A Common Misconception or Glorifying Matters? Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo?

One of the most frequently asked question to any technician. Is scalp micropigmentation a tattoo? And it’s a question that is the cause for serious confusion – especially if you hit the google search bar with it. The opinions are conflicting, the headlines… well, they are more than somewhat incorrect on occasions. Then again, on occasions, they hit the tip of the SMP needle right on point. So why is there so much confusion?

The answer is simple. It’s because in effect the way tattoos and scalp micropigmentation treatments are administered, they have so many similarities that they can be misconstrued as one and the same thing. Both procedures rely on a machine that has a needle fitted to it. The machine and needle are both used in administering pigments or inks underneath the skin’s outer barrier, the epidermis. The pigments, in turn, become trapped underneath the said barrier, providing an indelible mark. In essence, yes, one procedure is tantamount to the other. However, there is are a few colossal “buts”. And this is owing to the following.

Scalp Micropigmentation and Tattoos – they differ? But how?

To really understand the differences you need to dig deeper than the superficial as there are some pretty hefty nuances. And they are bona fide enough to be considered incredibly important ones. As they determine the fact that tattoo artists shouldn’t be administering scalp micropigmentation, and likewise, vice versa. We are sure you’re curious to know what they are…

Pigment Depth

This is the critical difference between tattooing and scalp micropigmentation. Because if SMP is administered in the same manner as a tattoo, the results will be devastating. If a tattoo is administered as SMP is, you’ll be more than moderately peeved as it will be insignificant and not last the course of time as intended.

Everyone’s skin is made up of layers, and sub-layers, however, the main three are the outer barrier, which is the Epidermis, the next main layer, the Dermis and thereafter the Hypodermis. Once a pigment, or ink, becomes trapped underneath the Epidermis it will leave an indelible mark. 

Scalp micropigmentation is where pigment is implanted just below the epidermis and is lightly placed at the beginning of the Dermis level. The reason for this is for shape control. The micro-dots on your scalp are so tiny that any loose edges will risk blending into one to create an altogether unsightly mass should the shape lose their control. This, in turn, means the treatment will fade to insignificance over time, which is why top-ups are required every 3 to 5 years. 

When tattoos are administered they go deep into the Dermis. This leaves an indelible mark that is permanently visible. Yet over time, they lose color clarity, fade slightly and can lose their rigid form, albeit only slightly if the tattoo is correctly installed. 

SMP Pigments vs Tattoo Ink

Pigments used for scalp micropigmentation treatments are natural. They contain no ingredients that should create allergies, no harmful metals or chemical additions. The reason for this is to provide colour stability. Albeit they are thinner in consistency to tattoo inks, which are much easier to work with, the idea behind SMP is to provide a result that is indistinguishable to that of a natural hairline. The use of tattoo inks in the scalp micropigmentation procedure can produce often disastrous results owing to colour changes over the course of time. Tattoo design is based on colour and vibrancy, you could not achieve the desired and variegated effect with SMP pigments and they would be difficult to work with owing to their consistency.


A very simple point to close on, tattoo needles are smooth. SMP needles are finer and on occasion have a rough edge for shading certain zones. 

Need we say more? But before drawing this article to a close, let’s go back to the original question. A Common Misconception or Glorifying Matters? Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo? What’s your take on it?