There are a number of solutions available to combat hair loss including drug-based remedies like finasteride and minoxidil, surgery-based options like hair transplant procedures and even concealers, be them temporary in fibre form or more permanent like a hair system. Tricopigmentation is a relatively new alternative, basically a form of temporary scalp micropigmentation with a few key differences.
What is the difference?
Modern tricopigmentation techniques are derived from scalp micropigmentation, a solution from hair loss that involves the placement of tiny pigment deposits within the upper dermis of the scalp. Each deposit is designed to replicate an individual shaven hair follicle. When thousands of deposits are combined and blended with any remaining ‘real’ hair, the result is an incredibly realistic simulation of a full head of shaved hair.
Essentially tricopigmentation is a temporary version of scalp micropigmentation, enabling the client to get used to the look before committing to a long term solution. In theory men should then proceed to have a permanent application, however in reality no clinic offers both options, so those who choose the temporary option tend to re-apply the treatment again and again.
The application of tricopigmentation is slightly different to scalp micropigmentation, however the primary difference is in the type of pigment used. Temporary pigments used in tricopigmentation are designed to fade out after 12-24 months, whereas scalp micropigmentation pigments can last for many years, even decades.
Tricopigmentation is fast becoming a popular solution alongside traditional options like hair transplant surgery, wigs and drugs. It is non-invasive and offers exceptional guaranted results when delivered by an experienced and well trained technician. There are four primary applications of tricopigmentation, as follows:
Replacement of lost hair density
For thinning hair, tricopigmentation enables the simulation of the missing density. This applies regardless of how much hair the recipient has lost, and can even recreate a full head of hair on a completely bald scalp.
Recession of the frontal hairline is often the most visible sign of balding. This technique enables the client to rebuild their hairline to its original position, or whatever position is preferred.
Usually the result of hair transplant surgery, all manner of head scars can be hidden using tricopigmentation. The technique used is highly specialised, however when applied by an experienced technician, even the worst hair transplant scars can be very effectively concealed.
The unpredictable and recurring nature of alopecia, particularly areata or totalis, can make the conditions challenging to live with. Tricopigmentation enables the sufferer to completely hide the symptoms of scalp alopecia, even if the affected areas move or change in appearance.
There is little doubt that baldness can have a significant and lasting impact on the confidence of a person, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, background or social circle. Losing hair is not a preferable circumstance regardless of what culture the person hails from, how old they are or what they do for a living. The immediate effect is a change in the persons appearance, but longer term issues can also become a problem such as a loss in confidence and poor self-esteem, or in extreme cases, loss of social activity or even contemplation of suicide. Furthermore, any emotional baggage that a person may already be carrying can often be made worse by poor self-image. In a nutshell, psychological issues can arise and any existing emotional disorders can be made a lot worse.
For many people, tricopigmentation may offer a suitable remedy for this problem. Personally I believe there is a stronger argument in favour of scalp micropigmentation, but for those who desire a temporary option, this may be a better solution.
The tricopigmentation advantage
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.
The main peculiarity of this pigment, that makes it unique, is the fact that its colour doesn’t change. It doesn’t turn blue nor green, and in fact it gradually fades out without leaving any residue, spots or macro-dots.
How long does it take for the pigment to disappear?
The Tricopigmentation pigment was developed in the laboratory so that the immune system can absorb it within 2-3 years depending on personal characteristics of the individual. Among the elements to consider: skin type, habits of the client, strength of the immune system, etc. As a consequence, it is impossible to foresee the exact timing of the fading process.
How can we be 100% sure that the pigment can be absorbed?
The particles that compose the Tricopigmentation pigment are centrifuged, filtered, encapsulated in a simil-silicone membrane that protects the skin. After this so-called “micronization” process, all the particles that compose the pigment have the same shape and dimension. This allows the immune system to absorb them in a constant and homogenous way. These characteristics prevent any change in its colour. All the particles are smaller than 15 micron and are therefore smaller than the macrophages of the immune system, whose dimension is 20 micron. After the process of absorption, the powders are expelled by our body, as any other unnecessary substance.
How deep does the technician work?
The specialized technician works in the upper dermis. This aspect represents another difference between Tricopigmentation and permanent options. SMP technicians work in the deep dermis.
What colour does the Tricopigmentation technician use?
The Tricopigmentation pigment has an ash-grey colour, which simulates the colour of keratin, the protein that constitutes hair. This colour can be seen when observing a shaven head because it is the one of new-borne hairs. The pigment can be adapted according to the hair colour and skin tone of the individual, ranging from dark blond to black. Recently new hydrophilic pigments were developed in order to be able to treat also very dark skin tones offering a natural result.
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.
Many people doubt about the temporariness of the treatment. Here you can find an example that shows how the tricopigmentation pigment fades over time. The report is provided by the founder of one of the most visited Italian blogs, Blogcalvizie, specialized in hair loss, hair transplant, SMP and Tricopigmentation. He decided to share his experience with all his readers. Stefano underwent the treatment about 4 years ago. He decided to do it because it was hard to see how his image had changed when he shaved. After a while, he realized hair loss was not an issue to him anymore and he liked his new look. So he simply stopped undergoing maintenance sessions. The photographic report shows how the pigment disappeared gradually. His skin is now completely clean.
The treatment is possible in all the cases we analyzed previously. However there are some situations in which Tricopigmentation can’t be performed.
- White hair;
- Light blond hair;
- Red hair.
These types of hair don’t contain keratin. Therefore the pigment can’t simulate these colours.
- Dermatitis (in this case the treatment is possible once the pathology is solved).
It is essential for the client to refer to a trichologist any time they notice any skin issue. Consultation represents an essential step to be able to establish a positive, open and transparent relationship with the client.
Tricopigmentation versus scalp micropigmentation
I’m getting these questions a lot lately. What is the difference between scalp micropigmentation and tricopigmentation? Which should I choose?
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.
Where do these terms come from?
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?
All manner of names were created. As the creators, HIS Hair Clinic took the lead with MHT (Micro Hair Tattoo, later renamed Micro Hair Technique). Each provider came up with their own name like ACHM (Artistry Concepts Hybrid Method), MSP (Micro Scalp Pigmentation by Vinci) and CTHR (Cosmetic Transdermal Hair Replication by Good Look Ink). 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), HIS Hair Clinic decided to simplify the message and use the scalp micropigmentation descriptive. Most other providers quickly followed suit and the term (along with the abbreviation ‘SMP’) became the standard terminology, although many providers also use their own brand names for their variation of the technique.
Around the same time, and entirely independent of the development of scalp micropigmentation 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 as an alternative
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.
Why do some tricopigmentation specialists refer to their procedure as scalp micropigmentation?
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.
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.
How do the costs compare?
A full breakdown with supporting explanations is available via our tricopigmentation cost calculator.
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.
So which is best?
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.