This post was submitted by John David, a recipient of SMP and follower of SMPDebate.com.
Who is the best? Before I had my treatment, this was my biggest question a couple of years ago when searching for an SMP provider, and one that I see many posters on hair loss forums asking quite frequently. What I have gathered from my own personal experience and from researching scalp micropigmentation, is that there is no simple answer. There are many great providers around the world who offer wonderful facilities, talented practitioners, and superb results.
But do not be fooled. While SMP is a highly specialized procedure that requires the proper skills, equipment, and pigments to produce a good result, the simple fact is that it is not rocket science. There are certainly an elite group of providers who are more on the cutting edge of technology and research than others, and different levels of quality in terms of providers overall do exist, but there is very little separation between the elite level of providers. Yes you want to make sure that your provider is very experienced in medical and cosmetic tattooing (being able to prove their skill by showing finished product in person) and knows the ins and outs of this procedure, but I am finding more and more providers who attempt to portray SMP as more complex than it really is. Keep in mind, it is in the provider’s best interest to do this, because by doing so they can sway potential clients into thinking that their clinic possesses some inside knowledge, equipment, or pigment that every other clinic in the world does not, and “if you go elsewhere you will be sorry.”
Many providers will make far-fetched claims about their needles, pigments, and machines, but as soon as you ask for specific details regarding these things they will quickly tell you that they do not disclose that information for fear that competitors will try to steal their ‘secret’. Despite what many clinics seem to claim in their ads, there are no ‘magical pigments’ or special machines or government engineered tattoo needles that only they have access to. When a provider starts claiming “We are the only provider in the world who…..” Red Flags immediately go up. One exception I am aware of, however, is Artistry Concepts, who do construct their own needles and provide many details about these needles.
I suppose the point that I am trying to make here is this – don’t choose a clinic based purely on fancy jargon or propaganda that they cannot prove with specific details or display in their results. I know that this sounds cliché, but the proof is in the pudding. If you are going to decide on a provider, make sure you do it for the right reasons.
Choose a provider who will show you how their results look TODAY
Most clinics will have on hand an SMP portfolio, a book of photos displaying the quality of their work. This book usually includes before and after photos of previous clients that they provided SMP treatment to. First, you do not know for sure if these photos are in fact this clinic’s work. Even though it is illegal, there are many SMP providers using photos of their competitor’s work and passing them off as their own. Second, it can be very difficult to determine just how good or bad the quality of SMP is from a photo. Often times the clinic will have the before photos of the clients under harsh bright lighting and use a flash in the photo to make the hair loss seem more severe, and in the after photos there will be no lighting or flash at all, which will make the SMP results seem more impressive. Also, some SMP businesses use photoshop to enhance the images of their client’s smp and it can be difficult to determine whether or not this editing trick has been utilized. And lastly, in most cases these portfolio photos were taken immediately after the client’s SMP treatment. What the client’s scalp looked like 15 minutes following the SMP treatment is of little importance (within reason), but what you want to find out is – what does the SMP treatment look like a year or more down the road?
You need to view a former client of the clinic, if possible. However, realistically from a logistics standpoint, there will not be many SMP providers who have enough former clients in enough locations worldwide to arrange meetings with potential clients. HIS Hair Clinic may be the only provider capable of this because they are global and have been in operation for over 12 years. You will most likely have to settle for viewing a consultant, technician, or owner of the clinic. The only downside to this is that you will not be certain of how many treatments and how frequently this person was actually treated to achieve their result. It will however, be a great indicator of their SMP capabilities and give you an idea whether or not SMP is for you at all. If the provider you are speaking with does not even have an employee with SMP to offer that you may view personally, my advice to you is to walk out the door and do not look back. Also beware of SMP providers who force their clients to sign ‘gag orders’ which prevent them from posting their SMP photos and sharing their experiences online. This is a sign that this clinic is not proud of their work, and is fearful of their finished product getting out and potentially hurting their business.
Get a customer satisfaction guarantee in writing
When you speak to many SMP providers, they will promise you the moon, basically. The question you must have answered is, if the unfortunate situation arises in which you are not satisfied with your initial treatment (if excessive fading occurs, for example), “will the provider give you additional sessions, and what will be the additional charge for these sessions?”
Many providers guarantee 1 or 2 enhancements at no charge for the first year following your initial treatment. The fact is we all have different skin that will absorb and retain pigments differently, and that is just science. So you need to be sure that you have, in writing, a guarantee that your provider will finish your SMP process to completion and to your satisfaction, and not just simply dismiss you regardless of how you feel about your results. I do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ or ‘one and done’ type of approach to SMP. Some providers will tell you that they are capable of completing your SMP treatment in one day and you will be set for life. This may be true in some cases, although based on the immune system and cellular factors, I highly doubt it. Chances are that, at the very least, you will need an enhancement or ‘touch up’ within 2-5 years of your initial procedure. Please note, that just because a provider does claim that a one day treatment will be sufficient, it does not mean that this particular clinic does not do high level SMP work. I have seen some amazing results from ‘One and Done’ Clinics, but what you must be certain of is that the provider guarantees your satisfaction by offering further sessions if you are not satisfied. And again, GET IT IN WRITING.
Choose a provider with a great customer service team
This is one aspect that is very important, not only in regards to your initial treatment, but also in relation to any services you may need from your provider in the future. In many cases, you will learn very quickly if an SMP provider has a good customer service department. If the clinic does not sound professional over the phone this is a bad sign right off the bat. Also if the provider is very slow to respond to your emails, phone calls, or is not prompt in providing you with a price quote or answering your questions, you may want to eliminate that provider as an option for you. If they are not responsive or professional from the start, chances are that they will not be helpful throughout your SMP process, and it can be a long process.
If possible, try and speak with former clients of the provider and find out how they were treated before, during, and after their treatments. Were their questions answered? Were their emails and phone calls returned promptly? Were their concerns addressed throughout every stage of the process? After the client’s initial treatment, were they easily able to schedule enhancements or were the Clinics suddenly “booked up” when they needed a touch up? The answers to these questions will give you a good indication of whether the provider will be a good choice for you.
The provider that I decided on has an excellent customer service department. When I first emailed my photos to the clinic, I received an email response very quickly, which included a price quote and a great deal of information about the clinic and procedure. Every time I call the clinic with questions, there is always someone to speak with who can accurately answer any questions and address my concerns. Any time I send an email to my provider I always receive a response within a reasonable amount of time.
Find a provider that displays good character and business ethics
At first glance, this point may seem silly to some and not as important as the clinic’s ability to produce top notch SMP results, but I feel that these are equally important. Scalp micropigmentation is a treatment that requires enhancements and touchups over the years, so essentially you are entering into a long-term relationship with the provider you choose. Make sure that these are people who display good character and compassion for their clients, and the kind of people that you will not mind dealing with for the long haul.
During my search for an SMP clinic, which consisted of reading countless online forums, emailing and calling clinics, viewing many SMP providers’ websites and photos, I quickly learned that this can be a pretty dirty industry, and many providers do not play fair. I will not even get into all of the online competitor bashing that goes on within the hair loss forums and online reviews, which seems to be a pretty common practice. As soon as I began speaking over the phone with several SMP providers whom I was interested in, I was amazed that the first words out of some of their mouths were not about their own facilities or capabilities, but rather derogatory statements about their competitors. Some of this verbal competitor bashing was very below the belt and personal, and really lacked the professionalism and class that I expected from a business that is supposed to be displaying compassion for men and women with confidence issues who are seeking their help. I felt that if a clinic was attempting to get my business by dumping on its competitors, rather than telling me of all the wonderful aspects of their own business, they may not have much going for them and probably were not the kind of people I wanted to perform a permanent cosmetic procedure on my scalp. If they treat their competitors with such disrespect, how will they treat you?
Ultimately I chose a provider who exercised excellent character and possessed good moral fiber. When I asked the clinic owner about a few of his competitors who I was considering, he was very respectful and spoke highly of the competition and did not attempt to bad mouth them in the least. He was more focused on explaining to me all of his own clinic’s strong points and capabilities, as opposed to belittling other providers within the industry.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire website of the provider that you are interested in. If you notice that it seems to focus more on the negatives of its competition rather than its own positives, I would steer clear. If a business is constantly involved in conflicts and at odds with many of the other providers in the SMP industry, this is a clear indication that not only does that provider have difficulties getting along with people, but that they are obviously very threatened by the work and success of their competition, which means that they probably produce inferior work. Providers like that, more than likely, will not stand the test of time.
Find a provider that best fits you
After researching many different providers around the world, one thing that I have learned is that different providers excel at different aspects of SMP. For example, Good Look Ink and New Hair Institute do an excellent job at concealing hair transplant FUE and strip scars. Artistry Concepts is geared more towards the buzzed look and does great work for guys who choose to buzz their heads with a little more length to their hair. HIS Hair Clinic and Vinci Hair Clinic produce fantastic results for guys who have little remaining hair to work with and choose to blade shave their heads very closely. Of course, these are just my observations and opinions, but my point is that when choosing a provider, it is important to find one who possesses the necessary strengths in areas that are important to you.
Another important factor to consider is style. While most SMP providers will cater to your desired style of treatment, there seems to be a fair amount of diversity in this area. There are some providers who produce very low, straight and well-defined hairlines, and others who create hairlines that are more rounded, softer, and subtle. Some clinics do work on receding temple hairlines and recreate side profiles, while others leave that area alone for a more realistic look. I do not feel that there is any style that is necessarily the ‘right way’, but it is more of a matter of personal preference. I will say, however, that you should take into consideration how you will look when you are older. A very low and straight hairline will usually look a bit odd on a 65-70 year old man.
Manage your expectations
All men and women with hair loss are coming from different walks of life. We all enter into this process at different stages on the Norwood scale, may have experienced disappointments with different solutions in the past like hair systems or hair transplants, and have varying ideas of just how big of a difference SMP will make to our appearance. I think a key factor in being happy with an SMP provider and the results they provide, is to enter into this process with realistic expectations.
On many SMP providers’ websites I have noticed that displayed on the homepages are photos of models with buzz cuts. On a couple websites I even saw photographs of soccer star David Beckham and actor Wentworth Miller sporting short hair. These subtle implications, attempting to convey the message that you will look like these men after SMP, are simply inaccurate and misleading and only serve to set up the client for disappointment. These models and celebrities are men who have full heads of hair and have their heads buzzed to a quarter of an inch of hair growth.
If a man with a reasonable amount of hair loss has a scalp micropigmentation treatment and attempts to grow his hair to this length, he will quickly learn that this does not look good, and the discrepancy between hair and dots will quickly become apparent. To put it simply, hair is three dimensional, tattooed dots are not. Look for a provider who displays photos of their clients who have received their SMP treatment, on the homepage of their websites. This shows that they are proud of their own work and will be honest with you regarding what you can expect from their treatments.
Scalp Micropigmenation certainly offers many benefits and some freedom. It frames your face, provides confidence, and personally I feel that it has improved my appearance greatly. However, it is not perfect and there are drawbacks:
- You will still appear bald under harsh lighting or bright sunlight
- You must shave your head every 1-3 days
- You must always be very careful to apply sunscreen to your scalp if you plan on being outside for 30 minutes or more. It is also wise to wear hats while exposed to sunlight. UV rays are your SMP’s worst enemy, and will fade your pigments over time
- You will need to use mattifying products constantly to combat the shine effect of light reflecting off of your scalp
Overall, scalp micropigmentation is an awesome procedure, and if done correctly at the right clinic it can provide some fantastic benefits. It has now been over two years since my treatment, and I am still extremely happy with my results and with my decision to have SMP. There are many providers across the globe who are doing amazing things in this field. You just have to find the best place for you.
When contacting providers, or during your consultation, don’t be shy. Ask many questions. Anything you are concerned about regarding this procedure, let it be known. A big part of a provider’s job is to have knowledge of every aspect of scalp micropigmentation, so remember that there are no stupid questions. This is an expensive, permanent procedure that will be visible on your scalp (pretty big focal point) and you have every right to be overly thorough in your quest for information regarding the details of each provider and what they offer.
During the consultation, if the provider you are speaking with seems annoyed by your enquiries, or unwilling to answer any of your questions, my advice would be for you to move on to a different clinic. A very good tool to use during your provider selection process is called the ’10 point Checklist of Minimum Standards’ written by Tyler Green. I only wish that this checklist had been available two years ago when I was conducting my provider search. It would have made my selection process much easier. I would follow Tyler’s advice and print out his 10 point Checklist and bring it to your consultation.
The Bottom Line
We all have aspects of our physical appearances that we are unhappy with. These flaws often will hinder our personal growth and affect our self-confidence in such a way that keeps us from participating in life. The result of these physical flaws is a poor self- image which can hold us back from enjoying life and relationships, and can be so discouraging that we don’t reach our full potential or live life to the fullest.
If you are reading this, the flaw that you probably struggle with is hair loss. I wrote this article with the hope that it would assist at least one person in choosing a provider who would give them the best possible SMP result, and ultimately help them gain back some freedom and happiness in the process. At the end of the day, we have all suffered emotionally from losing our hair.
If you have chosen scalp micropigmenation as your hair loss solution, all you really want is an honest provider who will improve your appearance and not add to your suffering further by scamming you. At least that was how I felt during my search for an SMP provider. Do your homework, do your research, exercise common sense, and I believe you will come out on the other side of your SMP treatment with a successful result. Remember, you deserve freedom, you deserve happiness, and you deserve to love yourself, and if you feel that SMP can help you achieve these things, I say go for it!
Happy Hunting, and I wish you the best of luck!