Hair blog on the difference between I-tips and microlinks

I-Tips vs Microlinks – Everything You Need to Know Before You Put In Microlink Hair Extensions

Welcome to the ultimate guide on microlink hair extensions! If you’ve ever wondered where to buy microlink extensions online or how to choose the perfect microlink hair extensions for your needs, you've come to the right place.

By the end of this blog, you’ll understand why our sales associates used to be puzzled by these questions and why you shouldn’t ask them when visiting your favorite hair extension e-commerce store. This blog is designed to educate you on all things microlinks and I-tips, providing everything you need to know before purchasing and installing your hair extensions.  


A Glossary Of Microlink Terms

Before we get into the discussion, let’s quickly go through a few terms so we can better understand the differences, the extensions, and the process. 


(also called hair link or tips/fusion hair) are strands of hair with tips typically made from keratin. These keratin tips allow for flexible installation as either microlinks or fusion extensions. The hair strands are bonded together at the tip using keratin, similar to the tapered end of a shoelace but on a much smaller scale. Occasionally, you might come across I-tips made from silicone, which do not bond effectively for fusion services. Such tips are generally unsuitable for fusion applications and are often detailed in the product description (like the I-tips extensions you’ll see here). Understanding these variations can help ensure you select the appropriate type for your desired hairstyle and application method.


Close up of Traditional I-tip hair extensions


I-tip hair extensions 

are just the strands of hair extensions (and not to be confused as a service).


is the term used for the innovative service and technique used to add I-Tip extensions to real hair. 


 is the sub for microbeads. Microbeads are used for various hair extension applications including micro bead I-tip hair extensions and braid-less wefts.


Image of Medium size Black Micro-beads for microlink hair extensions. Available for purchase online at SL Raw Virgin Hair - 1set of Micro-beads include 200 count

Micro bead weft extension

is a service that incorporates the microlink technique using weft and microbeads to attach hair extensions. This service is also known by a few other names, including: Single weft microlink, Double weft microlink, Braidless weave install, Malaysian application, Micro beaded weft or sometimes micro link application.


is a hair track/sew in weft, a collection of hair strands that are sewn together onto an extremely thin cloth strip.


    So, now that we understand the terms we’ll be using, let’s get down to reviewing I-tips versus microlinks. 


    Hence the title I-Tips vs Micro links?

    Because, like myself at one point, we’ve been confusing the two, using them interchangeably, and they are not the same.

    Here’s why I say that.

    What Are Microlink Hair Extensions?

    "Microlinks are a strand-by-strand hair extension technique that use keratin I-tip links and small micro-beads to complete the application," McKnight said. (These links latch onto natural hair so there's less rigid movement, creating a more natural-looking effect.) "It's the safest extension method that anyone can get as the extension itself is comfortable, doesn't cause tension, or require harsh chemicals." – LeAna McKnight

    (Source: Interview by LeAna McKnight, founder of SL Raw Virgin Hair with POPSUGAR. You can view the rest of the interview here.)


    Beautiful Install of Traditional Microlink Hair Extensions using Lao Curly Hair Itips from SL Raw Virgin Hair


    Microlinks vs. Traditional Methods

    Microlink is the technique versus a hair type. I-tip hair extensions and wefts are the hairs used for your microlink service. It is a more natural-looking hair extension alternative to crochets and sew-in hair extensions. 

    Microlinks is the perfect service for persons who:

    • Natural LookWant a free-flowing hairstyle with longer lengths, natural coverage, and increased density to their hair (it’s not for extreme volume – you’ll need a closure or wig for this)
    • Adaptable: Want extensions but have an active lifestyle, so you need something versatile and easy to manage why working out.
    • VersatilityLove to wear your hair in a variety of styles, including ponytails and updos
    • No Glue or Heat: Avoid the potential damage that can come from adhesive or thermal application methods.  


    The Growing Popularity of Microlink Hair Extensions

    Microlink hair extensions have seen a surge in popularity for several reasons:

    • Environmental and Health Concerns: More consumers are steering away from harsh chemicals found in perms and relaxers, such as formaldehyde, and are opting for gentler alternatives like microlinks.
    • Customization and Natural Look: Microlinks offer a natural look that is customizable to fit individual preferences, making them a favorite among those who seek authenticity in their appearance.
    • Ease of Maintenance: The ability to easily manage and maintain the extensions without frequent salon visits adds to their appeal.


    The Microlink Application Technique 

    Microlinks can be applied in two ways to achieve the natural-looking extensions you’re going for.

    1. Microlink/Cold Fusion Technique

      The microlink service consists of attaching I-tip hair link extensions to your hair in small strands at a time. Your stylist will use a clamping tool to clamp aluminum or copper microbeads around a small cluster of your hair and the I-tip extension at the small keratin tips of the strands. (See an example of the microlink hair tools and accessories here.)

      This service can cost anywhere between $800-$2000, depending on the number of I-tip extensions you install. This depends on your location and stylist and does not include the I-tips, which will need to be purchased separately. A typical full coverage install would use between 200-250 I-tip hair links. 

      Service time for this process is 4-7 hours, again depending on the number of I-tip extensions used. 



           2. Micro bead weft extension 

      Micro bead weft extension (aka micro weft) is a service that consists of hair wefts that are clamped with micro beads. 

      The wefts are attached to the hair by weaving strands of your hair into the wefts and then securing both with a microbead. First, the wefts will be secured in place using hair clips. Your stylist will then use a hair threader to thread a piece of hair from the weft and the microbead near your scalp. The wefts are then clipped to the top of your hair using the microbeads.

      The price range for a microbead weft extension service can run from $400-$1000 depending on the number of wefts/tracks used. The cost listed here for the Braidless weft application does not include the wefts, which you’ll need to buy separately. And the rates differ based on location and stylist. The expected service time is between 2-4 hours.


      3. Brazilian Knot Technique

      The Brazilian knot technique, which can use I-tip hair extensions for a unique and secure installation. This method is particularly beneficial for individuals who do not wish to use bulk hair or are looking for specific hair textures that are not available in bulk hair but can be found in pre-tipped extensions. I-tips are ideal for this technique due to their flexibility and ease of use (since its already separated). The Brazilian knot technique involves intertwining an elastic thread around a section of your natural hair and an I-tip extension, securely attaching the extension without needing glue or adhesive. This technique, although time-consuming, ensures a natural and durable outcome.

      The service time for the Brazilian knot technique can range between 4 to 7 hours, depending on the number of extensions being installed and the skill level of your stylist. Pricing varies widely based on the stylist's expertise and geographic location, but the investment is worthwhile for the seamless and natural results achieved with this method. Thus, for those seeking a reliable and long-lasting hair extension solution, the Brazilian knot technique stands out as a superior choice in microlink applications.


      Pro tip. Schedule a consultation with your stylist before going for the service. The discussion should cover the shape of your face, your goals, lifestyle, and hair status (thick, thinning, damaged, etc.) to determine how many I-tip extensions or wefts will be needed to achieve your desired look. (Or if you should even attempt this style, especially if your hair is currently damaged).


      New Trends and Technologies in Microlink Hair Extensions

      Seamless I-Tip Hair Extensions

      The latest innovation in microlink extensions is the rise of seamless I-tip hair extensions. These are designed to be lighter than traditional I-tips and come in over 15 different hair colors. The discreet structure of these seamless I-tips makes them nearly undetectable, perfect for women with fine, short hair who previously struggled with the weight of traditional I-tips.


      side by side of a traditional keratin i-tip extensions and SL Raw Seamless I-tip comparison. The New innovative way to install your Keratin I-tip hair extensions


      Advanced Application Techniques

      Recent advancements in the application process have made microlink extensions even safer and healthier for your natural hair. New techniques focus on reducing tension and eliminating the need for hair glues, which can lead to breakage and damage. This makes microlinks an excellent alternative for those looking to maintain healthy hair and encourage growth.


      Before and after picture of Exclusive Seamless I-tips by SL Raw Virgin hair


      Consumer Preferences

      Today's consumers are more informed and concerned about the environmental impact and health benefits of their hair care products. Microlink extensions are gaining favor because they avoid harsh chemicals often found in perms and relaxers, like formaldehyde. This shift towards more natural and gentle hair care solutions is a significant factor driving the popularity of microlink hair extensions.

      Before and After Of Seamless I-tips Micro Link Hair Extensions - By SL Raw Virgin Hair


      Debunking Common Misconceptions

      There are several myths about microlink hair extensions that need to be cleared up:

      • Microlinks Damage Hair: The truth is, microlinks do not inherently damage your hair. Damage often occurs due to the misuse of the product or a lack of skill and knowledge from the hairstylist. Additionally, failure to maintain proper hair care can result in damage. When installed correctly and maintained regularly, microlink extensions can be beneficial and even promote healthier hair growth.
      • Microlinks Are a Protective Style: This is a misconception. While microlinks can be highly beneficial, they are not considered a protective style because your hair remains exposed throughout the application. However, they do allow for better hair management and the maintenance of a healthy regimen, which can lead to overall healthier hair.
      • Can I Style Curly Microlink Extensions: Absolutely! Curly textured microlink extensions can be styled in any way you choose. Whether you prefer a flat iron, silk press, or perm rods, these extensions are made from real human hair and can be treated just like your own. Don’t limit yourself—enjoy the flexibility of various hairstyles with your microlink extensions.


      Frequently Asked Questions We Normally Get About I-tip and Microlinks Hair Extensions

      As a stylist, our founder has encountered quite a few questions over the years about I-tips and microlinks.

      So, we’ll answer a few of them for you. (And if you have others, feel free to drop them in the comments. You can also view her interview and additional comments on microlinks hair extensions with Women’s Health Mag here.)


      Are microlink extensions damaging? Is microlinks safe for natural hair?

      Yes, in general, this is a safe hair extension technique.

      Microlink does not require the use of heat, harsh chemicals, or adhesives to install, So, it is a great extension option if you’re worried about damaging your hair. And it puts less tension on your scalp as it doesn’t require that your hair be braided down in cornrows first, unlike some of the other extension methods.

      You also need to ensure your stylist is trained and well-versed on how to properly install your I-tip extensions or braidless weave install.


      Can microlink be used on relaxed hair?

      Yes, you can use the microlink technique with relaxed hair and natural hair. You have access to I-tips and wefts hair extensions that can suit all textures of hair so it can easily be applied. 


      Microlinks on Short Hair: Is It Possible?

      Absolutely! Microlink extensions can be applied to short hair, provided your natural hair is at least 4 inches long. This length is sufficient to secure the beads and ensure a natural blend.


      How long does microlink hair extensions last?

      Links can last from three to five months with proper maintenance. The hair used for the service can last for a year or more so you can get two or more microlink installations from your bundles. 

      The length of time also depends on how often you schedule regular appointments to tighten/push up the beads (recommended every 3-5 weeks) and properly cleanse your hair.

      Also, sleep with a silk or satin scarf or bonnet to preserve your extensions and to prevent excessive pulling and tangling.


      How do I maintain my I-tips or wefts microlink installation?

      In addition to the push-up service, it’s recommended that you wash and condition your hair once a week. Conditioner and oil can cause link slippages so try not to get them too close to the scalp. And as usual, be mindful of the products you use in your hair. 

      When combing, use gentle strokes so that you don’t cause slippage or damage to your hair since the I-tips or wefts are microbeaded/clamped to your hair.


      Who should not get a microlink service?

      If your hair isn’t at least 4 inches long, we do not recommend doing this hair extension method. Also, if your hair is prone to breakage from split ends, suffers from excessive shedding, or is currently damaged, this might not be the best extension hairstyle for you.

      You will also have to commit to washing and conditioning your hair on a regular basis. So, if that’s not you, you might want to consider an alternative extension method. 



      Final thoughts on microlink service

      In a discussion on I-tips vs microlinks, it’s important to understand the difference between the product (the hair extension) and the service (the technique used to install the extensions).

      Choosing the right hair type is also critical to ensure that the extensions blend well with your natural hair. This makes it easy for maintenance. And as I-tips and wefts are available in a variety of textures to suit any hair type, you can find one that matches yours. 

      And if you’ve already had your consultation with your stylist? Then head over to SL Raw Virgin Hair and choose from our selection of luxurious 100% natural hair I-tip extensions for your microlink service or sew-in wefts perfect for braid-less extensions.


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