Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo?

Is scalp micropigmentation a tattoo? When it comes to common questions concerning SMP, this has to be up there are the most frequently asked. And the cause of some serious and great confusion. There are prevailing misconceptions and appropriate accuracies surrounding the subject matter which is resulting in people who just can’t seem to decide. Some say it is, some say it isn’t. Just type it into your search bar if you don’t believe us, you’ll be faced with a myriad of conflicting results.

Of course, you only have to read the above to be baffled by it all yourselves. So without confusing matter furthers, let’s just clarify to clear up the mess, once and for all.

Scalp Micropigmentation and Tattoos – how do they differ?

Before we cover how these two comparable treatments differ, let’s have a look at how they could be misconstrued as one and the same. A technician administering scalp micropigmentation uses a machine that is equipped with a microneedle. The said microneedle is dipped in pigments, which thereafter is implanted underneath the outer layer of your skin. Once the pinprick, created by the microneedle, heals over the pigment becomes trapped underneath. This, in turn, creates an indelible marking. One could say the process of tattooing and SMP is indistinguishable, one from the other. And on a perfunctory level, it is.

Implantation Depth

But to understand the differences between these two forms of treatment you need to look beyond perfunctory. Beginning with skin physiology. Skin is made up of three principal layers, along with sub-layers. The outer barrier or waterproof layer is called the Epidermis. Underneath is the Dermis, and thereafter the Hypodermis. With this simple piece of knowledge, you can now begin to start understanding the differences between SMP and tattooing. Because pigments in SMP are implanted lightly underneath the Epidermis into the Dermis whereas tattoos are implanted beyond this level, further into the Dermis. The reason being, the deeper the implantation of any type of pigment the more likely it is to lose shape. To replicate a hair follicle, which is incredibly small and fine, control over the shape is crucial. If your pigment is implanted beyond the correct spot, your imitation follicle risks migration, resulting in a blurry aspect.


To move on from the importance of pigment depth and how it determines the difference between SMP and tattooing, now let’s look at the pigments used. With tattoos, artists use inks. These are not particularly harmful if care is taken over ink choices by a practitioner, however, they are not the same as the natural pigments used by scalp micropigmentation technicians. Albeit tattoo inks are much easier to work with owing to their consistency, there are problems associated with colour which don’t exist in the natural pigments used for SMP. Tattoo inks can change colour over time. Natural pigments are stable in their shades and won’t alter.


And finally… needles. As a general rule of thumb, SMP needles are finer in diameter as they are for implanting superficially into the dermis layer of the skin. Some also contain edges that have a rough appearance for precision, over a tattoo needle which is always smooth.

So next time you’re asked the question, is scalp micropigmentation a tattoo? You’ve now got the correct knowledge to inform.