment onto the skin. When the color is placed on the scalp, it can recreate the look of a freshly-shaved buzz cut - or make an area of thinning hair appear denser. Cosmetic pigmentation can give a pink hue to the lips or fill in sparse eyebrows with color that looks like wisps of hair.

The Scalp Micropigmentation Procedure

The Scalp Micropigmentation Procedure is also called an SMP treatment. It is not invasive plastic surgery, but it utilizes micro-needles to place pigment within the scalp. The cosmetic pigmentation procedure creates the look of miniature hair follicles in bald areas of the scalp, or develops the illusion of thicker, denser hair in thinning areas of the mane.

Both men and women can get scalp micropigmentation to make it appear as though they are enjoying a fuller head of hair than they actually possess. By using tiny dots of pigment to simulate natural hair follicles growing out of the scalp, the treatment makes thinning hair much less apparent. Scalp micropigmentation can also work as a scar camouflage, with the pigment permeating the upper dermal layer of damaged skin that isn't producing hair.

Using Scalp Micropigmentation to Hide Hair Loss

A vast majority of people turn to scalp micropigmentation after using a variety of methods to try and regrow their hair. Individuals who suffer from hair loss also use micropigmentation in conjunction with other treatments, such as patients who get the pigment treatment to cover scalp scars caused by previous FUT hair transplant procedures, where a strip of scalp has been removed to transplant hair follicles into different locations on the scalp.

Whether experiencing hair loss in the form of female or male pattern baldness, the cosmetic pigmentation process can work well when an experienced technician with cutting edge equipment performs the treatment. Computerized technology helps advanced practitioners of scalp micropigmentation create a specialized treatment that matches the patient's specific skin type and color, making the faux hair stubble appear all the more natural.

What to Expect During a Scalp Micropigmentation Treatment

When seeking cosmetic pigmentation to cover a bald head or to make thin hair appear thicker, you will begin with a consultation in order to describe your goals. Whether the consultation is performed via FaceTime, Skype, or in person, the specialist should gain a thorough understanding of your desires for a new look. He or she should also receive information about your medical history, in order to understand any previous hair transplant surgeries you've undergone, relevant medical conditions, allergies, etc.

It should also be explained in the earlier stages of the process that there will likely be more than one session involved in order to recreate the look of short hair on the scalp. After the first micropigmentation procedure is performed, the ink generally fades, necessitating a second treatment or even a third in order to create extensive details and darker colors than were initially used, in order to give the cosmetic follicles the believable depth of natural hair color. By the second session, the multi-dimensional appearance of natural hair should be more evident.

Scalp Micropigmentation Style Options

Hairlines are as different as fingerprints, so there is an artistry to the scalp tattooing process that must be realized and expressed. While still in your consultation, let your technician know if you desire a softer hairline or something sharper, more severe, and exact. While certain individuals like the look of a straighter edge, others may prefer a widow's peak.

Explain where you would like your hairline to begin, with receding hairlines often being brought lower near the forehead to make the patient look like they have fuller hair.

Scalp Micropigmentation Aesthetics

Scalp micropigmentation camouflages thinning hair, even for people who have already undergone a hair transplant that left them with newly transplanted hair follicles that didn't provide the density and thickness of hair they desired. Those who have any scars from outdated hair restoration techniques such as hair plugs, or weren’t satisfied from Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant procedures can also be helped by scalp micropigmentation.

The perfect complimenting color of pigment added to the scalp of a person with long hair that is marred by large, thin parts can make the entire head of hair appear fuller and healthier. Thin hair - often experienced in the crown of the head or near the temples - can be disguised with scalp micropigmentation.

Women suffering from alopecia or men who want the look of a shaved head, but not a sleek and shiny bald head, can benefit from the process - including those who want to hide hair transplant scars. Those who have experienced poor results from prior SMP treatments can also gain better results by ensuring they seek a provider with more experience in creating excellent scalp micropigmentation treatment results.

Oftentimes, SMP is performed in conjunction with hair transplant procedures, since many transplants can take nearly 12 to 18 months or more for the patient to experience the hair density they desire, and that's only if they have successfully been able to provide a donor site with enough healthy follicles to transplant. Patients who've lost their hair due to side effects from medications or conditions like lupus seek the emotional and psychological benefits that scalp micropigmentation provides in order to make hair loss or thinning hair less apparent.

Men and women with blonde hair and light hair colors may not be good candidates for scalp micropigmentation since the deposited pigment will either look unnatural or be too light in color to make a noticeable difference.

Cosmetic Lip Tattoos: Semi-Permanent Makeup with Micropigmentation

Cosmetic pigmentation is also a procedure sought by those who want to enhance the appearance of their lips. Patients who desire to have a more visible "red lip" portion that further defines their current vermillion border turn to permanent cosmetic procedures such as lip tattoos. Those who ask their lip tattoo artists to extend the pigment beyond their lip edge may be told to get lip fillers first instead to add the fullness they want.

Individuals seeking the semi-permanent or permanent cosmetic lip procedure can choose to get the non-invasive lip tattoo treatment to make their lips appear more defined, but not to gain any literal volume in their lips, such as when getting lip injections with dermal fillers.

However, similar to the way in which stroking on plenty of lip liner and color makes the lips pop and stand out, cosmetic lip tattoos can give the illusion of fuller lips. Yet by having the pigmentation tattooed onto the lips, the color lasts longer than lipstick or lip gloss that disappears after eating a snack or drinking liquids.

People who are concerned with the ingredients in certain cosmetics also choose to have the permanent or semi-permanent lip tattoo procedure done with non-toxic and organic pigments for lip tattooing.

How the Semi-Permanent Lip Tattoo Process Works

Technicians use different machines during the cosmetic lip procedure, with some providers using manual devices to create their lip tattoos. Others use a coil machine while some tattoo artists favor the linear device known as the NeoTat, according to The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. Also used for creating cosmetic lip tattoos are digital rotary machines and permanent cosmetic pen rotaries.

What's most important to discover when embarking on your permanent or semi-permanent lip tattoo procedure is that your technician follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens guidelines, and can prove it by producing a training certificate and documentation of any additional state requirements.

Licensing information can be uncovered during the consultation, wherein you will discuss the look you desire from your lip tattoos. You should also ask about the type of pigmentation being used, along with the device that your cosmetic artist will employ for the procedure. Lastly, your technician should give you an idea of how many follow-up appointments will be necessary, and how much fading to expect from the coloring on your lips within days after the process.

What to Expect During a Cosmetic Lip Tattoo Appointment

The permanent cosmetic lip tattoo procedure will involve both the outlining of your lips as well as shading in the center of the lips in order to allow the mouth to have a naturally shaded appearance. The center interior portion may be left without color, to provide a more natural look.

Expect some discomfort, due to the sensitivity of the lips. Consumers can choose to pay additional costs to technicians who offer an anesthetic for an extra charge. Doing so will not only lessen pain, but it can also help the lip tattooing process go quicker, since the provider won't have to pause as often to allow the patient to recover from the discomfort of the needle.

Touch-Ups on Lip Tattoos to Freshen the Color Over Time

Ensure that your cosmetic makeup artist is using pigmentation, and not permanent tattoo ink designed for the body, as was done in the past. Although tattoo ink lasts longer than pigment, the ink provides a look that isn't as natural-looking as pigment, which is thicker.

In general, your lip tattoo artist may suggest getting a color that's brighter or darker than you anticipated because the pigment will continue to fade off of the skin of your lips after 12 to 18 months as natural exfoliation occurs.

Ideal candidates for cosmetic lip tattoos may include and exclude the following:

  • Women who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Healthy adults to want to enhance and define their lips
  • Cold sore sufferers must take medication first to avoid outbreaks
  • Cancer survivors should get medical clearance from their doctors before getting lip tattoos

Those with dark skin tones should avoid lip tattoos, since the needle can cause hyperpigmentation and result in darker lips

Micropigmentation Costs

How Much Does it Cost to get Scalp Micropigmentation? Much of the price you will pay is largely dependent upon where you receive your SMP treatment and the expertise level of your provider. In general, it may cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 to receive scalp micropigmentation to cover a bald or thinning region of the head. However, the micropigmentation costs drop when the area being treated is smaller than an entire bald head, such as just having a scar treatment. Those costs may range from $1,200 to $2,500.

Therefore, ask for an estimate from several micropigmentation specialists, based on if you suffer from male pattern baldness, which could cost from $1,800 to $3,200. A much larger or smaller area of hair loss means varying prices. According to Hairline Ink, the total cost of a scalp micropigmentation procedure for treating a scar alone may range from $1,900 to $2,500. The level of baldness as it ranks on The Norwood Scale from a number 2 to 3 with work only on the crown of the head or along the hairline may cost from $2,700 to $2,900.

The standard or benchmark price of a SMP costs from $3,400 to $3,900 - with additional costs for scar treatment increasing the cost range to between $4,300 and $5,050. Mild to severe cases of alopecia areata can cost anywhere from $3,900 to $4,700, while treating hair loss in women can range from $2,500 to $4,100. Those cases where density needs to be added to the crown or throughout thin hair may cost from $2,700 up to $3,900. Repairs of previous SMP sessions can range from $2,900 to $3,900.

How Much do Lip Tattoos Cost? Lip tattoos may cost anywhere from $450 to $1,000, based upon the experience level of the cosmetic provider. As with any procedure, it is essential to not merely seek out the cheapest provider charging the lowest prices, but to find the safest and most knowledgeable practitioner to provide you with the best results.

Certain cosmetic lip tattoo providers will give their patients the choice of an anesthetic at an additional cost, up to $150, so ask if that's an option. Since anesthetic can help the process proceed faster with less discomfort, the extra expense might be worth it.

Also determine the total cost of your lip tattoos by asking about the initial cost, as well as the cost for touch-ups. The first procedure may cost approximately $950, with perhaps a cost of $200 for the next visit. Annual touch-ups may cost around $350 each, so calculate the entire cost of the initial expense as well as follow-up costs.

If the patient isn't satisfied with the lip tattoo procedure, reversal with laser resurfacing is an option, which could be an added expense. In comparison to lip injections, which might cost from $750 to $950 and last approximately nine months, the cost of lip tattoos are comparable.

Micropigmentation Recovery

Recovery from Scalp Micropigmentation In the 24-hour period following scalp micropigmentation, there will be obvious signs of swelling in the scalp, which is normal. With the surface of the skin reacting to many small injections on the scalp, the skin will be red and tender. By day number 2 or 4, the redness should dissipate and scabs will begin to appear.

In the first four or five days, refrain from using shampoo to wash your scalp. Also avoid activities that produce sweat, like working out strenuously or performing other intense activities during that time.

Within the first week after the procedure, the scalp can be rinsed with clean water. Those who desire to shave their scalps in order to even out the pigments with any growing hair patches can do so five or six days after the SMP treatment, but use an electric foil shaver. Stay away from shaving areas of the scalp that have scabs.

Eventually, the scabs will heal and fall away, along with small portions of dried blood that make the fake follicles look larger. Within seven days, patients should be able to resume their normal activities, such as washing with shampoo and exercising beyond light workouts.

Soothing balms provided or recommended by your SMP practitioner will assist you during the healing process, as will keeping the scalp covered with a hat for a period of time, interspersed with periods that allow your scalp to breathe. Follow-up sessions should be separated at least one week apart. After about 30 days, the pigment will settle in the scalp.

Lip Tattoo Recovery Recovering from cosmetic lip tattoos should take approximately three to 10 days, with any itchiness, discomfort, and swelling ultimately dissipating by that point. The initial recovery period is generally mild, but could include bruising, bleeding, scabbing, or scaring. Those who have been afflicted by skin diseases such as herpes may experience a flare-up of such conditions.

Because lip tattoos can include dryness and swelling, patients are advised to take their recovery period into account when booking their appointments. If a lip procedure is undergone on a Thursday, for example, a patient could plan to use Thursday through Sunday to heal in private.

After the first seven days, the skin should continue to heal and the ultimate color of the lip tattoos will begin to emerge. After approximately 14 days, the true shade of the lip tattoo will appear.

Micropigmentation: Before and After

Before and After Scalp Micropigmentation Prior to receiving a scalp micropigmentation treatment, it can be a very helpful process to study before-and-after photos of the procedure on social media websites to get an idea of the wide variety of possibilities and styles available. Photo galleries of patients who sought SMP to cover a hair transplant scar, thinning areas in the crown of the head or at the hairline, as well as those who have garnered what appears to be an entirely new head of hair can be seen online before and after their treatments.

Such research can help determine the type of scalp micropigmentation that you will request from your provider during the consultation. Experienced technicians will also perform a patch test to verify that no allergies to the pigment exist before your session.

After scalp micropigmentation, you will be advised to avoid scratching away any scabs that form on the scalp, and to expect a variation in colors to appear in the initial days post treatment. During the first week after your procedure, stay away from direct sun exposure, don't get the pigmentation too wet, and keep substances like shampoos and cosmetics away from the scalp as it heals.

Take over-the-counter pain medications to manage any symptoms of discomfort as you stay away from situations that cause sweating or contain moisture, such as swimming in chlorinated pools. Let your scalp heal without picking at the scabs, and after approximately 30 days, the color of the pigmentation will have settled in enough to return for any follow-up appointments for additional touch-ups as needed.

Before and After Lip Tattoos It is also important to perform due diligence prior to getting lip tattoos, in order to determine the style and type of cosmetic color enhancement you desire. Before-and-after photo galleries of lip-liner tattoos as well as full-lip tattoos provide visual representations of the type of options available.

Scouring social media for permanent makeup procedures that involve various hues of pigmentations placed on the lips in differing manners by various lip tattoo artists can provide you with an actual photo to bring to your technician to let the artist know the look you want to emulate for your pout.

Overall, micropigmentation offers patients a plethora of natural-looking choices that weren’t always available. Whether you desire to have your scalp enhanced with pigments that appear as authentic hair, or you choose to have your lips, eyebrows, or lash line enhanced with semi-permanent pigments, the options provide a myriad of artful ways to improve your presentation with micropigmentation.

Different Types of Micropigmentation (Permanent Makeup)

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