Tricopigmentation: everything you need to know

Tricopigmentation is the shorter duration version of the hugely popular scalp micropigmentation treatment for hair loss. Genuine tricopigmentation is based on a specific technique innovated by Milena Lardi of Beauty Medical in Milan in 2008. Get the lowdown here on the temporary version of SMP.

Tricopigmentation: everything you need to know

Tricopigmentation is the shorter duration version of the hugely popular scalp micropigmentation treatment for hair loss. Genuine tricopigmentation is based on a specific technique innovated by Milena Lardi of Beauty Medical in Milan in 2008. Get the lowdown here on the temporary version of SMP.

what is tricopigmentation?

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.

Modern tricopigmentation techniques are derived from SMP, 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.

After tricopigmentation
After tricopigmentation treatment. This option creates incredibly natural results
Specific needle cartridges, machines and pigments
Specific needle cartridges, machines and pigments are required to successfully deliver this procedure. It is not just a different ink

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.

common applications

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.

Hairline restructuring

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.

Scar camouflage

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.

Alopecia correction

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.

after tricopigmentation
Tricopigmentation is capable of producing amazing results like this

latest tricopigmentation videos

why choose tricopigmentation?

A tricopigmentation client treated by Erik Cavagnuolo of NYC clinic Ahead Ink
A tricopigmentation client treated by Erik Cavagnuolo of NYC clinic Ahead Ink

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.

Minela Lardi at work
Minela Lardi, creator of the tricopigmentation process, at work at her clinic in Milan

frequently asked questions

Tricopigmentation with long hair
An example of tricopigmentation as a density-adding treatment

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.

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.

Are we 100% sure all the pigment will disappear?

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 color is used for tricopigmentation?

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.

Why temporary?

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.

Excellent treatment result

terminology origins

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.

What do the terminologies mean?

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 as an alternative

Creating the hairline

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. 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.

Natural result after treatment
Natural result after a trico treatment

How do the costs compare?

Tricopigmentation close-up
Tricopigmentation close-up. This treatment is the work of Debbie Clifford of DC Micro.

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.

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.

So which option 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.

Minela Lardi, innovator of tricopigmentation
Minela Lardi, innovator of tricopigmentation