By: Shea Lenniger, Contributing Writer for The Hair Society
Scalp micro-pigmentation (SMP), an increasingly popular cosmetic pigmentation procedure, can help the appearance of thinning or balding hair in both men and women. While there is a slight similarity to traditional tattooing, in so far as SMP involves injecting pigment into the scalp where it becomes unique, and very different than a traditional tattoo, is how the SMP artists will mimic the look of the hair follicles. Who better to do this, than a skilled barber who works with hair on a daily basis. Those suffering from male pattern baldness, balding patches, thinning hair, alopecia, scarring or poorly done hair transplants can benefit from SMP.
Master Barber Taylor Perry combined his years of experience as a tattoo artist and barber to found Premier Hair Tattoo, now the home of South Florida’s top studio for scalp micro-pigmentation treatments. “It’s not something to brag about, but I got my first tattoo at 14 years old,” Taylor says with a laugh and continues, “it’s an important part of my story.” Taylor soon started cutting hair professionally at a barbershop when he was 15 and started doing tattoos when he was just 18. So with over 20 years of experience now, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing.
“About 2 years ago one of my clients came in and asked me how I liked his head while I was cutting his hair.” Taylor told him it looked great and asked what he had done. To his surprise, his client responded, “it’s a tattoo.” When he looked closer, he wondered why he never thought of doing hair tattoos himself.
Three weeks later, he did his first SMP treatment on his brother-in-law and has been booked ever since. To this day he says that was “still some of my best work.”
Eager to learn more, Taylor called around to some of the local top-level trainers in the industry, but none of them were barbers and tattoo artists like he was. Many had only been performing the procedure for three or four years. As a well-seasoned tattoo artist and barber, Taylor knew that his expertise and knowledge about hairlines and density would make him a perfect fit for the SMP industry.
Those interested in SMP first need to go through a consultation, which Taylor offers for free. Pictures can be sent over the phone or through video calls, so clients can share their concerns, goals, and desired look for their hair. Once they receive pricing and decide they want to go through with the procedure, then they can come in and Taylor can provide more details.
Taylor says his most of his clients come in “typically for male-pattern baldness, which is probably 90% of SMP, maybe even more.”
While the procedure may seem simple enough, it’s the intricacies that ensure the final look is so perfect that it goes unnoticed. “For male pattern baldness, you don’t really want to add dark dots everywhere,” Taylor explains, “You want to outline the thinning areas and add density to those spots to match the hair around it.” He uses regular gray wash like traditional tattoos, making sure to go lighter as he blends it into the hairline so it appears natural.
Being located in South Florida, he treats hair from all different types of ethnicities. He warns that tight braids and dreads are some of the most damaging hairstyles you can have. “They’re really tight and pull the hair really bad, it’s constant pulling on the hair. Almost all of them that do braids or dreads for their hair for a really long time go bald.” He explained that the weight of dreads and braids continuously pluck out hair, which can actually kill the hair follicles and make it impossible for that hair to grow back. (This sort of hair loss is called traction alopecia) “Every time I cut someone’s dreads off because they’ve had them for years, almost all of them are going bald at the top.” Taylor can help fill in some of the balding patches with SMP to revive the appearance of density, but it’s best not to get involved with these types of detrimental hairstyles in the first place.
What happens during an SMP procedure and how long does it last?
Scalp micro-pigmentation needs to be done over the course of a few sessions. Taylor typically completes the treatment in about three sessions with a few weeks in between each. Since the pigment is put under the dermis, there’s potential for the ink to merge together if it’s not spaced out enough. To avoid too much ink blotting together, the first session lays the foundation for the first layer of dots, which then heals and lightens a bit before the desired density is achieved in the later sessions.
So how long does SMP last? When done correctly, it’s permanent. Of course, sun exposure will fade it just like any tattoo, so it’s advised to wear a hat or sunblock if you’re frequently outside in the sun. It still looks great when it fades, but you can always return for touch-ups to bring it back to life. Very little maintenance is required, if any at all, which makes it an easy and manageable solution to cover balding spots.
Often times, people come in with unrealistic expectations. “The majority of people don’t have any idea how it’s supposed to look,” Taylor explains. “A lot of them come in and want their hairline so low that maybe only a 15-year-old kid has it like that.” With 23 years of experience cutting hair, he knows how to make the hairline appear natural while still achieving the desired youthful look. He typically places it where he knows it should be at or even a bit higher so the client can live in it for a few weeks and decide whether they still want it lowered or not.
Who can’t benefit from SMP?
Taylor also discussed how there are certain skin conditions or irritations that prevent him from performing SMP on a client. Since the process involves injecting pigment under the dermis, conditions like keloid and tinea versicolor will only worsen with SMP.
Keloid causes raised scars that expand beyond the original site of a skin injury. While anyone can get keloid, this condition is seen most commonly in Hispanic and African American ethnicities. Those who suffer from keloid can’t undergo the treatment because it will simply cause more keloid.
Tinea versicolor, which Taylor stated is growing increasingly more common due to the warm, humid temperatures of South Florida, has become increasingly prevalent in his clients. This fungus initially seems like dandruff, so clients assume they just have a dry, flaky scalp. Plus, sufferers from this condition who are balding commonly wear caps to try and hide their thinning hair but unknowingly contribute to the warm, moist environment which tinea versicolor thrives in. Unfortunately, SMP cannot cover up this condition and will actually make it much worse. Taylor sells a high-quality shampoo in his studio with medicinal ingredients that can help to kill the infection. If not treated, this contagious condition will only get worse and spread unsightly pink circles on a person’s scalp.
While individuals with one or both of these skin conditions cannot undergo SMP treatment, there are other forms of scarring and injuries that can actually be covered quite nicely with SMP. Taylor has done some amazing work covering up scars to the point where they’re barely even noticeable. He’s helped with scarring from accidents and injuries as well as various hair transplant scars. Some of his best work is shown in before and after photos on his Instagram page.
Where is SMP headed?
Taylor revealed that even though this treatment has been around for 10 years, it’s been kept on the down low up until now. “In the next year or so, there’s gonna be a big shift in the SMP industry and the barbers are definitely gonna be taking this over for sure.” Taylor continues, “It definitely should be more geared towards barbers, because they’re the ones who know how hair is supposed to look.” Barbers are experts in knowing how hairlines should look and what best fits a client, making them very qualified to learn and excel at scalp micro-pigmentation. SMP artists are aware of barbers’ expertise and growing interest in SMP and are fearing their takeover. Taylor even recounted how he initially called local smp artists who did SMP to train him, and once they found out he was a barber, they never called him back. The fact is, SMP artists have a unique and valuable talent, whereas the SMP artist who is also a barber, specializes on helping a client restore a natural hairline, or hide a scar, etc., using techniques that replicate their follicle.
As more barbers like Taylor Perry make their move into the scalp micropigmentation industry, this innovative solution will continue to restore confidence to those suffering from balding and hair loss. To find out more about SMP and see if it’s a good option for you, visit Premier Hair Tattoo’s website at: https://taylor-perry.com.