We have always been a little precious about referring to Scalp Micropigmentation as a hair tattoo.
This has a lot to do with the origins of the process. When SMP began to become more commercially available, 9-10 years ago, tattoos were still considered quite edgy. The pioneers of SMP, which include Paul Clark & Simon Lane, always thought that Scalp Pigmentation could reach a wider audience and a slight distance was needed from the ‘t-word’.
Get the needle
Since that time, of course, tattoos have become far more mainstream and socially acceptable. No longer are they the preserve of prisoners, sailors and criminals, lots of people (including me) have them. Indeed, it’s estimated that It’s estimated that about one in five of the UK population is tattooed and this figure rises to one in three for young adults.
Another potential reason for people to distinguish between Scalp Micropigmentation and tattoos is the process itself. Although, strictly speaking, both are a means of delivering pigment to skin using a needle, they use different depths of penetration and needles, as you can see from the images to the right of this piece.
The needles we use are very fine, tapering to a single point, depositing a micro-dot into the scalp. Tattoo needles vary in size and ferocity depending on the type of art you’re creating. A different needle may be used for lining than block colours and artists have favourite needle configurations. In scalp the preference is generally only between 3 point and 1 point, the latter most generally used for hairlines and fine detail.
The same, but different
A further key difference is the number and length of appointments. SMP is traditionally delivered across three separate sessions with a healing period between to assess how the pigment is settling. A tattoo can be completed within one session, and often is.
Earlier objections to the ‘t-word’ may also have been to differentiate between the meticulous skill and patience of SMP practitioners and the hordes of back-street tattooists that had sprung up everywhere. I think we now appreciate that this is slightly unfair given that, in the intervening years, some incredibly skilled and talented tattooists have emerged. Their work is an inspiration to us as well as being great art in some instances.
This is not to say that a good tattooist can perform SMP any more than an SMP practitioner should be trusted to create the Mona Lisa on your arm. One of our other images shows what can happen when a tattooist attempts Scalp Pigmentation without the proper training. Technique and muscle memory are essential in both disciplines, it’s easy to understand how a tattooist used to greater depth and a heavier touch could get it wrong. They’re similar but very different.
The terminology of Scalp Micropigmentation has yet to enter the mainstream, we understand that people will probably always refer to it as a ‘hair tattoo’. The image that this description conjures in our mind is not one that matches our comprehension of SMP, nor is it evocative of the life-changing experiences that we know scalp pigmentation can bring to those who suffer from hair loss. This said we won’t show you the door if you happen to call SMP a hair tattoo, we know what you mean and we’re happy to discuss the differences.
The fundamental point is this: a good tattoo looks like a tattoo, a great tattoo looks like real body art. Good Scalp Micropigmentation looks like SMP, excellent SMP is indistinguishable from real hair. We always aim for excellence.
Our 3RL SMP needle
Typical tattoo needles
SMP performed by a tattooist
A hair tattoo?
Life-changing Scalp Micropigmentation
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