As with any permanent cosmetic procedure, it is important to understand the full implications of the treatment you are about to seek. Although rare, there are a few scalp micropigmentation side effects to be aware of that have been observed over the years.
As the SMP industry is still fairly new, clinical research in this area has not taken place. That said, the implantation of pigment into the skin has been going on for a very long time through tattooing, paramedical pigmentation and permanent makeup, so we have a good idea of what to expect.
Some clients will experience side effects, but most won’t. This information is for everyone, but is unlikely to affect the overwhelming majority of people who proceed with a scalp micropigmentation treatment.
What are the most common side effects?
Here are 6 of the most common issues that have been reported by clients of various clinics. Not all of these are technically classed as side effects, some are down to bad technique or challenging skin types.
Swollen lymph nodes
Although all scalp micropigmentation side effects are rare, this is the most common of those observed that can actually be classed as a genuine ‘side effect’.
Clients occasionally report lumps at the back of their head that surface shortly after a treatment session. They’re usually small, but I have known one client to describe them as ‘golf balls’.
This same problem is reported by the tattoo world from time to time. Swollen lymph glands are usually associated with infection which can happen if non-sterile or inappropriate pigments are used, but this is not always the case.
Tattoo inks have been known to collect inside lymph nodes and even caused cancer scares, but if you notice this problem after your treatment, the symptom is no cause for alarm and goes away over time.
Experienced by most clients, post-treatment redness is seen immediately after treatment and usually subsides within 1-2 days. It is completely normal.
Some clients report that their scalp feels itchy or tight after their treatment sessions. This usually kicks in after a couple of days and goes away again as the scalp heals. This is caused by the natural healing process, as each micro-wound scabs and the skin exfoliates.
Dots too large
Immediately after your treatment, each dot is covered by a small scab. These scabs contain pigment and look like oversized SMP dots. After 5-10 days, the scabs start to come away and take much of the pigment with them, leaving behind a much smaller, lighter and ultimately more realistic ‘follicle’ representation.
Rapid mid-treatment fading
Caused by exactly the same process as described above, when scabs start to come away to reveal much smaller and lighter dots beneath, this is often misinterpreted as fading. It’s not actually fading, but the change can be dramatic and leaves some clients disappointed because they believe their treatment is disappearing.
Dots are turning blue
Poorly trained scalp micropigmentation practitioners often use regular tattoo techniques to create what they believe is SMP. Unfortunately, this means that regular tattoo inks are often used, often deposited too deeply, which quickly causes pigments to break down and turn blue under the skin.
If you’ve been to a lesser-known or unreputable clinic, you may have a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.
If you’ve been to a clinic that has a better reputation and does not have problems with discoloration, then what you are seeing is almost certainly temporary bruising. Dark pigments on light skin plus bruising after treatment usually equals blue or purple. Don’t worry, it goes after a few days.
It is worth mentioning too that the pigments sit beneath layers of skin, and the skin acts like a filter. When you see the deposits, you’re looking through that filter which can cause the pigments to look a little blue, especially when the penetration depth is excessive. This is more noticeable with pale skinned clients with dark hair.
I always stress the importance of finding the right practitioner to do your treatment, because I genuinely believe this is the difference between success and failure. Side effects can and do happen, but sometimes the issue is actually bad technique, low quality pigments or a non-sterile environment.
It is important to find out how your practitioner was trained and learn more about the background of their employer.
If the company you’re considering having your treatment with has some genuinely bad reviews, fails to satisfactory answer all your questions, is pushing you to sign on the dotted line, is inexplicably cheap or just plain doesn’t feel right, back away. You can always go back to them later, but the opportunity to gather your thoughts and do a little more research may just save your skin.