Does scalp micropigmentation Hurt?

As a busy SMP artist based out of Vancouver Canada I receive dozens of emails on a weekly basis from individuals interested in SMP.

My blog posts serve those who might not yet be ready for a consultation or a procedure but do have questions regarding SMP.

So I try to highlight the most common questions I receive in order to help you create a clearer picture of what SMP can or cannot do for you.

One of the questions I commonly receive is

“Is scalp micropigmentation painful?”

Scalp Micropigmentation

Scalp Micropigmentation, does it hurt?

Over the past 5 years SMP has been building rapidly in popularity as a solution for hair loss and hair thinking. Firstly because it is a far cheaper alternative to a hair transplant and secondly there is very little if any down time.

However, when you mention the word tattoo, some people panic at the idea of being pricked by a needle, not once but thousands of times.

As most of you already know, scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is a cosmetic tattoo procedure. One, which requires a tiny needle to deposit a pigment into the scalp thousands of times in order to create the look of thousands of micro hairs. These pigment deposits when administered correctly by a skilled and experienced artist create the illusion of a full head of shaved hair.

OK, but is SMP painful?

Well, the long and the short answer is SMP can be mildly painful for some, slightly irritating for others and virtually painless to the vast majority. As you know pain is subjective, so what feels painful to one might feel like nothing to another.

As a general rule I always ask clients if they’ve ever had a traditional tattooing. If the answer is yes, then I tell them that SMP is far less invasive or deep as their tattoo, so far less painful. And if the answer is no, I tell them that SMP is nowhere near as painful or as deep and invasive as a traditional tattoo. This seems to paint a tangible picture for the average person to understand.

Are some parts of the scalp more painful or irritating than others?


Some areas of the scalp more sensitive than others

Whilst the vast majority of people feel little to no discomfort, most will find some variance in sensation from area to area as the artist works his or her way around the scalp.

In my experience most people will find the front of the scalp particularly the hairline more sensitive than the crown. This is due in part to more nerve ending concentration in that area. Some of my clients might feel like sneezing or perhaps their eyes feel like watering when I’m working on the very front of the scalp. The sides of the head around the ears and temples can also be a little sensitive. The crown and back of the head seem to have (in my experience) very little sensation in comparison.

Does scar tissue from a hair transplant hurt more than regular tissue?

Scar tissue from FUT or FUE hair transplants can be a little more sensitive than regular tissue and is frequently easier to irritate and inflame. That’s why great care and experience must be taken when working on scar tissue.

If I feel pain or am petrified of needles what can be done?

numbing cream

Afraid of needles? Have no fear numbing cream is here!

If you feel discomfort, irritation or pain during your session a 5% topical lidocaine cream can be applied which will numb the skin and greatly diminish the sensation.

As well as a topical cream application, do not hesitate to ask your artist if you can take several mini breaks during the session, in order to relieve the skin.

Will my Skin turn red after SMP?


Once your SMP session is over you might notice that the skin looks red and irritated. This is 100% normal and should subside within a few short hours.

About Rob James

Rob James

Rob James SMP at work in his busy Vancouver studio 

Rob James is one of the most experienced and in demand SMP artists in Canada. Known for his ultra realistic hairline creations Rob James works out of his Advanced Scalp Clinic in Vancouver Canada. He is available for consultation at: 778-917-7772

Scalp Micropigmentation

How to prevent a shiny scalp before and after SMP

As a busy SMP artist working out of Advanced Scalp Clinic in Vancouver Canada I get dozens of emails on a weekly basis regarding Scalp Micropigmentation.

One question that stands out is;

“How do I prevent my scalp from being so shiny?”


“Will SMP stop my scalp from being so shiny?”

Will SMP prevent a shiny scalp?

These are two interesting questions! So let’s dive right in. 

Firstly let me make it clear that for many having a shiny scalp isn’t an issue whatsoever. But for those who are troubled by it and who ask me how to prevent it, this blog post is for you.

Let’s start by answering and potentially clearing up any misconceptions surrounding SMP and scalp shine. Scalp Micropigmentation will not completely get rid of scalp shine. It might mitigate it slightly by being less of a contrasting, reflective colour and this new tone might appear less oily looking. But it’s mainly stubble diffusion, which absorbs the light and makes for less reflective surface, therefore a less shiny scalp.

So, for example someone who has a Norwood 6 has far more of a reflective surface than someone with a Norwood 2. The Norwood 2 will have more stubble to break up and absorb light.

So if you do have slight stubble, try not to shave too close in order to preserve the light absorbing effects of stubble. We suggest shaving close with clippers such as the Andis outliner, rather than shaving super close with a blade or a foil.

scalp shine

SMP can lessen the glare, but not eradicate it

But let’s, for arguments sake assume you have a Norwood 5. How can we make this level of hair loss less shiny?

Could it be the oil?

oily scalp

Is an oily scalp the reason for shine?

All scalps’ produce oil, we all have it and it’s a totally natural and necessary process. It serves a purpose, from protecting the skin from bacteria to keeping it supple and young.

It’s true that some people’s skin is oilier than others. However, you cannot choose where your skin is oily and where it’s not. But there are things you can do to conceal, control or absorb the oil.


Step 1:

Washing. Washing the scalp on a regular basis and using a gentle soap with an exfoliate will wash away dead skin and regulate oil production.

Wipe. Whilst you’re out and about keep a packet of wet wipes available. These can be fantastic for on the go oil absorption.

Make sure they are gentle, alcohol free wipes, which contain a soothing astringent like witch hazel. Refrain from putting anything that contains alcohol on your scalp as this has a drying effect, which is counter productive as it later produces  more oil.


Wipe the scalp to absorb excess oil.

Moisturize. After washing the scalp use a natural, light, quick absorbing moisturizer to keep oil levels in balance.

Step 2:

Sweating. is healthy but can make your scalp look even shinier, here’s what to do. You cannot try to not sweat, it’s a natural process our body undertakes to eliminate and regulate. But you can be prepared, a pack of absorbent, soft towels to discretely wipe the scalp or a clean handkerchief strictly for this purpose is useful for staying on top of the shine.

Shaving. If you’ve done your research on SMP and quality SMP artists they’ll tell you that the optimal way to sport your new SMP is to keep the hair at an optimal, shaved length. But, there is a way to offset the shine by the way you shave and prepare your scalp.

SMP artists

Keeping the hair at an adequate stubble length helps mitigate reflection.


Instead of using a bic razor or a foil you could opt to shave the hair just a tad longer. I find the Andis Outliner to be the optimal length for SMP. It just shaves the scalp enough to leave a tiny, little bit of stubble on top for that added diffusion. Shaving your scalp with the grain of your hair and not against it is also a way of keeping just the right length to offset the shine.

So to summarize, wash daily with a gentle exfoliating, none drying soap. Moisturize with a natural none oily, quick absorbing moisturizer. None alcohol wet wipes for oil control throughout the day. Manage sweat with quick, clean absorbent towel or towelettes (when needed).

Daily shaving to the ideal length with clippers (such as Andis Outliner) and shaving with the grain as opposed to against it, therefore maximizing any stubble.

Mattifying. Finally I’d like to discuss matte products. These are typically moisturizers or sun blocks and come in the form of powder or creams. Their aim is to provide a matte look rather than a glossy look for the skin. There are a few quality ones on the market. I personally always recommend the Banana Boat dry balance sunblock as it provides sun protections as well as a dry mattifying effect.

Some people use milk of magnesium, I have mentioned it to clients, but I am yet to hear any feedback on it, so I will refrain from comment.


 Rob James SMP is a scalp Micropigmention artist who works out of his private clinic in Vancouver Canada. His ultra realistic, natural hairline creations have made him one of the most in demand SMP artists in the country.

He is available for consultation at or 778-917-7772