Taking over from YouTube and Pinterest, TikTok has fast become the home of the latest hair and beauty movements. From heatless curls and bubble braids to protein treatments and all things Olaplex, if you're on the hunt for a new style or a failsafe product, you'll no doubt find it there. As someone who is always keen to switch things up in the hair department, I was excited to see that one particular style is currently racking up numbers on the app.
Enter: microlink hair extensions.
What are microlink hair extensions?
Microlinks are not exactly new but the hashtag #microlinks has recently amassed over 31 million views and counting on TikTok, and over 300k tags on Instagram. Microlinks were previously better known as fusion extensions (think Paris Hilton's hair in the '00s or even the TOWIE cast) but they've undergone something of a makeover for 2021.
Now, microlinks are championed by the Black hair community as a lightweight and braidless alternative to weaves and wigs. Head to social media and you'll see that the majority of styles are created by talented Black hair stylists, who are installing extensions on hair types ranging from 3A to 4C. Incredibly popular right now, microlinks can add extra length and volume to your natural hair.
How do you install microlink hair extensions?
Now for the intricate part. Microlink hair extensions feature very small, silicone or metal beads, which are used to attach the strands to a tiny piece of your own hair. The bead is then clamped shut and holds the extension and your hair in place. The most common way to install microlinks is by individually adhering small pieces of hair but a track (essentially a wider piece of hair) can also be attached.
Microlinks have been praised for their versatility (they come in lots of different hair types and textures), not to mention how seamlessly they can be installed since they are completely glueless, braidless and don't require any heat. Though it is a lot easier to care for and treat your own natural hair (as it is blended with the extensions), this style is not a protective one. Still, the TikTok buzz swayed me and I booked in to try microlink extensions for myself, with one question in mind: could they really work on my type 4 hair?
Where can you get microlink hair extensions in the UK and are there different types?
Firstly, you'll need to purchase your hair. As the trend grows worldwide, these extensions can now be bought in a range of different hair types and textures, but they can be a little tricky to find in the UK. I'd recommend checking your local hair supply store, for example Pak's, or online at Better Length or AliExpress.
I bought my microlink extensions (also sometimes referred to as iTip extensions on the internet) from the Dolago online store and spent around £70 on one pack, which included 100 strands of 3B-3C hair. Dolago boasts hair types spanning 3A to 4C plus a Kinky Straight option, which would match blow-dried type 4 hair. The hair arrived within a week. After washing and deep conditioning the hair myself, I was so pleased with how well it suited my natural hair texture.
While I matched myself, it's best to speak to your chosen hairstylist before purchasing any hair so that they can recommend how many packs you'd need. This is important, especially if you're new to this type of hairstyle. Of course, the amount of hair required depends on how full you want the look to be. Despite knowing my hair type well, I consulted a hairstylist and used picture references in salon.
What are the pros and cons of microlink hair extensions?
Getting microlink hair extensions was a very exciting experience for me but the main downside is that it can be a bit tedious making sure the beads are covered by your hair. As well as this, the installation process may take a good while (as with all hair extensions). Microlinks are attached strand by strand; depending on the thickness you'd like, the length of the appointment will vary. In other words, block out a large space in your diary.
Other than that, I can safely say I'm in love with my lengths. Yes, you can feel the beads when you lie down but the extensions aren't as heavy or uncomfortable as other styles like box braids or weaves. To me, it feels very natural. Whether I put my hair up into a ponytail or leave it down, there's no awkwardness or stiffness coming from where the bead sits. Even better? Microlinks are incredibly adaptable. Since my salon appointment (where I had the lengths straightened) I've tried heatless blowouts, overnight beach waves and even tossed my hair up into a messy bun to live out my tumblr girl fantasies.
Unlike other styles I've tried, microlinks feel easy and I think that's because they allow me to wear a lot of my natural hair out, as shown in this TikTok video. However, treating the extensions like my own hair (maybe even better than my own hair, come to think of it) is just as time-consuming so I wouldn't say my styling time has been shortened. I am a huge fan of the trend, though.
How do microlink hair extensions work for type 3/4 hair?
Lorraine Dublin, celebrity hairstylist and co-owner of My Hair Bar, recommends a consultation with a reputable stylist to find out if your hair is suitable. There is a range of types and textures available online so it's best to shop around and read lots of reviews. Lorraine also advises practising good hair maintenance to ensure the extensions last better. "To maintain these extensions properly, you need to treat the strands as though they are your real hair," says Lorraine. "This includes washing your hair every 10-14 days, doing regular conditioning treatments and trying not to use too much heat." When styling the hair, Lorraine suggests using a small amount of product to avoid build-up. This is because the product may collect in the beads and become difficult to wash out. Lorraine adds: "In the place of blow-drying or tonging, try using bendy rollers to reduce heat damage."
How long do microlink hair extensions last and how much do they cost?
Microlink hair extensions can last up to two months with regular maintenance: detangling and washing regularly as you would do your own hair. In other words, there's no need to switch up an already established routine. If you're able to get extensions that match your hair type, you're more likely to be free from the stress and damage of excessively using heat to keep your hair blended, and that's always a plus!
Microlink hair extensions vary in price depending on where you purchase them from. You'll need to factor in the actual salon appointment and getting them installed if you'd rather visit a professional. Again, this will differ from salon to salon but most start at £150.
Should you get microlink hair extensions?
If you're after volume or just want to try out some new styles without permanently altering your hair, I would definitely recommend microlink extensions. If you're in need of a protective style, this isn't for you. Microlinks can be super helpful if you're transitioning or even if you're a seasoned extensions wearer who wants to ease into styling your natural hair. What I would say is that they aren't for the fainthearted and can be just as challenging as natural hair in terms of maintenance. For a natural feel and look, though, microlinks easily trump all.