There’s no doubting the versatility of hair extensions — it’s right in the name. With just a few hours in the chair (or even less if you’re working with clip-ins), you can walk away with an entirely new hair look, down to the color, cut, and — obviously — length. But extensions that involve long installation processes and heavy pieces of added hair can cause unintended consequences — namely, damage to your hair. Not to mention some extensions like weaves and tape-in tracks are harder to blend into your natural hair to achieve that undetectable look. Micro link hair extensions, though, might have just solved that problem for good.
As the name would suggest, micro links are a system of hair extensions that use tiny metal or silicone beads to attach wefts of hair to your own head. Unlike more traditional extension installation techniques, they require no heat or chemical adhesives at all which means damage to real hair is minimal. But the technique’s biggest selling point rests with how undetectable they are. Micro links lay flat against the head, seamlessly blending with natural hair while providing easy access to the scalp for hair treatments — and scratching that dreaded scalp itch that can never be fully soothed by patting alone.
How Micro Links Work
There are two slightly different installation techniques typically at play, though they’re both called micro links somewhat interchangeably: I-tip micro link extensions (pictured above) use small pieces of individual hair extensions as opposed to using larger tracks of wefted hair strips (pictured just below.)
Of course, as is the case with all other extensions and weaves, an expert’s opinion is always invaluable. According to Jamila Powell, Founder and CEO of Naturally Drenched and Owner of Maggie Rose Salon, the minimal maintenance associated with micro links is a major selling point, along with their allowance for real hair growth underneath. But, importantly, not every hair type is suited for the extension technique. “Micro links are best for those who have fine to medium hair,” Powell explains to TZR. “Because the bead that is attached to the hair is so small, they can get lost in thicker hair and end up causing damage.” With that said, they do work on all different types of hair textures — though Powell warns that it’s critical they’re installed by someone who’s an expert in that particular texture or type. Additionally, she adds, healthy hair is important for the technique as weaker strands can be further damaged by the links.
The Micro Links Installation Process
If your hair is suited for micro links (a minimum of four natural inches is typically recommended to camouflage the beads), the installation timeline is mercifully brief compared to other extension and weave techniques — between one to five hours, depending on how many links and wefts are needed. General estimates place 200-250 as the number of links typically used for a full head with individual extensions, which shakes out to about eight rows — or two bundles of hair if working with wefts.
Powell says that once hair is separated and prepped, the technician or stylist places the actual micro link on the client’s own hair, then inserts the hair extension into it. Powell recommends working only with real human hair extensions for micro links as it tangles far less easily and therefore helps extend the length of your extensions. “Matching or blending is vital,” she adds. “Otherwise, the install will look unrealistic and not seamless.” Finally, a pair of pliers is used to close the link and secure them firmly in place.
How To Maintain Micro Links
Maintenance is similarly streamlined, with the lifespan of micro links lasting nearly three months depending on care and hair quality, Powell explains. But still, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want your extensions to stay fresh and looking great for as long as possible. “You definitely want to take your time and limit agitation because micro links can tangle easily and also damage your own hair,” she says. “Be gentle and start by shampooing your scalp and working down your natural strands.” Powell also warns against using circular motions while shampooing as it will tangle the extensions. “I would also suggest scheduling maintenance appointments with the stylist who installed the micro links,” she says.
Beyond that, the possibilities are endless — that’s the great thing about micro links. Scratch your head without fear, pull it all up in a sleek ponytail with no bumps or visible tracks, or go for an entirely different length or color. The minimal damage means the only limit is your imagination — or your hair technician's ever-crowded calendar.