First things first: You and your artist will come up with a detailed treatment plan during an in-depth consultation, where you’ll decide on the exact pigment and needle size necessary. (Yes, there are different needle options; everyone’s follicles are not the same size!) If you’re hoping to tattoo the hairline, the artist will also discuss options that best suit your face shape.
After landing on a plan of action, it’s time to tattoo: Your artist will take the penlike machine and get to work, entering the dermis at about 2 millimeters deep, depending on your individual scalp thickness. “There definitely is a sweet spot involved with SMP, which is why it’s important to pick a well-trained artist!” Jara says. “If the needle only hits the epidermis layer, the pigment will fade quickly and come off through the layer’s natural process of shedding and renewal. If the needle goes too deep, beyond the epidermis into the subcutaneous layer, that’s when pigment migrates and stains the scalp in big round blotches.”
If this is your first session, your artist will typically use the lightest hue in your chosen shade range and tattoo the microdots with plenty of space in between—that way, they can lay the foundation and understand how your scalp heals before using more precise techniques. During the second session, your artist will fill in those gaps with more micro-impressions and assess whether they need to use a slightly darker or lighter shade. “The third session is usually when all the little details are finely tuned,” Jara notes. Your artist will add even more density and perhaps go darker, depending on how you’ve healed. Typically, you’ll need two to three sessions to reach final results (four, for some), so patience is key.
Each session can take anywhere from one to five hours, says Jara, depending on the size of the area. After the first round, you’ll schedule the next session 10 to 14 days out and focus on healing and aftercare (more on that in a moment). “It is very important for the scalp to be fully healed before implanting further impressions into the scalp,” Jara adds. “This will prevent ink migration and oversaturation.”