The ability to remove scalp micropigmentation pigments is important for a number of reasons. A reversible treatment enables you to change your mind at a later date. Who knows how you might feel in 10-20 years? There is always the possibility you might want to go back to your original appearance at some point in the future, or you might want to alter your hairline or shade to reflect the fact that you are getting older.
It also provides a failsafe just in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world, and SMP outcomes are not always as they should be. Even if they are, each provider uses different pigment compounds so there is no way of knowing how stable the pigments will be over an extended period of time. The industry is still young, and we simply cannot be sure that the pigmentation will look how we believe it will in the future. The option to reverse the treatment bypasses this concern because if the worst case scenario happens, it can simply be taken away.
The final reason why a removal option is important is that it provides a little extra reassurance to those who can really benefit from SMP. I predict that the overwhelming majority of people who have scalp micropigmentation will never use the removal option, either choosing to leave it as it is or to let it fade of its own accord over a long period of time to emulate natural thinning, however the fact that removal is possible means that many more people will have this procedure. How many of these men would have been needlessly put off having something that could drastically improve their life, if this safety net wasn’t in place for reassurance?
So how does the removal process work?
In the beginning there was no method in place as a precedent. The first documented removal utilized acidic topical creams which ultimately did the job, but also caused the patient to endure a great deal of discomfort. Many applications were required, and the whole process was experimental so there was no way of knowing if any permanent damage was being done.
It is still a mystery to me why laser removal wasn’t the first port of call back then. Lasers have been used to remove tattoos for years, and logic should have prevailed. The fact that correctly applied SMP pigments are positioned high in the upper dermis to a shallower depth than traditional tattoo inks, would naturally suggest that they would be easier to remove than tattoo inks. Anyway, laser sessions are now the preferred (and only viable) method for removal.
According to Katrina of HIS Hair Clinic, a Q Switched Nd:YAG laser is required. This is pretty standard equipment in most laser clinics, and certainly for those who offer a tattoo removal service. Katrina advises that the laser should be set to a 1064 wavelength with a medium spot size, so if your laser removal company is unsure, make sure you specify this explicitly.
After your session, the pigment in the treated area should turn white. This is indicative of a successful reaction. Following this reaction, the results will be seen on a progressive basis over the following 3-4 weeks. If you require an additional session, a minimum delay of 6 weeks must be left between sessions to ensure no skin damage is caused.
Is there any evidence of results?
Very little unfortunately. I can’t imagine many SMP providers going out of their way to publicize a removal procedure, because of the obvious questions that would be asked about the original treatment.
The following photographs were published on the HIS Hair Clinic forum by a client. Here are the only photos in the public domain of an actual SMP removal, as far as I am aware.
To their credit, HIS Hair Clinic have published a couple of videos to openly demonstrate how laser removal can work. One of these videos is shown below.
Is remaining hair affected?
When using a laser to heat up and break down pigment deposits across your entire scalp, there is always a possibility that a small proportion of your remaining hair follicles will be caught in the crossfire, no matter how careful your laser technician is. The overall impact is likely to be small however, in fact most would say you could lose a maximum of 5% of your remaining hair under normal circumstances.
The only exception is transplanted hair, as this can be easier to kill off inadvertently. For this reason, the removal rate of transplanted hair can be as high as 20%.
The use of lasers for cosmetic treatments is routine now, but the equipment used remains dangerous in the wrong hands. Scarring can result if the technician is inexperienced and applies the process in the wrong way, so be very careful. Do not buy laser removal services on cost alone. Make sure you are treated by an experienced technician at all times.
Furthermore, you need to be certain that there are no iron or other metal deposits in the pigment used by your SMP provider. If there are metal deposits present, the laser can spark and cause significant burns and other skin damage, effectively ruling out the option of laser removal entirely.
Finally, this post assumes your SMP treatment was applied correctly in the first place. If your pigment dots were deposited too deeply, or are the wrong type of pigment (for example permanent makeup pigment or tattoo ink), it could be much more challenging to remove. Always consult a suitably qualified/experienced laser technician before committing to a removal procedure.