Does your scalp micropigmentation treatment look fake?
Almost everyone I speak with who is considering SMP, wants to return to work in a manner that enables their procedure to go unnoticed. This means they worry that their scalp micropigmentation treatment looks fake somehow . I’d like to make some recommendations that should make the process a little easier.
First and foremost, let’s create some realistic expectations. If you’ve lost most of your hair already, unless you’ve been wearing a hair system, a significant amount of concealer or wear a hat on a day to day basis, it’s going to be very hard to explain your new ‘hair’. Discussions around this dilemma take place frequently, and I have some suggestions below if this is your situation, however if you had no hair then all of a sudden you do, the task of returning to work requires a little more consideration.
However, contrary to my comment above, let me tell you something:
Your hair might be of paramount importance to YOU, however it is of little interest or consequence to anyone else. People will notice your new ‘hair’ a lot less than you think they will.
Trust me on this. As humans we tend to live in our own little world, and although we show interest in the lives of those we care about, generally speaking our colleagues don’t fall within that category.
If you’re anxious about returning to work, the chances are you’re worrying a lot more than you need to. Your treatment probably doesn’t look fake at all, and the chances are good that you’re worrying about nothing.
Anyway, here are some practical tips that should make the transition back to your workplace a little more straightforward.
Plan your treatment dates
Your treatment always appears the least natural or ‘passable’ during the two days following each treatment session. Your scalp will probably look a little red, your dots will be dark and your hairline and side profiles will look more angular than they should. You can avoid letting your colleagues see you during this time with a little careful planning.
Most technicians insist that at least 7 days should elapse between each treatment session, and the typical client will require three sessions. Scheduling your sessions on consecutive fridays, or even saturdays, enables you to take advantage of the weekend for your head to ‘calm down’ a little, meaning your ‘hair’ will look more natural when you step back into your office or other place of work.
If scheduling your sessions at the end of the week simply isn’t possible for whatever reason, or if you don’t get a clear two days off each week, there is a simple way to reduce post-treatment redness.
Certain products exist that help reduce redness, sometimes very quickly indeed, and reduce any anxiety about the treatment looking fake. This product for example, contains epinephrine, a vascular constrictor that can significantly reduce redness within 15-20 minutes. Please note however that most scalp micropigmentation clinics do not carry this product in stock, and some will refuse to use it due to a lack of understanding, or because the product cannot be lawfully used by that particular technician.
I must also make clear that I am not a qualified medical professional, therefore you should always consult a suitable individual for advice before using this product, and be careful to follow aftercare guidelines provided by your clinic.
Finally, a small number of clinics use pigments that contain astringents like witch hazel or similar. Astringents can also reduce the time taken for the redness to dissipate.
Wear a hat
This may seem counter-intuitive, given that most of us want to ditch the hat immediately after our treatments, but if a hat is acceptable attire at your place of work, it’s an easy solution for a few days until your treatment settles.
Choose your style carefully
If you’re concerned about returning to work, the chances are you’re not the type of person who wants a ‘statement’ look. More likely, you probably want an ultra-natural treatment that really does look like your real hair.
It sounds obvious, but I’m still surprised by how many people opt for low, razored hairlines and pointy side profiles. If you want your procedure to remain incognito, then make some sensible choices when it comes to selecting your pigmentation style.
Come up with a plausable excuse
If you still have a lot of real hair left, this is your number one ‘excuse’:
I just wanted a change, so I shaved my head.
However if you’re not so lucky in the follicular department, or just REALLY want a backup plan in case someone at work quizzes you about your new look, here are some classic explanations that may help:
- I’m taking a trial drug that grows back hair
- I’ve always had hair, it just looks darker when I shave it
- I suffered with alopecia, but now my hair is coming back
- I was going bald, so I decided to shave it
Consider coming clean
The excuses above can only go so far. Your final option is to do what I did – just tell people you’re getting SMP.
In all seriousness, if you choose the right technician and receive a great treatment, your confession is more likely to be greeted with surprise and awe, than ridicule. Remember that most people still don’t know what scalp micropigmentation is, so your colleagues will probably be fascinated by the illusion.
When I told a few select people about my procedure, not only were they very supportive, it was surprising how many of my male friends approached me in private to ask questions. Two of my friends actually proceeded to have treatments themselves.
How to avoid the ‘painted’ look
I hear it often during consultations. In fact, it is probably one of the biggest fears of most men considering a scalp micropigmentation treatment. “I don’t want that ‘painted on’ look”… “How do I avoid making it look like a helmet?”
OK, so former NBA star Carlos Boozer (above) didn’t have scalp micropigmentation – his painted look was apparently the work of poorly applied concealers – but the point remains the same. No-one wants their new ‘hair’ to look unnatural. Avoiding the ‘painted’ or ‘helmet’ look is an important consideration when developing your treatment plan with your chosen technician.
Well, I understand where this fear comes from. A quick google search of ‘Scalp Micropigmentation’ or ‘Scalp Tattoo’ and any thorough researcher will stumble across the horror photos, the treatments that simply look so obvious and fake. Many times they are of clients who received extremely poor pigmentation that takes on the look of one solid, over densified color. Hairline is too strong, color darker than existing hair, and all of it just looks like a shoe shiner on 34th street simply polished your dome with black wax polish.
The good news is it doesn’t have to end this way. With the right amount of teamwork and communication from both the technician and the client, you can avoid the dreaded “painted helmet head” look.
First, some obvious key points to avoiding a bad result…
Add Density Over Multiple Sessions
For technicians in scalp micropigmentation already, this is pretty obvious, but it still needs to be mentioned. No matter if it is the temporary tricopigmentation or the semi-permanent scalp micropigmentation, all treatments should be achieved over a multiple session process. This ensures a scalp is not overworked right from the start. It allows a gradual build up of density and color, keeping both the technician and more importantly the client in the “driver seat” of the final outcome.
For example, those that want a softer more understated result may decided they are happy with the density of 2 sessions. Others may want to return for session 3 or 4 to add a bit more density and color for a stronger, youthful look. Either way, that decision comes after both the client and the technician have had sufficient time to assess the results after each session and healing process.
Shade Choice and Blending
Proper color shade selection and blending is key for a successful scalp pigmentation result. Color and shade much match existing hair tone when clipped or shaved. Too dark, and the result will be what I call “top heavy”, meaning the color of the treated area looks unnatural and substantially contrasts with the side natural hair. A treatment also needs to be blended carefully and seamlessly into existing hair. A technician cant just stop at the hair lines and ridges, as this will show seams and gaps. Alternatively, the color used to blend should usually be lighter and with less density into the hair. If the pigment is too strong and too dense into the natural hair, you’re left with a uniform, “helmet”-like result.
Ok, the basics are out of the way, and most people that treat or have done research into scalp micropigmentation at least understand the theory of the above. But these next two points are a bit less discussed, but of the utmost importance to keeping clear of a painted/polished treatment result…
Leave some skin
It is very easy to get carried away with this type of treatment. Where as a hair transplant is limited by the number of grafts being harvested, a scalp micropigmentation technician and client has an unlimited amount of pigment at their disposal. Ink is readily available. And the thought for some of us who have suffered hair loss for so long is – “the more ink used on my scalp, the more hair I will appear to have.”
After 2-4 sessions most clients look fantastic. The color is there, the density is there, the effect is created. But many, happy with the results so far, believe returning for more will yield even more amazing results. Well thats not always the case. The more you return in a short time, the less area a technician has to pigment actual flesh colored scalp skin. The more you return, the closer your follicle replications come together, and the closer you come to a more uniform, solid, painted appearance.
Having some bits of skin intermixed between your newly created follicles is essential. It adds to the realism, creates and maintains detail, and most importantly keeps your head from being one of those terrifying google image horror stories. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place and technique for pigment layering over the course of sessions, but to plug every inch of skin is not the right approach. I find that many scalp micropigmentation clients actually have a fuller appearance of shaved hair than most shaved men with ACTUAL real hair. Which is fine, within reason!
Know when to stop!
Sometimes, in our effort to always make a client happy, or under a flawed concept of “the customer is always right” we cave to the wishes of our clients.
It is a tricky line to straddle. You have a paying customer who has a vision of what their end result should be. And sometimes they may not understand that less is more with this type of treatment. Now, of course a client can go for a darker, stronger look. I have done 4th and even 5th sessions in a 3 months time frame.
But the problem arises when they are on the cusp of doing too much. What do we as licensed professionals do? Here is where it is extremely important to have an honest conversation. Outline the disadvantages of over-working a scalp, including risks of discoloration. Dispute the false ideas that more ink means it will help the treatment compete with longer hair or reflect light any differently. Approach the client with compassion and rationality. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to just say NO.
Remember this is your artwork, your product, your reputation on the line. If you are uncomfortable treating a customer because you feel it will jeopardize their results and your company, simply don’t treat. Reducing the work on the scalp also reduces the chance of any side effects being experienced.
The client also has a responsibility to step back and really assess their results. Will adding more ink really make that difference you think it will? Why not look at your before pictures, then your after shots and see what a difference the treatment has already made. Sometimes we forget how much of a transformation we really had. Listen to the advice of your technician, they have done many treatments and have a your best interests at heart.
This is a team effort, both the technician and the client have responsibility to properly communicate during the treatment process. By listening to each others perspectives, following the correct multiple session process, and not completely inking out your scalp, you can avoid that “painted on” scalp tattoo look.