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The Real Cost Of The Booming 'Scalp Tattoo' Industry

26/09/2017 15:38 BST | Updated 26/09/2017 15:38 BST

It's a booming new practice in the hair loss industry.

But what's the real cost of scalp micropigmentation - otherwise known as scalp tattoos for bald men?

Trichopigmentation, scalp micropigmentation or 'SMP', is a process where thousands of tiny dots are tattooed onto the scalp to give the illusion of a freshly-shaved look.

It can also be used to thicken up diminishing heads of hair, or to cover scars left behind after hair transplants or other types of surgeries.

The technique has become really popular in recent years - not least because it is usually much cheaper than surgical options, in the short term.

Hair transplants usually start at around £4,000, whereas SMP work can be carried out for as little as £1,200, depending on the size of the area being treated.

The technique has proved particularly helpful for men who are at a really advanced stage of hair loss and aren't able to undergo a transplant because they simply don't have enough follicles to move, but desperately want help.

In the past, these men have been limited to using hair cover up sprays, which can prove messy and inconvenient, or can wash off if they go swimming.

We have seen plenty of men who no longer want to use cover ups, or perhaps they are afraid of people finding out they are using them. So for these men, scalp micropigmentation is a real life-enhancer.

If done correctly it can look incredibly natural.

But if not carried out properly, SMP can leave a very permanent problem behind.

The industry is not regulated and new clinics are popping up all the time. At The Maitland Clinic we've unfortunately seen a rise in the number of so-called 'botched' jobs

SMP can involve either permanent or 'temporary' ink. The 'temporary' ink reacts differently from patient to patient. Some experience fading within a few months, whereas others can have a lasting pigment effect.

We have seen a number of examples of bad SMP work where either the needle has gone too deep or the ink has turned blue. In some cases, the dots are too large and look unnatural.

In other cases, really low hairlines have been drawn. These low hairlines are often requested by patients in their 20s and early 30s.

Often, young patients want the instant gratification of a juvenile hairline, and don't necessarily think about the future in regards to their ageing and hair loss.

In these cases, it's our job to think about the patient's best interests, even when they might not be thinking about it themselves.

A skilled hair loss specialist can design a hairline which looks good as the patient ages, as well as looking natural and in keeping with the person's face and their features.

It's a sad fact that in some cases involving scalp micropigmentation, this artistry simply isn't present.

Personally, I prefer the temporary ink technique where the ink usually fades within a few years. This allows for a change in hair colour or a receding hairline in the future.

It might mean a few more trips to a clinic to develop the desired look, but it's a much safer long-term solution.

When looking for the right clinic to carry out scalp micropigmentation my advice is to thoroughly research before committing to anything. See if you can talk to a few patients; people who have been treated by the clinic before.

You also want to know that these places really know their ink, and have got to grips with the philosophy of how to create a truly natural looking hairline.

Tattoos are permanent and to try and fix these 'botched' jobs requires the ink to be lasered off, which can be both really expensive and painful - and that's the real cost of 'botched' scalp micropigmentation.