Does Scalp Micropigmentation Hurt? Here’s What to Expect

By Emily M.| Last updated on January 27, 2023
Find out does scalp micropigmentation hurt
⏱️ 5 min read

Scalp micropigmentation, called SMP for short, is a type of cosmetic tattoo. Its purpose is to visually restore lost hair. In other words, it doesn’t actually grow the hair back, but it makes the head look like it has more hair than is really there.

It’s a great solution for receding hairlines, thinning hair in both men and women, etc. But is it painful?

We understand that pain is a serious concern before a cosmetic procedure, so we’re here to ease your worries. Let’s take a look into does scalp micropigmentation hurt, what it actually feels like, and how you can navigate the whole experience.

Is Scalp Micropigmentation Painful?

The short answer is no.

Because the density effect is achieved by a technique that’s similar to tattooing, some people worry does scalp micropigmentation hurt. SMP is done with a special machine, built specifically for micropigmentation.

The needles used are very thin, and a numbing solution is usually used, so it’s different from traditional tattooing.

For the long answer – read on to find out exactly what SMP feels like so you’re prepared.

Quick Recap – How Is SMP Done?

As we mentioned, SMP is done with a special machine for cosmetic tattoos. Their implementation process is slightly different from traditional tattooing, as the machines usually aren’t as powerful.

The SMP procedure specifically is done with a machine featuring a very fine needle. The needle is very thin because it imitates the diameter of a natural hair follicle.
The artist uses this machine to inject the pigments into the skin of the scalp. The pigment is applied in tiny dots, and each dot imitates a single hair.

The micropigmented surface follows a pattern that you decide together with your artist. The pattern is designed to best camouflage the issue you want to address, e.g. your hairline shape.

If you’re treating a large surface, the feeling of the machine on your head will last longer.

How is SMP done?
Image source: Freepik

How Much Does Scalp Micropigmentation Hurt?

With proper tools and products and a caring artist, it doesn’t. If pain is really a serious concern for you, don’t hesitate to express it to your artist before you commit to the treatment.

Tell them what worries you and ask any questions you might have.Your artist will take the time to address your concerns and do everything to help you feel at ease. Feel free to ask them about:

  • What numbing product they use
  • What micropigmentation tools they work with
  • How their SMP machine works
  • How the needle operates
  • How the pigments are inserted into the skin
  • Their experience with the SMP procedure
  • Their training, certificates, and license, etc.

If you know your skin is generally thin or sensitive, or you have some other specific reason to wonder does scalp micropigmentation hurt, bring it up. Your artist can look at the areas that worry you and assess the condition of your skin.

In general, the skin on your crown (the very top of your head) and on your temples is thinner than on the rest of your head. If you want to do SMP in those areas, you might feel comparatively more discomfort than you would elsewhere.

Also, scar tissue is more sensitive than the rest of the skin, so you can expect some unpleasantness if you want to do micropigmentation over any scars on your head.

So the final answer to how much does scalp micropigmentation hurt is it doesn’t hurt at all, some areas of your head just might experience more discomfort than others.

How much does scalp micropigmentation hurt
Image source: Instagram @scalpmicropigmentationcenter

Okay, What Does Scalp Micropigmentation Feel Like Then?

There’s the feeling of the needling itself, which is arguably the most unpleasant part. When people wonder does scalp micropigmentation hurt, they’re typically asking about the needles.

That’s why artists often use a numbing cream to eliminate that concern for their clients. So that’s the first feeling you can expect: the skin on your head going numb.

Then during the treatment itself you will feel the artist going back and forth over the area of the scalp you’re correcting. This might feel like tingling or a sensation of mild pressure. Some people also feel a slight stinging.

So, you can expect one or more of these sensations:

  • Numbing
  • Mild pressure
  • Tingling
  • Slight stinging
  • Back and forth movement

These might feel weird and relatively unpleasant, simply because they aren’t things we’re used to feeling on our heads.

The only potential for pain comes from the needling itself, because it does involve breaking the surface of the skin. This is necessary for implementing the pigments, so it’s an unavoidable part of the treatment.

However, you don’t have to worry about that. To begin with, the pain is minor because the needle is so tiny.

In addition, your SMP artist will talk you through the procedure and apply a topical anesthetic to your scalp. That way any potential pain is eliminated before the treatment begins and you can relax and get your hair tattoo without worry.


Image source: Instagram @scalpculture

How Is Scalp Micropigmentation Pain Prevented and Diminished?

There are basically three strategies for handling scalp micropigmentation pain:

Let’s look at each of them and how they help with scalp micropigmentation pain management.

First, there’s the prep. How sensitive your scalp skin is the day-of affects how much does scalp micropigmentation hurt. You can do some things before your appointment to minimize skin sensitivity:

  • Don’t tan or sunbathe
  • Don’t apply products with retinol or Vitamin A on your head
  • Don’t have any other scalp procedures done
  • Don’t take ibuprofen, aspirin, caffeine, alcohol or fish oil supplements 24 hours prior
  • Temporarily discontinue any blood thinning medication if your doctor okays it as safe

Next, there’s the procedure itself. As we mentioned, your artist will apply numbing cream or similar local anesthetic.

This makes sure that the SMP needle won’t cause you any pain when breaking the surface of the skin. The other sensations (pressure, tingling, etc.) might still feel odd but they aren’t painful.

Finally, the aftercare. Your skin will be sensitive for a while, so you should avoid the following:

  • Touching your head and scalp
  • Shaving your head
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Exercise and excessive sweating
  • Steamy environments
  • Dirty environments

Your artist will give you more detailed, tailored instructions. They’ll explain about washing your head and hair, protecting the pigments until they set, minimizing any discomfort, etc.

How Is Scalp Micropigmentation Pain Prevented and Diminished?
Image source: Instagram @fabiano.smp

Does Scalp Micropigmentation Hurt During Recovery?

Nope. You can expect some side effects and irritation, but there are ways to prevent or relieve them.

As we mentioned, SMP does involve breaking the skin’s surface. That means your head will have micro-wounds on it, so you have to let it heal properly. Scalp micropigmentation recovery takes a few days. Your artist can give you a more precise estimate for your specific case.

During the healing period, you might experience dryness and itchiness. Some people’s heads also form scabs over the treated scalp area. To handle potential scalp micropigmentation pain during recovery, ask your artist to recommend you an ointment.

Final Piece of Advice

Absolutely don’t pick your scabs. That’ll reopen the micro-wounds, slow down your healing, and mess up your pigment retention. Be patient, rely on your artist’s ointment recommendation, and follow their aftercare instructions to a T.

For more in-depth information about scalp micropigmentation, check out PMUHub’s ultimate SMP guide.

Cover image source: Freepik

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