Tricopigmentation versus scalp micropigmentation

Tricopigmentation is an aesthetic technique that involves the injection of a specific pigment into the dermis in order to optically recreate the presence of hair in areas affected by hair loss.

Unlike permanent make-up machines and tattoo machines, the Tricopigmentation equipment was specifically developed to work only on the particular type of skin found on the scalp, and it has four functions to treat the different areas of the scalp, respecting their characteristics. It is essential to focus on this aspect to avoid damages to the skin, especially in the parietal and occipital areas of the scalp where the skin is more delicate and thin and the pigment can therefore spread more easily.

The tricopigmentation needle is different from any other needle. It has a specific structure that allows the technician to release always the same quantity of pigment at the same depth, thus obtaining perfect dots that don’t expand.

Unlike tattoos, tricopigmentation is a temporary technique. The reason why we choose not to offer our clients a permanent treatment is that everybody changes and our morphological features don’t remain the same over the years. We therefore want people to be free to decide whether to go on undergoing the treatment or to stop, as well as to change some details or to switch from a long hair look to a shaven one, etc.

The aftercare routine is also slightly different from permanent SMP. The tricopigmentation pigment is composed by particles whose dimension is smaller than the dimension of the macrophages of the immune system, thus enabling our body to absorb them in a period of time that varies from 2 to 3 years.

The so called “Universal Brown” pigment has an ash grey colour that is similar to that of keratin, which is the typical colour of a hair just growing out of the follicle. You may have noticed that as time passes traditional tattoos can turn bluish or green. If this happened on the scalp, clients could experience terrible issues and their life could be negatively influenced by something that should on the other hand improve the quality of their life.

Tricopigmentation gives all clients the opportunity to decide whether to maintain their look or to let it disappear completely. It also allows them to modify their hairline choosing to let it recede according to their age. Shifting to a permanent solution is always an option since tricopigmentation is a very flexible technique. This can be a good solution once it is clear that hair loss won’t proceed further.

What is the difference between scalp micropigmentation and tricopigmentation? Which should I choose?

This is a very common question among those considering their options.

The answer depends on your personal goals, and it’s an important decision. In fact, it’s the first decision you must make because clinics usually offer scalp micropigmentation or tricopigmentation, rarely both. For this reason, it’s hard to research possible clinics until you know which procedure you want.

When the world of scalp micropigmentation was young and a handful of players in the market were just getting started. They all shared a common problem – they saw the potential of the process, but they didn’t know what to call it.

No-one wanted to call it a tattoo, because the process was so much more complex than that name would suggest. That said, how else do you describe a process that uses a needle to deposit pigment under the skin?

HIS Hair Clinic called their procedure MHT (Micro Hair Tattoo). Each provider came up with their own name. Artistry Concepts call it ACHM (Artistry Concepts Hybrid Method), Vinci used MSP (Micro Scalp Pigmentation) and Good Look Ink referred to the procedure as CTHR (Cosmetic Transdermal Hair Replication).

The inevitable result was confusion in the marketplace as no-one understood what each process actually was, when in reality they were all variations of the same basic process.

When American clients began referring to this process as scalp micropigmentation (or scalp pigmentation), the industry collectively decided to simplify the message and use this descriptive. Along with the abbreviation ‘SMP’, this became the standard terminology, although many providers also use their own brand names.

Around the same time, and entirely independent of these developments in the United Kingdom and the United States, Milena Lardi of Italian firm Beauty Medical was busy creating a similar technique. However, Milena’s interpretation was to create a shorter duration procedure. Milena named this process ‘tricopigmentazione’, or tricopigmentation.

Tricopigmentation is commonly referred to as temporary scalp micropigmentation, which is a pretty accurate descriptive. Whereas a permanent procedure will need top-ups every 3-5 years or so with pigment remaining in the skin for 20+ years, tricopigmentation is refreshed almost entirely every 12-18 months.

People sometimes consider tricopigmentation a safer option, or an opportunity to test drive their new look and maintenance regimen before committing long term using permanent SMP. However, most people who choose tricopigmentation do so with the intention of getting it regularly topped up, and have no plans to revert to the permanent option.

The availability of a temporary procedure definitely encourages more people to resolve their hair loss issues because tricopigmentation is less daunting for those who are yet to be convinced that SMP is the right solution for their needs. If, after their procedure, they feel like they made a mistake, the pigments will fade on their own over a relatively short period anyway. This removes much of the anxiety from the decision.

Tricopigmentation is a form of scalp micropigmentation. The terminology does confuse some people, however the bottom line is that both permanent and temporary options are referred to as scalp micropigmentation, with tricopigmentation being used to describe the temporary version specifically. Often SMP terminology is used due to the greater volume for that keyword on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Are the results comparable?

Yes, I believe they are. A competent technician from either discipline can produce results that are equally as good as the other. As always, the skill of your technician is the most important factor.

Some people believe that tricopigmentation produces results that are more realistic than a permanent procedure. Whilst there are some great examples of temporary SMP out there, I do not agree that one is better than the other. The bottom line is that there are some very skilled tricopigmentation technicians out there, and some very bad scalp micropigmentation technicians, and vice versa. Some tricopigmentation technicians argue that permanent scalp micropigmentation is not ‘safe’, the logic being that when the procedure is topped up, pigments have to be layered on top of older pigment deposits, causing a merging of dots and a loss of individual dot definition, commonly referred to as the ‘helmet look’.

Whilst I understand the logic to a point, in the real world the problem just doesn’t exist, as long as the client and/or technician didn’t go crazy with their density in the first place. By the time a top-up is required, the older pigment has usually faded sufficiently to avoid this problem. The many thousands of satisfied clients around the world who have had their first, second or even third round of top-ups would also counter this argument.

The average client with advanced hair loss will pay £2500 for a permanent procedure. Assuming a top-up every 4 years and an average top-up cost of £1500, the cost over 10 years will be around £5500.

For tricopigmentation, the same client will pay £1000 on average for their procedure, and require the same again every 18 months. Therefore, the cost over 10 years will be around £6500.

The lifetime cost of both procedures is similar, however price shouldn’t be the primary consideration anyway. By their nature, clients who choose tricopigmentation tend to be more risk adverse. It makes sense to choose the best artist you have reasonable access to, wherever they may be located and whatever their treatment cost may be.

There’s no right answer to this question. Tricopigmentation definitely has its place and is an ideal option for many people. You could argue that the procedure is lower risk, because any mistakes are not visible for anywhere near as long and do not therefore require laser removal. The procedure has a lower initial cost than permanent SMP too, making it accessible to more people.

On the other hand, the general standard of scalp micropigmentation treatments performed around the world is improving all the time, as technicians gain more and more experience. Mistakes, while unfortunately still common at less established clinics, are less prevalent than they used to be. I estimate that more than 95% of all clients go through the process without a hitch. Furthermore, whilst permanent SMP costs more initially, it is more cost-efficient in the long run.

I think the availability of two distinct options is a really good thing, however I cannot call one out as being better than the other as they both have equal merits.

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