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A man's scalp with new grown hairs on bald scalp

A Guide to Hairline Tattoos

Like so many other things in this crazy world, hairline tattoos simply didn’t cross your mind until you found out they existed…no pun intended (cross your mind, get it?). And what are men’s hairline tattoos exactly? Also known as scalp tattoos, scalp micro-pigmentation (SMP), or fake hair tattoos, these modern hair loss treatments are basically what they sound like, i.e. semi-permanent pigments on your skull that resemble a real hairline. Mystery solved! Just kidding—we’ve barely scratched the surface…or should we say the scalp?

Related: Our complete guide to the best haircuts for men is your reference point for hairstyles.

Until recently, hairline tattoos were a proverbial triple rainbow of the hair treatment world, meaning you might have heard about them, but you’d never actually seen one. However, they burst onto the Australian mainstream with a little help from the reality show “Married at First Sight” and its former star, Mike Gunner. As viewers peered closer and closer to the screen, they began to suspect that Gunner’s round and even hairline seemed a little too round and even, especially when compared to the uneven follicles atop his skull.

Rumours persisted and crack Internet detectives did their thing until Gunner himself finally confirmed what by that point was the obvious: he did indeed have a men’s hairline tattoo. Well done, Internet detectives! Meanwhile, a bunch of people were still wondering aloud, “What the heck was a hairline tattoo again? Also, how much does a hair tattoo cost? Oh, and should I get one?” It’s for those people and others that we’ve put together this little guide.

What are Men’s Hairline Tattoos?

Let’s pick a guy at random. We’ll call him…ummmm…Mike Gunner. Primarily bald on top and plagued with a receding, uneven hairline, Gunner decides that he wants to bolster his appearance. Thankfully, there’s an advanced cosmetic procedure for that. It goes by the name of scalp micro-pigmentation (SMP) and it’s gaining traction amongst modern men. On the street level, it’s known as getting a men’s hairline or scalp tattoo.

Hairline tattooing works by way of a meticulous procedure, during which tiny pigments are injected directly into the scalp. It might sound similar to traditional tattooing, but it’s not quite that exactly. For starters, hairline tattooing involves a smaller needle, also known as a microneedle. This is because typical (i.e. larger) tattoo needles are too imprecise by comparison, and when it comes to replicating tiny hair follicles, absolute precision is a must.

Representing another point of departure, hairline tattoos require a different type of ink. They also go two layers deep into the skin, whereas traditional tattoo needles go five layers deep. This is to achieve a certain tier of consistency from the pigments themselves, which can spread out and achieve an unnatural appearance when they go too deep into the skin.

What is it Like to Get a Men’s Hairline Tattoo?

Before we get to things like the cost of a hairline tattoo, you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Here’s what you can expect over the course of your procedure, which usually breaks down into either two or three separate treatments:

  • Your journey begins with a consultation, where you and a practitioner decide which style will work best for you and your scalp.
  • That’s followed by an initial treatment session of relatively tame proportion. It lays the initial groundwork for your future look and doesn’t require more than a day or two of recovery time.
  • The second treatment gets a little more intensive, as the practitioner fills in more details and implements darker pigments. The ink will usually be a tad darker than your hair’s natural colour, so as to render the appearance of a shadow, which in turn creates the illusion of life-like hair.
  • In many cases, the second treatment will be your last. However, sometimes a third treatment is necessary, especially if you want to go even darker in the pigment department.
  • Immediately after your final session, you might notice glaring pigment dots followed by scabbing. Fret not as this is part of the process. When the scabs heal, they take the larger pigments with them, leaving smaller and more natural dots behind.
  • Congratulations on your new hairline tattoo and your new look!

Are Men’s Hairline Tattoos Safe?

We haven’t uncovered any hairline tattoo horror stories just yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one lying in wait. You should perform your own research on the facility or practitioner before going under the microneedle. Pay attention to things like reviews, but also to the type of ink or equipment used. You’ll also want to make sure that your skin isn’t sensitive to permanent ink, in general. Otherwise, SMP is reportedly a safe procedure.

Are Men’s Hairline Tattoos Painful?

It’s common knowledge that the hairline is one of the most sensitive areas to get a tattoo, but remember, this is scalp micro-pigmentation (and that’s not exactly the same thing). Because SMP is relatively fast and the needle is small, you can expect less pain than you’d experience from a typical tattoo procedure.

That said, you’ll probably experience some pain during the treatment, just not a lot of pain. “Mild discomfort” is the term your practitioner will probably use. Furthermore, some areas of the hairline might be more sensitive than others, meaning the specific amount of pain might vary from one area to the next.

If you’re overly concerned about lingering pain, you can ask your doctor for a pain reliever such as Percocet or Vicodin. Of course, these drugs can be quite addictive and if you think that might be an issue, stick to the ibuprofen or just suck it up.

Scalp of a man with hair loss and one full of hair

Are Hairline Tattoos Just for Bald Men?

In a word: no. That is to say, you don’t need to be bald in order to qualify for or benefit from a hairline tattoo. In fact, with more follicles come more options. That includes soft hairline and widow’s peak tattoos, “Edge Up” tattoos, or the ability to add more volume to your thinning hair.

Can You Get Your Whole Scalp Tattooed?

If you’re a bald man who wants more than just a hairline, by all means, go full hair tattoo. Naturally, a full hair tattoo will cost more than a hairline tattoo.

How Much Does a Men’s Hairline Tattoo Cost?

No two men are exactly the same and the cost of a men’s hairline tattoo will range accordingly. Everything from your innate features to your desired hairstyle will play a role in the treatment. For most bald men, a scalp tattoo will usually cost somewhere between US$1,500 and US$3,000, most commonly falling in the US$1,500 to US$2,000 range.

Should you want a full fake hair tattoo, the cost typically starts around US$2,000 and can go as high as US$4,000. As always, do your research before making any sort of commitment.

Interested in knowing more about hair loss and alternative treatments or popular hairstyles for men? Check out the links below.

Hair Loss Guides

General FAQ

How much does hairline tattoo cost?

Bald or balding men can expect to pay between US$1,500 and US$3,000 for their hairline tattoo. For a full hair tattoo, the cost can go as high as US$4,000.

Is hair micropigmentation permanent?

As of this moment, most scalp micro-pigmentation treatments last for about 3-6 years. Should your hairline tattoo start to fade, you'll want to go in for a touch-up.

Does scalp micropigmentation damage hair follicles?

According to most reports, scalp micro-pigmentation doesn't go deep enough to damage hair follicles.