Men Are Covering Bald Spots With Tattoos
The latest options for confronting hair loss include permanent ink.
There is no miracle solution when it comes to hair loss, and of all the available options marketed as such, most are tedious, risky, or both. Propecia (the pill) and Rogaine (the topical mousse) can prevent or even reverse hair loss, but must be used daily. The former can hinder the man’s sex drive, in some cases permanently. Transplants often leave a scar in the back of the head from where the hairs were extracted. And even then, it's not a guarantee, since the transplanted hair can also fall out.
This is why some men have turned to a process called micropigmentation, which uses microfine needles and customized, color-matched pigments to tattoo the scalp with the appearance of closely cropped hair. Hairlines can be restored, transplant scars covered, and bald spots filled.
“We help those who need an immediate, non-invasive, low-maintenance, and cost-effective solution,” says Matt Iulo, the founder and lead practitioner at Scalp Micro USA in New York City.
Practitioners are trained to mimic the appearance of natural hair: “We blend a range of shades to guarantee consistent replication of the specific shape, size, and density of micro hairs,” says Iulo. “And, as opposed to tattoo ink, cosmetic pigmentation ink has no metal content and is unlikely to fade or cause skin issues.” Because the needle is so small, it’s also less painful than receiving an actual tattoo.
Clients will typically need to maintain a cropped, buzzed style to match the pigment strokes. However, men with longer hair who simply want to fill in bald spots for the appearance of density can do so as well. Similarly, micropigmentation has long been used to thicken the appearance of eyebrows, by creating light, hair-like strokes that mimic natural hairs beneath the natural brows.
On average, the process requires two to four treatments in the first three months, and touching up every few years, primarily to adjust for additional hair loss, but also for minimal color retouching. Iulo says the pigment can sometimes lighten after many years, but never teeters on discoloration. Each session lasts one to three hours, and direct sun exposure to the area must be avoided for the two weeks following treatment. After that, SPF protection is highly recommended, as is common for any ink on the body.
“Most of the risks behind scalp micropigmentation are similar to those associated with any tattooing,” says James Collyer, M.D., co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Seattle. “These include infection after the procedure, poor results due to an under-trained provider, allergic reactions to the pigment, and blurring or fading over time.” However, Collyer says many of his patients opt for the procedure, and as long as it's performed by a trusted professional, he believes it's a good substitution for transplantation or used in conjunction with transplants.
Aging men don't need to worry about their hairs graying, either. “When buzzed so short, gray hair does not appear as gray because the hair root itself is darker,” says Iulo. “Hair only shows gray as it gets longer. Second, we use a gray-scale pigment that can be adjusted in shade to blend with lighter hair tones. We simply create a lighter dilution for blending into the existing gray hairs.”
Suddenly, a lot of guys who vowed to “never get a tattoo” might be changing their minds.