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.

Founder, Team Micro Ltd
Damien is the worlds leading scalp micropigmentation ambassador and marketing specialist, promoting the SMP industry and specialist clinics since 2009. His company, Team Micro, promotes the services of over 200 clinics through advertising, website design and search engine optimization, and supplies more than 2000 clinics through the Team Micro online store.

Team Micro works with hundreds of permanent makeup, medical micropigmentation and scalp micropigmentation companies in more than 30 countries worldwide. We supply products, develop marketing plans, build websites, host conferences and create success for the many passionate people we work with. Quite simply, no other organisation, anywhere in the world, can support your business quite like we can.

For more information see our marketing services.