Everything You Should Know Before Getting Microlink Hair Extensions

female hand upgrading hair in the salon
A Handy Guide to Microlink Hair ExtensionsGetty / Roberto David

At 27, I've probably tried just about every form of hair extensions there is. I wore sew-in weaves all throughout high school and my early twenties, throwing in the towel when I was tired of putting so much tension on my hair and scalp due to the cornrows that lived underneath. Then there was the time I wore crochet extensions once as a teenager, but I wasn't happy with how bulky the finish looked. Clip-ins were convenient when I only wanted to add a little extra length and body to my hair, though my constant fear of them falling out in public made this a very short-lived styling option for me.

All of this is to say that, these days, there are tons of options available for people who want to wear extensions, and each style has its own set of pros and cons. Microlinks, for example, are growing in popularity for being a low-tension alternative to sew-in weaves while offering more permanence than clip-in and glue-in extensions.

If you've been considering microlink extensions but still have a few questions about what they are and how they're installed, read ahead to see everything you should know ahead of your appointment.

Meet the expert: LeAna McKnight is a hairstylist and founder of SL Raw Virgin Hair.

What are microlink hair extensions?

Microlinks are meant to be a more natural-looking alternative to sew-ins and crochet extensions, and they can last slightly longer than tape-ins with the proper maintenance. Essentially, they're small silicone or metal beads that are used to attach tiny, individual hair extensions to small sections of your natural hair.

"A microlink install consists of a pre-tipped keratin I-tip strand of hair weighing 0.7g to 1g that’s attached using a special application clamping tool to a small cluster of your own hair strand, combined using a copper or aluminum cylinder micro bead," McKnight says.

During the installation process — which McKnight says can take anywhere from four to six hours — you can expect for your hair to be parted into small sections by your hairstylist, who will then apply the beads at the root of each section. The actual extensions, which feature multiple individual strands that are bonded together at the tip, can be installed using the aforementioned method mentioned by McKnight, though another popular way of adding extensions is by sewing wefted hair into the hair above the beads.

The key difference between microlinks and other styles like sew-ins and crochet extensions is that they don't require the hair to be braided down in cornrows first, meaning that they put less tension on the scalp.

"Microlinks are the safest hair extension install anyone can get, especially if you're big on healthy hair," McKnight says. "This installation is completely comfortable, causes no tension, and the service doesn't require any harsh chemicals."

They're also easier to blend with your own hair, since your natural hair is still left out for the most part.

How long do microlink hair extensions last?

How long you keep your hair extensions in always depends on what you're comfortable with, but generally, you shouldn't plan on keeping your microlinks installed for more than five months.

"On average one can expect for a microlink install to last anywhere from three to five months with proper hair care maintenance and adequate hair growth," McKnight says.

How much do microlink hair extensions cost?

As it goes with most hairstyles, how much you should expect to spend on a microlink extension install is largely dependent on a variety of things including the personal price set by the hairstylist you entrust with the job, but we'll let you know now that they're not cheap. According to McKnight, stylists can charge anywhere from $800-$2000 just to get them installed, and the extensions aren't always included in the price.

Additionally, you'll have to account for the amount of maintenance that goes into keeping your extensions looking fresh, since your hairstylist will likely recommend you schedule regular follow-up appointments with them so that they can tighten the beads and properly cleanse your hair.

Who can get microlink hair extensions?

Microlinks are suitable for almost anyone, so long as your natural hair is at least four inches long.

"Any individual who suffers with scalp sensitivity when receiving braids but loves wearing hair extensions may want to consider microlinks as an alternative," McKnight says. "Especially those looking to achieve more length, density, color dimension, or to fill in those unwanted spaces that may have been the result of a bad cut or stress."

That said, this isn't a protective style, so if you don't wash or condition your hair regularly — or if it's damaged or breakage-prone — this might not be the style for you.

"Although microlinks can be performed on all hair types I would suggest your hair be in a pretty fair condition," McKnight continues. "If you have a lot of split ends, this may be hard for your hairstylist to camouflage. I also wouldn't suggest anyone who suffers from excessive shedding to get microlinks, as the weight from the extensions may cause more damage."

Can I get microlinks with my hair texture?

As previously mentioned, pretty much anyone can get microlink extensions, and your hair doesn't have to be a certain texture for you to be a good candidate. Since these are meant to be blended into your natural hair, you should install hair that matches your natural texture.

"Choosing the correct hair type is important, as this will help with blending your real hair with your I-tip hair extensions, which makes for easy upkeep when installing a hair texture that you’re used to managing on an everyday basis," McKnight says. "Choosing the correct hair type will save you so much styling time in the long run."

If you're unsure of what kind of hair to get installed, McKnight suggests booking a consultation with your hairstylist before committing to making an appointment.

What's the best way to take care of microlinks?

The first thing you should prepare for post-install is taking trips to see your hairstylist every few weeks, as they'll likely have to tighten the beads, wash and hydrate your hair, or correct any beads that may start slipping. In between that time, McKnight recommends brushing your hair regularly and shampooing weekly.

"Shampoo your hair once a week, but be sure to avoid conditioners and oils at the scalp to avoid link slippage," she says. "It’s best to preserve your hair at night by using a satin or silk bonnet or scarf."

McKnight warns that not tying the hair up at night could potentially cause excessive tangling and pulling.

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