Here’s the deal – scalp micropigmentation was not designed to work with long hair. No matter how much you might want to keep it longer, or how uncomfortable you might be with shaving your head to the bone, you’re asking SMP to do something that it was not designed to do.

There are however some circumstances where long hair and scalp micropigmentation CAN work together. I’ll come on to these scenarios shortly.

Why does this combo usually fail?

Although there are ways and means to make pigmentation of the scalp look 3D, the bottom line is that SMP dots are two dimensional, and that real hair is three dimensional unless it is shaved. To the human eye unshaven hair looks like a series of lines, while SMP looks like dots. The two do not mix easily.

Why do some providers say it can be done?

If you’ve asked the question in the first place, clearly you would prefer to keep your hair a little longer. By telling you what you want to hear, the provider is more likely to win your business. To be fair, there are some providers that genuinely believe that SMP and long hair can mix, and that they’re giving you the right advice. I agree with them to a certain extent – I just don’t believe it works for as many people as some providers would have you believe.

The quality issue

Another problem is that many so-called specialists mask the poor quality of their work by hiding it under longer hair.

A well-executed scalp micropigmentation treatment is made up of thousands of tiny pigment deposits that effectively mimic real shaven hair follicles. Some providers simply ‘paint’ the scalp under the hair with pigment to reduce the variation in shade between the hair and the scalp. Whilst this can still make hair appear fuller, the illusion is of a poor standard and leaves the recipient in real trouble if they lose more hair and can no longer cover the treated area entirely.

So what is actually possible?

The best candidates for this variation of SMP are those with intact hairlines and diffuse thinning, i.e an overall loss of hair density. For this to work, the recipient should have a decent coverage of hair in the crown area too. SMP can be applied to cover the entire upper scalp, and the resulting appearance is of restored hair density.

For those with receded hairlines, as long as their overall density is still reasonable (including the crown area), it is usually still possible to keep the hair longer after treatment as long as the treated area does not breach the boundaries of the recipients frontal hairline. It should be noted however that if the client experiences a further recession of their hairline and the treated area is exposed, the hair must then be kept shaved to maintain an effective illusion. This is another reason why primative scalp shading techniques are definitely not recommended.

Due to the fact that shaving the head is not strictly necessary in some cases, this type of scalp micropigmentation is also ideal for many women suffering with female pattern baldness, telogen effluvium or general thinning alopecia.

Who is this unsuitable for?

Those with substantial recession of their frontal hairline and/or side profiles, or with extensive loss of hair around their crown, will almost certainly need to keep their hair short after scalp micropigmentation. Keeping the hair cut at a longer length is also not an option for those with alopecia areata for obvious reasons, and there are limitations for those who wish to camouflage linear hair transplant scars too, although it may be possible with FUE scars in many cases.

Just remember that the aim of SMP is for it to look 100% natural. I think it is a case of being honest with yourself, and having realistic expectations.

Believe it or not, reaching for the blade and shaving your head is not that big a deal. You may be uncomfortable with the idea at first, probably because you don’t think the look will suit you (I was the same), but you’ll get used to it very quickly and like many people, you may even find your new style to be quite liberating.


    • Many people combine hair transplantation with scalp micropigmentation. If you’re asking about the possibility of keeping your hair longer, as I assume you are as you’ve asked the question in relation to this article, then the basic rules remain the same. If you have decent coverage and an intact hairline, you should be fine.

      However, as a Norwood 6 and most likely the bearer of some scalp scars, I doubt you’d be able to pull it off. You could still combine the two procedures, but the best you could hope for is added texture. I don’t think keeping your hair longer will be a feasible option.

      If you want a confirmed assessment, please send some photos to me at, showing the extent of your hair loss, and I’ll do my best to provide advice.

  1. In my case, i have decent coverage of my own hair around the sides and visibly thinning but good coverage across my crown and top of my head. You can see my scalp on the top of my head when i have a haircut.

    My aim is to proceed with Scalp Micro-Pigmentation to darken the the thinning areas of my head and keep my hair short but not shaven. My usual haircut is a skin fade around the sides and a number two on top; would this qualify as the right length for this procedure that can look good.

    No-one comments on the length of hair that can work and which number length is generally too long.

    Hope that was clear and look forward to hearing from you to clear this up for me.


    • Hi Raj,

      That’s because there is no real upper limit to the length of your hair, provided you have enough coverage. Your plan sounds reasonable and from how you describe your current situation, I see no reason why you couldn’t achieve what you’re looking for.

      The crucial element is that you must be a ‘diffuse’ thinner, i.e someone who is losing their hair in a fairly even pattern, rather than your hair loss being significantly more aggressive around your crown and hairline. As long as you have decent overall coverage with no really thin spots, you should be fine.

    • Hi, have you had the procedure yet? As I too am thinking about it, and have the exact same haircut as yourself.

      Could you share you results please. Thanks.


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