7 Scalp Micropigmentation Side Effects, Risks & Warnings

Candidates for hair tattoos should consider scalp micropigmentation side effects before their first treatment. Scarring, itching, and redness may occur with some SMP procedures.

Curious about these new hair tattoo procedures? Before my own scalp micropigmentation procedure, I looked into all the SMP side effects reported by doctors and patients. With my research, you can be more informed on what could happen—although doctors report the more severe side effects are rare and dependent on the quality of the clinic.

Common Scalp Micropigmentation Side Effects

While your practitioner should explain side effects to you during the initial consultation, patients should ask about any allergic reactions and possible complications.

scalp micropigmentation before after
Scalp micropigmentation procedures should create a natural stubble look, while others only fill in your hairline and bald patches.

I read through several reviews and looked for personal stories on scalp micropigmentation, as well as medical articles on scalp micropigmentation side effects. These were the most commonly reported side effects and complications.

Some side effects can be attributed to a practitioner’s lack of experience and difficult skin types prone to swelling.

scalp micropigmentation side effects

New To Scalp Micropigmentation?

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) uses a microneedle to inject pigments into your scalp to resemble real hair follicles. These are often called hair tattoos or hairline tattoos as they recreate your hairline, filling in bald spots and patches.

Scalp micropigmentation side effects
Microneedles inject natural pigments, not tattoo ink. Ask practitioner what pigments are used.

SMP can be used as an affordable option to a hair transplant if you want the stubble shaved head look like Jason Statham or just want to fill in patchy bald areas.

Those suffering from hair loss and thinning can use SMP like permanent makeup, tattooing natural hair follicles along the hairline, hair part, crown, or an all-over, full scalp micropigmentation.

Others who have FUE transplants combine with SMP treatments to hide scarring.

SMP should be performed by a licensed SMP practitioner. Find the Best Scalp Micropigmentation Clinic near you.

1. Itchy Scalp

Just like a regular tattoo itches, you may experience the need to itch your scalp after a treatment. You also must avoid sun exposure initially after the procedure as a sunburned scalp adds more irritation, peeling, and itching.

There are multiple treatments required for larger, all-over scalp micropigmentation treatments, which can lead to an itchy, irritated scalp following the injections. Since microneedles are used, there’s some healing time to be expected.

Warm towels, topical creams provided by your practitioner, and aloe vera can help soothe the need to itch.

2. Swollen Lymph Nodes

Regular tattoos also have this issue. It’s called swollen lymph nodes and can occur when an infection happens at the injection site due to a non-sterile needle or improper pigment placement. Most of the time, it goes away on its own.

Clients reported that after their treatments ended, they noted a small bulge or lumps that go away within a day or two. However, one client reported a “golf ball sized” lump after an injection.

If you notice lumps, notify the practitioner right away and seek further treatment if it doesn’t go away within 48 hours.

3. Scalp Infection and Scabbing

You typically will notice a small scab around the injection site that goes away between 5 and 10 days. However, if it becomes infected, you’ll notice more discoloration, pain, and pus.

There have been reported cases of botched scalp micropigmentation where non-sterile needles caused a scalp to become infected. In these cases, the practitioner is at fault. This is a very rare side effect, and it’s cause to be careful when selecting the right salon or clinic for treatment. We’ve also written our own guide on Bad SMP and Client Regrets.

4. Redness

Most clients experience redness for the first 3 to 5 days, although it can subside quickly if you stay out of the sun and apply an appropriate moisturizing cream. You’ll likely see redness disappear within a couple of days by protecting your scalp.

5. Dots Too Large

There is such a thing as too much pigment. When a scalp micropigmentation practitioner injects too much pigment, it can create a much larger dot than the others on your scalp.

However, most dots swell at first, then shrink down to the permanent size, which is much smaller. The pigments also become lighter over time to give a more realistic shaved head look.

6. Rapid Fading

If you were hoping for very dark pigments, you may be surprised to see that the dots do fade to a light charcoal color within the first 30 days. This is meant to happen, but the change is often very drastic to clients hoping for much darker pigments.

7. Dots Turn Purple or Blue

There are “cheap” pigments that don’t retain their natural dark black and charcoal gray color. In this case, you may notice a hint if purple or even blue coloration. This is likely because they are using tattoo inks and not actual, high-quality pigments.

It’s more noticeable on paler skin, so you should discuss the results with your practitioner ahead of time.

One thing to note for your SMP consultation: ask about the type of pigments used and confirm the final color is what you want.

In other cases, this is simply temporary bruising if you notice a slight blue color after receiving a treatment. However, if the pigments remain this color or become blue after a period of time, you should return to the practitioner to be fixed or get a refund.

Is Scalp Micropigmentation Dangerous?

Scalp micropigmentation is mostly safe for those without allergies and rare disorders. Doctors report some of their clients have experienced lingering, minor pain, but in most cases, there are no side effects.

However, there are botched scalp micropigmentation procedures, in which needles weren’t sterilized or other types of infection set in after the procedure.

This is why you always have to vet any practitioner before treatments by checking reviews. If you don’t see at least 10 reviews with a 4-star or higher rating, then it’s likely a beginner who doesn’t have the experience yet.

By Eric Melillo

I'm the co-owner of B&B. I live in Guilford, Connecticut and I've been obsessed with bald & beard styles & trends for over 20 years..