Do scalp micropigmentation pigments fade?

The question of fading comes up time and again. The reality is that SMP treatments do fade. Its how this process is managed that is most important and with this in mind, you should take a moment to read our scalp micropigmentation aftercare guidelines.

Before we go any further it is important to make the distinction between the different types of fading, as sometimes fading is expected and welcomed, and other times it is not. Fading generally falls into one of the following criteria:

  • Mid treatment fading, i.e fading between sessions
  • The fading that takes place 3-6 months after the treatment is complete
  • Long term fading

Lets examine each type of fading to ensure we are clear as to the importance and implications of each.

Mid treatment fading

After each session the client is generally sent home, and asked to return to the clinic about a week later for their next session if required. The reason for this is two-fold – to give the scalp a chance to heal, and to enable to pigments to settle down and fade. Why is this important? Because your practitioner needs to gauge how your pigments are likely to stand the test of time before deciding how to approach your next session, and the best way to do this is to examine short term fading.

SMP after fading
This treatment was completed recently by Vinci Hair Clinic and is a perfect example of what a properly executed scalp micropigmentation treatment should look like when all short term fading is complete

Also important to understand is the fact that the pigment dots are built up in layers for maximum effect. If applied by a skilled practitioner, the dots should end up a mix of different dot shades and sizes to most effectively mimic the appearance of a real head of shaven hair.

It is common for a client to leave the clinic elated after their first session, only to be disappointed a few days later when the pigments have faded significantly. It is important to remember that this is perfectly normal, and a expected and essential part of the process.

Settling fading – 3 to 6 months after treatment

This is where the pigments fully settle to create the appearance that you will ultimately maintain over the long term. During this process your dots will become smaller, lighter and less sharp. Your hairline will soften, and any patchiness created by different parts of your scalp fading at different rates should be gone.

Use this opportunity to establish a routine you can live with. Decide how you want to shave, how often, how you will protect your scalp from the sun and what products you prefer to moisturise with.

Long term fading – 2+ years

There is a certain element of the unknown here. The longest established SMP provider formed in 2002, so the hair loss community only really has 10 years of history to examine. Furthermore the extent of long term fading is likely to be influenced to a certain extent by which company did the treatment, the environment in which the patient lives and works, and how well the treatment is maintained.

There is a general acceptance that a treated scalp should last most men a lifetime, assuming a short refresher session is completed every 4-5 years or so.

How to prevent your scalp micropigmentation treatment from fading

In reality there is no surefire way as the primary causes of fading are exposure to the suns UV rays, and your own immune system. Neither of these factors can be avoided, however there are a number of practical steps you can take to keep any fading to an absolute minimum:

  • Do not sweat excessively, scrub the head vigourously or swim for at least 30 days after each session
  • Avoid prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun. Use a high factor sunscreen or if in doubt, protect the scalp by wearing a hat or avoiding the sun during peak periods
  • Do not use any alcohol or bleach-based products on the scalp
  • Moisturise daily using a light, non-greasy moisturiser

Laurie Downing