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Hair Density Treatments vs. Hair Transplants

Updated: Mar 21


By now, everyone already knows what scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is and what it can do for balding men, looking to achieve that close shaved look. And, you've probably seen photos of SMP work for people with thinning hair. So, is there a difference between regular SMP on someone who is completely bald and SMP on someone with hair? What are the benefits or drawbacks compared to traditional hair transplants? Today we'll answer these questions and really look at the hair density treatment and why it is the better alternative for most hair loss for men and women.


What is the difference between scalp micropigmentation and hair density treatments? Many SMP artists will tell you it's the same thing, but I can tell you that it is definitely not. While the procedure is similar, the techniques are very different. SMP typically creates faux hair follicles, allowing you to look like you have a clean-shaven head. For men who closely shave their head down, it looks great. But what about women with long hair, or men with short hair that needs more density? Small dots certainly help, but it does not create the same density you would need for longer hair. When doing traditional SMP, there are certain density and follicle patterns you have to follow, but with hair density treatments, the goal is to hide as much bare skin as possible. That means that there are numerous layers of various colors and patterns that need to be done. Doing simple dots won't cover as much areas, and doing too many dots will make it look unnatural. So to answer the question, hair density treatments require a bit more layering and technique than traditional SMP.


Why are hair density treatments better than traditional FUE or FUT hair transplants?

There are multiple reasons and there are also some drawbacks, so let's examine this question bit by bit.


1) Cost

I always jokingly relate having hair loss procedures to going to the dentist. Most people don't call their dentists until there's a problem. The same goes for hair. When someone has significant hair loss, then they start looking at alternatives. Most men need between 800-1000 hair grafts and the prices can range between $8000-$10,000 for a good doctor to perform an FUE procedure. This cost usually only covers just around the hairline or about 1/4 of the scalp. Hair density treatments, on the other hand, covers practically the entire scalp between $2000-$3000.


2) Non-Surgical

As you already know, hair transplants are surgical. Either a large strip is cut out (the FUT method), or each follicle is pulled out and implanted back in (the FUE method) - traditional hair transplants require a medical doctor to do some cutting and surgical work. The idea is to take "extra" hair you don't need in the back of your head and move it towards the front or top where you do need it.


Hair density treatments are non-surgical. It's basically a medical tattoo that "adds" color and depth to what you have. It does not take away or move anything anywhere. And because it is non-surgical, there is no anesthesia or numbing required, and have no recovery time like hair transplant surgeries do (which require 2-3 weeks since surgery is involved).


Hair transplant scar (left) covered with hair density treatment (right).

3) Longevity

Any hair transplant surgeon will tell you that there is between a 5-10% follicle reduction rate during the transplant procedure - meaning, while the hair follicles are pulled out and moved, about 5-10% will either die during the process or not "take" after the transplant. So in order to achieve a 1000 hair graft, the surgeon would have to take out between 1100-1200 grafts. What happens if you barely have any hair left to begin with? Hair density treatment isn't destructive so you don't lose anything in the process. Only new "faux" color is achieved.


Once you age and begin to lose hair, you will continue to lose hair. It's natural and it's how our bodies work. Hair transplants are not permanent and they can last anywhere between 5-10 years depending on your lifestyle. Sure, you can have another hair transplant again, but how much hair do you have left 10 years later and can you handle the pain and recovery of surgery being 10 years older?


Hair density treatments lasts between 3-5 years. The ink does fade, like any other tattoo, but you can get another "touch up"after that and it costs significantly less. It's like painting a wall. The bulk of the work is done initially, but touching up spots here and there require significantly less work. Touch-ups can range anywhere between $500-$1000 and will last again for another 3-5 years.


4) Applicability

Hair density treatments will work for MOST people (men and women) with thinning hair. Whether you're slightly thinning at the hairline, at the crown, or the entire scalp, hair density treatments will look great and will save you several years from other alternatives. Most people who look at hair transplants usually want to achieve a fuller head of hair at those areas anyways. It doesn't work for EVERY scenario, but will work for most. We will discuss these scenarios below.


The other great thing about hair density treatments is that it does not hinder your decision to have a transplant later on if you decide to get one. Hair density treatments does not damage existing hair follicles or cause hair loss. It only adds color and definition. If you lose more hair and decide to get a hair transplant later on when it's really needed, then it's not too late.


In the image above, this client went through two sessions of hair density treatments. The cost was $2000. She had consulted with a surgeon to undergo an FUE hair transplant, but was told it would cost between $12,000-$15,000, but that it can only help her slightly. She came to me and looked like this in 2 weeks with no down-time. She still has the same amount of hair she has, but looks significantly different as you can see from the photos.


So what are the drawbacks of hair density treatments vs. hair transplants?

As mentioned before, there are few drawbacks to hair density treatments. The only scenario I could think of is someone who suffers from massive hair loss and are completely bald at the crown and top. Hair density treatments does not "grow" new hair. If you are receding at the hairline and it goes too far back, it cannot give you new hair. Hair density treatments does just that - it adds to what you have to make it look fuller.


For anyone with that much hair loss and does not want to go with the clean shaven SMP look and prefers longer hair, wearing a hairpiece may be the only alternative. But for most people who have hair, but needs more definition, it is the best route to go.


I have white/gray hair. Does hair density treatment work for me?

Yes, and yes. My dentist has white, white hair. He looks like a clean shaven Santa Claus and I always joke with him that I want to work on him. Whether you are a light redhead, have bleach blonde hair, or white/grey hair, hair density treatments will work. Instead of using a darker or black ink, I would match your hair color at its roots so it matches perfectly with your hair color.


Hair density treatments are my specialty. I love working on them because they have the most dramatic effects on people. Hair density treatments are also my number one requested procedures I perform because, well frankly, all of us can use a bit more definition in our locks. It is cheaper, non-destructive, non-surgical, requires no down-time, and is definitely the better alternative than hair transplants in most situations.

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