My name is Jeff and I had Tricopigmentation done earlier this year and I'm doing a blog about it. The reasons I'm doing this blog are many, but one of the main reasons is because while Trico isn't new, it's not exactly commonplace either. I had the procedure done and I'm thrilled with the result. However, I really took a leap of faith based on the research I did, trusting some people I knew, and realizing the temporary nature of the procedure. Nevertheless, a head tattoo was hard to imagine. So I wanted to share my experience, and here goes.
I live in southwest Florida. I flew to Minneapolis for my first session on a Sunday.
My first session was to be Monday at 9 am. However, I woke up at 3 am. It was cold (Again, I'm from Florida), it was dark and I was staring at the ceiling thinking to myself, what am I doing - in a few hours I'm going to get my head tattooed. It was the closest I came to cancelling. That moment is also one of the reasons why I did this blog. But back to that in a bit....
I will now outline the events that occurred in the 2 months that preceded that moment of doubt:
1) What the heck is Tricopigmentation?
Long story, but if you aren't familiar with it, here at the basics:
2) The prequel
So here's my head before I had anything done. You can see I'm a norwood 5-6.
3) What's a Norwood?
Initially, I was thinking of going to Milan to have the procedure done at Beauty medical. Melina Yardi essentially invented this procedure and her clinic happens to be in Milan. Money isn't much of an issue for me, so I figured I'd just go to the source. I was a regular listener of The Bald Truth so I emailed Joe Tillman to make sure Melina was my best option. How he replied was pivotal in my eventual decision, but more on that in a moment. Back to Melina - she requested some pics to see if I was a good candidate and the pics I sent her were the ones from above, plus a few more.
She, and "she" being Anna, one of the associates at Beuty Medical that speaks English indicated that I was a good candidate. Initially I had written up about 20 questions to ask Melina and Anna really put my mind at ease with the process. We went back and forth for probably 15 or 20 emails, and I was starting to get comfortable with the procedure and how it worked. So I was just about booking plane tickets and researching hotels when 2 things happened:
1) I found out the procedure required 2 trips to Milan. From where I live that's a 15 hour plane ride each way. Twice. In 30 days. Ugh. I was prepared to do a marathon trip to Italy once, but twice? Yikes. Good news is if you live in Europe, you can just drive there.
2) The terrorist attacks in Paris happened, then a Russian airliner was taken down.
So. I wasn't really comfortable going to Europe at that time - agree or disagree with me, that was the call I made.
4) Selecting a clinic
Back to Joe Tillman's reply to my initial email.
Joe suggested that even if money wasn't an issue, why not save the time / hassle of the trip to Italy and that I could get a great result from some clinics doing Trico here in the states. He had vetted a few clinics / individuals who were doing Trico, ones that were personally trained by Melina and had a few years of experience and according to him were doing great work. So armed with my questions, I went back to work, this time in the good old US of A. I ultimately chose Shapiro Medical. Let me say that I was impressed with every clinic / technician that Joe recommended. However I can only comment on the work I received from Shapiro Medical.
One of my questions, one of the most important questions in my opinion, was "Who exactly is going to be doing the procedure?"
Enter Nicole. Everyone Joe recommended did well with my questionnaire, but Nicole hit the thing out of the park. I was so impressed with her openness about the details of the procedure and never for a second felt like she was trying to play salesman. Funny thing is, it was when she answered a question with a response I thought was less than ideal from a sales perspective that I trusted her more and more. I recall more than once during our conversation thinking - that really didn't help sell me, but she was honest. I really felt like I was getting "the bald truth" on Trico from her. Call it a gut feeling but I felt right about going with Shapiro after talking to her (For like 2 hours by the way :)
5) Back to the ceiling of the Hilton
"In a few hours I'm going to get my head tattooed..." That is an odd statement to make ladies and gentlemen. However. I reminded myself, "I trust the people I've spoken to, and I trust the research I've done - let's do this thing."
That was the thing that got me through that moment - right or wrong - I trusted Joe Tillman, I trusted Nicole and I trusted myself that I had done adequate research in finding the correct clinic to do this and it was a go.
And, no, I didn't get back to sleep at all :)
5) Day 1
So for whatever reason, I was convinced my hotel was 30 minutes from the clinic. I have no idea why. I was certain I needed to leave the hotel at 8:30 AM to get to Shapiro by 9:00 AM. Reality - Shapiro was less than 2 miles from my hotel. A six dollar cab ride and 2 minutes later, I arrived at Shapiro Medical at 8:32
So, fantastic, I had an additional half hour to worry about my upcoming procedure and nervously sit in the waiting room - awkwardly.
6) Day 1..... 28 minutes later
I spent the previous 28 minutes looking at the before and after hair transplant shots they have displayed in the clinic, as well as all the erotic art (that will be another post). Let's face it, I was a nervous freaking wreck. How I occupied that 28 minutes is beyond me. I looked at before and after photos I think, maybe 10,000 times. Finally, somehow, time passed to the point where it was 9 am-ish and Nicole walked in. We immediately recognized each other, me from my photos, her from the Shapiro website. I told her to take her time, go put her stuff away - I was waaaaaaaaay early. But she didn't - she came over and sensed immediately I was freaking. She asked, "Are you nervous?" to which I replied, "Nicole, what is slightly above nervous, because that's what I am". She chuckled a bit and then comforted me, "No problem, we'll get some Valium in you."
However, prior to the Valium, and this was not of my doing, but completely of her doing, she wanted to go over the consent form that I had to sign. Now mind you I wouldn't have taken drugs prior to signing anything, but I was very impressed that stone cold sober, she wanted to go over this form point by point. This form I would imagine is similar to the hair transplant form people have to sign. The jist of it - this is as much art as it is science, we're going to do our best to please you but there's no guarantee you're going to like the result. You agree that's the deal. Love, <you>.
So she proceeded to go over every point of this document, and there were like 20 or so, in detail, and explain to me what each point meant and what I could expect. It was very reassuring. I asked a bunch of questions and many of them were met with "that's a good question". She was not lying, I ask some damn good questions. Some things she broke down for me - the bleeding risks, the infection risks, and most interestingly - permanent SMP vs. Trico. That in itself was quite an education (beyond the scope of what I could write here) and really set a bunch of my fears to rest. All this conversation and education took place before I took any pills, I can't stress that enough - that's how it should be. I would think if a clinic tries to drug you up first then sign things, well, just run away.
So once I was totally comfortable signing this document, sober - I did. Let's do this thing. Then the Valium came. And some other pills, some anti-inflammatory, I think a pain killer as well and we were ready to go.
7) Bring on the dots
So about 15 minutes later, after a really groovy tour of the facility (Valium makes everything really groovy), I was on the table ready to get some dots. I have no idea why, but I had imagined that I would be sitting up for the procedure (Must be the same reasoning that put my hotel 30 minutes from the clinic :) You actually lay down, which makes sense as your head is immobile when you are laying down. So about 10 or 20 dots into the thing, I'm thinking only one thing - this hurts. I mean, this REALLY hurts. Nicole must have sensed it as well or noticed it from my reaction but after those 10 or 20 dots she asked "Does that hurt?". I thought for a bit... I was getting this done no matter how much it hurt. But I replied "Nic, I think I can bear it, but yeah it really hurts". She said "No problem, we can numb your head out". This made my drugged up self really happy.
8) Negative #1
So to numb your head out is kind of like getting your teeth numbed out at the dentist. It involves needles. Many of them sometimes. Your scalp skin might be less sensitive that mine, I do hope it is. But mine was like some baby's ass sensitive. Over the course of the first two days, I think I was shot in my head like 20 or 30 times. This is not fun, but I kept telling myself, if a great result comes out the other end of this thing, they can shoot me with a needle 100,000 times, I don't care. Suffice to say, they did not shoot my head with 100,000 needles - and I have to say either they got better at it as time went on or perhaps my head just got tougher: by the end of the 3rd session, I didn't need any anesthesia at all. Day 6 of the procedure was needle free. I'm told some people don't require any anesthesia at all. So I'm a giant baby, whatever :)
9) It's all good
Once you are numbed up, this is actually a fun process if you can believe that. You are getting your head fixed and you can't feel anything, how is that not awesome? So onto some results - at the end of day 1, I was shocked how subtle the effect was. It was actually quite reassuring. My head didn't look like it had a tattoo on it, it looked, well bald, but still something I couldn't comprehend yet. Day 2 went similarly and we were then done with my first session (3 sessions of 2 days each). Nicole likened it to painting a car and the first session was the primer coat. Directives followed - "Jeffrey - DON'T look at the hairline, it's not done. DON'T look at the density, we're not done. Essentially DON'T look at your head at all. However this is a good base-coat and I'm happy with it. Go home and we'll see you in a month and we'll keep going". That was the end of day 2. When I arrived back at the hotel, I naturally ignored everything she had told me. I was studying the result in the mirror. And it was then that I got it. It was not done. The hairline was too high. It was not dark enough. There was places she hadn't even done. But, I saw - IT. I saw enough of it that I was able to grasp what the end result would look like. Involuntarily I said out loud "ohhhhh, I get what this is going to look like". I got it. I got what this would eventually look like. And I was happy :)
10) Ronald Shapiro drew on my head with a purple marker
Ron Shapiro is renowned as one of the greatest hairline artists currently alive. I agree completely with that assessment. In the end, Ron Shapiro gave me a hairline I was thrilled with. If I were to guess, over the 3 sessions (6 days total) I was getting this procedure done, Dr. Ron drew / redrew my hairline no less than 15-20 times. He cares about what he does. He is an expert at what he does. I cannot think of another human being I would want designing my hairline. However, on day 2, Ron Shapiro couldn't find a pencil, and that son of a bitch drew on my head with a purple marker:
Nicole, frankly of course, admitted she couldn't remove the purple marker without endangering my pigment. The pigment was most important. I said I'd manage, but F me, it took like 3 days for that purple to disappear. So just an FYI - DON'T LET RONALD SHAPIRO DRAW ON YOUR HEAD WITH A PURPLE MARKER.... Just sayin. (Love you Dr. Ron)
11) I'll grow a beard - that will fool them!
So I'm back in Florida, session 1 is over and I have a solid base-coat of Trico. The hairline is nowhere near finished and it's very subtle. HOWEVER, it looks to me at least like I have more hair that I used to. My master plan - grow a beard to throw people. At least the people I know. And you know what? It worked. Nobody I know commented on anything but my beard. I truly love how subtle Trico is:
12) I'm back in Minnesota
So a few weeks pass, I couldn't hate having a beard more, but it's time to head back to Minneapolis!!! I shaved right before I left because, again, I couldn't hate having a beard more. And I didn't want to detract from my next round of Trico. It's odd when you shave your beard off after wearing it for a while. You almost look like a newborn baby to yourself. At least I did to myself. Anyway, my friends at Delta once again got my ass to the great white north unscathed on a familiar feeling Sunday afternoon. HOWEVER, experience is the best teacher - I packed my own damn booze and checked my bags. MSP is hardly a busy airport so this added about 10 minutes to my trip, comparing to the former. Why did I pack my own damn booze? Minnesota is a dry state on Sundays - every liquor store is closed. You guys need to know this shit, trust me.
13) And now.... the birth of a permanent hairline.
And once again Nicole put dots on my head. A lot of dots. This to me was the most intensive session (2 days). The first session was laying down a bunch of dots with no "shaping" for lack of a better word, it was just putting a ton of dots everywhere. On this trip, she made me a believer. They fed me, Ron Shapiro drew on my head 700 times, I took a piss jacked up on Valium more times than I can count, but my goodness - at the end of this one, the hairline was finally coming into focus. I dang near cried. At the end of my third session, I pretty much did cry, but that's not for 4 more weeks - so pretend I didn't say that.
14) I put mascara all over my forehead because, well because.
So after session 2 I get home to the land of the living dead I loving know as FL. Sweet baby Horus - I need to move out this state. Anyway, I leave after session 2, my hairline is freaking awesome. However, Nicole continued to stress it wasn't done, don't freak, we'll perfect it on the final trip. So in response to her telling me not to stress, naturally I stressed. I went to a nearby Walmart (I hate Walmart, but this one has a self checkout, so I didn't have to explain to whoever was running the cash register, "So why are you buying so much women's eye make up? Are you a transvestite of some kind?"
So I got home and drew my hairline, very very poorly several times over a week. At the end of this ridiculous experiment, I finally realized - somtimes I think it should be lower, sometimes I think it's perfect and sometimes I think it's too low. WOW - I've discovered schitozophrenia apprently!! It was at that moment I finally said to myself, let's let the hairline experts handle it and threw my makeup away. See? Had I listened to Nicole, I would have never ever said the words "my makeup". But anyway, time to return to Minnesota for my final session
15) Let's finish it
I stayed at one of the 13 Hiltons in Minneapolis. Fun to explain to the cab drivers. Nice guys, but "take me to the Hilton in Minneapolis" is kind of like saying "take me to the strip club in Las Vegas". The cabbie kind of looks at you scratching his head, loudly implying "which one"? Once you've mastered this, and it took my 3rd trip to do this, I was on my way to the finishing session. This was the victory lap of sorts. Nicole went off. This is the stuff. This is the opposite of spending 5 hours laying dots on the back of my Norwood 6, this is the artistic part of it. I could tell she was having fun. Dr Shapiro was as well, this was the gravy session for him as well. He could tweak the hairline to an absurd degree, Nicole just knocking it out. And apparently this was my victory lap as well - as painful as the first few sessions were, I have no idea if my scalp adjusted, perhaps it was my giddy mood, or whatever, but on day 6, I needed no anesthesia at all. None. I actually fell asleep for a bit. Unheard of.
16) Why are you shaking?
So 3 sessions, 6 days worth of work, and here I am standing in a room full of big ass mirrors with Nicole. I started shaking. Dr Shapiro happened to walk by with Joe Tillman accompanying him. He saw me shaking. "Jeff, why are you shaking, are you OK?", Dr Shapiro asked me. I could only reply, "Ron, I'm shaking because I'm happy. It's finally over, the baldness isn't thing anymore. I get it, I can't grow hair. However I'm also not bald anymore":
17) I got carded
I kid you not. The day after I landed, I went to buy a bottle of wine and I was carded.