Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo?

This has to be one of the most debated subjects withing the SMP trade. And it’s regularly debated by clients, the general public and technicians alike. Is Scalp Micropigmentation a Tattoo? Hit the google search bar with this question and it will throw you into a turmoil of confusion… or keep reading and find out the veritable differences between SMP and tattoos.

It’s very easy to understand why people believe that SMP is a tattoo. The techniques used to administer scalp micropigmentation is tantamount to tattooing. Both procedures use a machine fitted with a microneedle and both procedures implant pigment underneath the skin’s outer layer known as the Epidermis. The pigments are implanted into the dermis which is your second major layer of skin and the results are an indelible marking. The said marking forms an image – with SMP the image is a tiny hair follicle, with tattooing, a picture or wording of choice.

However, there is quite a selection of “BUT’s” when it comes to both procedures which define some fairly hefty differences. If nothing else, differences which deem each trade incomparable. Which in turn means that a tattoo artist shouldn’t be administering SMP and the same vice versa. Unless of course, they are trained in both techniques.

So let’s have a quick rundown of the differences…

How Tattoos and SMP Differ

Pigment Depth

Pigment depth is one of the most critical of the differences when comparing SMP and tattooing. Scalp micropigmentation is administered at lightly below the Epidermis level of your skin, with a pigment implant hitting the very beginning of the Dermis. The reason is it enables a technician to maintain control over the shape of the implant. Should it be planted deeper than intended the edges will blur, leaving an unsightly and permanent “blend” across the scalp. This does mean that your scalp micropigmentation will fade over a period of three to five years, however, this is a much better solution than the alternative. Tattoos don’t require such precision, therefore the pigment is implanted midway into the Dermis, which deems the technique permanent with a margin for less shape sharpness.

Pigment Ingredients

For anyone considering either SMP or a tattoo, your technician will be able to tell you the list of ingredients on their pigment bottle. This is key to understanding the differences between the two techniques. Scalp micropigmentation pigment comprises of solely natural and often plant-based components. This ensures color stability but it also deems the consistency thinner, meaning it’s more difficult to use. Tattoo inks require color vibrancy, meaning there are often metals contained within pigments to achieve this look. These can cause allergies in certain patients and can also leave a color residue, even if they’re implanted at the correct depth.


To close on a micro-fine point… needles. Scalp micropigmentation needles are much finer than that of tattooing and also have very small, almost undetectable to the eye rough edges for shading. Those used in tattooing are contrary, they are smooth.

So next time someone asks, is scalp micropigmentation a tattoo? Which side of the fence do you sit on?