Buying Guide: Hair Rollers
You know the style you want for your locks, but after looking for hair rollers you realize they come in a vast range of shapes and sizes. How do you match the right rollers to the look? Should they be long, short, thick, thin, smooth, fuzzy, plastic, foam, or fabric? Should they be hot or not? We’re here to help you navigate the road to awesome curls and wonderful waves.
Hair Rollers Explained
Hair rollers, or hair curlers, are small tubes commonly made of plastic, foam, or ceramic. They are hollow or solid and come in different thicknesses and lengths. Small sections of hair are wrapped around a roller and fixed in place. Your hair can be damp or dry depending on the curling method you are using — some people leave their hair damp to dry naturally while others use a hair dryer. Once curls are set, the rollers are removed and your new look is ready to be styled.
Alternatively, hot curlers or hot hair rollers can be used. These are heated before rolling them into dry hair. Once the curlers are removed, use hairspray to keep the curls in place.
Hair rollers are used to create a range of different looks. You can create large, long waves, get more defined coils, turn out a permed look, style your bangs, enhance a bouncy bob, and even straighten curly hair.
Hair Roller Types
Hot rollers are a great time-efficient way to style curls. These curlers are heated before rolling them into your hair and usually come in an electric-powered box, where they are heated and work in a similar way to a curling iron. Once rolled and set in place they are left to cool in the hair, allowing curls to form and set exactly as they were molded.
Unlike curling irons, hot rollers can be set fairly close to the roots. This offers good volume and curls that last all day.
Styling tip: To get big volume on finer hair, use medium to small rollers. Small rollers set tighter curls, but they can be brushed out when cooled for a soft, wind-swept style.
Plastic hair rollers usually have small ventilation holes, allowing hair to dry and set faster. Since they don’t require heat, they’re a great option for people with over-processed or damaged hair who want to minimize heat styling. You can, however, use a hair dryer to speed up the process if desired since it is very time-consuming.
When using plastic curlers, your hair should still be slightly damp. Working a little mousse through your hair from root to tip before rolling will prevent your hair from slipping out of the rollers. It also helps keep the curls in place.
Once in place, blow a hair dryer over the curlers for about two minutes on high heat.
Cover the curlers with a hair net and leave them in for a few hours (or, even better, overnight). Remember, your hair must be completely dry before removing the rollers. Use your fingers to lightly brush through and loosen the curls. You can use a light mist of hairspray if desired to keep your style in place.
Styling tip: If you are using plastic rollers on naturally curly or textured hair, the strands need to be rolled flat against the roller to dry properly and hold the desired shape.
The tiny bristles on Velcro rollers act almost like a round brush to create airy, voluminous, loose curls when removed. They are also effective for smaller tight curls depending on the size of the roller. You shouldn’t need clips or pins to hold the curlers in place since Velcro does that for you.
Velcro rollers are a great option for longer hair that needs a soft style with a long-lasting hold. When using Velcro curlers, section your hair around the same size as the curler and keep the tension taut.
Also called tension rollers or cylinder rollers, hourglass curlers are great for long or dense hair. They look very much like plastic hair rollers except that, instead of having a straight cylinder shape, they have an hourglass shape with wider edges and a slightly narrower center. The shape helps hair to stay in place and prevents the sections closest to the edges from slipping off. It also assists with providing better air circulation and the right amount of tension.
Steam hair rollers offer a gentle heat curling method that is effective and less damaging than high-heat treatments. You can also use them to create different curl types. When rolling the curlers up from the hair tips towards your scalp you’ll get a curl. On the other hand, placing them a few inches from the roots and then wrapping your hair around the tube creates more body.
Regardless of the technique you use, give the rollers at least 20 minutes set time to cool before removing them.
As their name suggests, flexi rods are long flexible rods that can bend into any shape. This means that once your hair is wrapped around the rod, it can be twisted to anchor it in place without pins or clips. Although they do come in different thicknesses, they are generally on the thinner side compared to other hair roller types. They are ideal for defining kinky curls and, if your natural curl is smaller than the rod diameter, they’re a good way to stretch out or lengthen tight curls as well.
When using flexi rods, you want to start with hair that is already 90% dry. Apply mousse or curl cream to prep your hair and then roll 1 to 2-inch pieces from tip to root before securing it at the top. Drying time will vary depending on your hair texture and thickness. To speed up the process you can blow dry over your head in an upside-down direction — this will also add good volume. Make sure to always use heat protectant spray where possible.
Once your hair is completely dry, remove the rods and finger-rake through the curls to loosen them up.
Foam hair rollers
If you sleep with rollers in, foam hair rollers are one of the best options. They aren’t spikey and have a softer cylinder, which is more comfortable. You can avoid pulling them at night by keeping them slightly looser around the hairline.
These curler types are ideal to create waves or a natural-looking full and fluffy style. They do, however, come in different sizes and can be used in wet or dry hair. Smaller size rollers with wet hair will produce a tighter curl.
Modern spoolies are made from heat-resistant silicone, which means your hair’s natural oils stay intact and you can speed up the curling process with a hairdryer. Since they have a dome cap under which your rolled hair is kept in place, letting your hair dry naturally or leaving the rollers on overnight is a good option.
These little accessories don’t look quite like regular hair curlers and are great for various hairstyles from large vintage curls to ultra-springy coils. To use them, you wrap small sections of hair around the stem of the spoolie from the tip of the hair up towards your scalp. When you get to the top, simply flip over the cap to form a dome that perfectly holds your hair in place. Applying a setting mousse or lotion before rolling will help define the curls and prevent frizz.
A pillow roller is a thick, easily-bendable wire covered in a soft fabric. This means the fabric holds a long, firm, straight shape but can be bent in any way. To use these curlers, wrap your hair around the fabric from tip to root, like you would with other rollers. When you get to the top, simply fold the edges to secure the hair in place against your head. Repeat this with small sections of hair. Wrap your head in a scarf or hair net and leave them in for a few hours or overnight.
If your hair is not 100% dry once you remove the pillow rollers, use a hair dryer diffuser to finish off the drying process before you start breaking up the curls with your fingers. For loose vintage curls, brush through your hair and style with a large paddle brush.
Pillow rollers are one of the most comfortable types to sleep in since they are soft and don’t require any pins or clips. They are also very gentle on your hair and don’t cause breakage or frizz. These rollers can be used with dry or slightly damp hair, and since they are flat, they’re easy to pack when you are traveling.
How To Choose the Right Hair Roller Size
The size roller you use will make a significant difference in the type of curl you get. Smaller curlers yield tight curls while medium curlers are the right choice for mermaid waves and extra lift. Meanwhile, very large rollers are great for volume and cause your hair ends to curl inward or outward (depending on the direction you roll) instead of creating defined waves. Keep in mind that, to use large curlers, you need shoulder-length or longer hair.
Hot curlers can be used on most hair types, but we don’t recommend using them if you have very fine hair that is prone to break.
Reviewing the Best Hair Rollers of 2023
- Includes two roller sizes
- Gives body to thinner hair
- Works with damp or dry hair
- Easy to insert and remove
- Long hair will require two sets
- Rollers heat evenly
- Two-year limited warranty
- Provides long-lasting curls
- No auto shut-off
- Smooth exterior prevents tangling
- No heat or pins needed
- Easy to pack for traveling
- Long setting time
- Sets in 10 to 20 minutes
- Indicator light on the heating chamber
- Volume enhancing effect
- Only includes five rollers
- No pins needed
- Suitable for all hair types
- Volumizing large rollers
- Only two rollers included
- Enough rollers for a full head
- No heat required
- Built-in securing clips
- Only one size per set
People Also Ask
Q: Are hot rollers and steam hair rollers the same?
A:Although both hair curler types use heat for setting, hot rollers use dry heat to lock in curls while steam hair rollers use moisture. Steam roller curls tend to last longer and are better for your hair since the steam moisturizes the strands as it cools and evaporates. This leaves them soft and shiny. Hot rollers, on the other hand, can draw moisture out of the strands, leaving them dry and prone to breakage.
Q: Should I brush my hair after removing hair rollers?
A:For most curl styles, you should not brush your hair after removing the curlers. Instead, use your fingers to rake through the curls lightly and separate them. There are, however, some looser curl styles that require brushing after the rollers have been removed. This will generally elongate the curls and create a lot of volume. If you brush your hair, ensure that it is dry and cooled down. Brushing your hair before it has cooled or dried completely will straighten out most of the curls you’re trying to create. If your hair is still slightly damp, use a hair dryer diffuser to dry the curls fully.
Q: Do hair rollers reduce frizz?
A:Heated hair rollers are a good option to reduce frizz and create long-lasting curls. If you brush your hair after curling instead of just loosening the curls with your fingers, certain hair types will be more prone to frizzing.
Q: Is it bad to sleep with hair rollers in?
A:Never sleep with heated rollers. Any other roller types are safe to sleep with, but you will most likely want to go for a softer type, such as pillow curlers, that don’t require pins. These are a lot more comfortable to sleep in and hold well without causing tugging or poking.
Q: How tight should my hair curlers be?
A:Don’t wrap your hair so tightly that it is painful or causes uncomfortable pulling at the scalp. There should be minimal tension while trying to get the roller as close to your head as possible. Rolling too tightly can cause damage and thinning patches if done often.
Q: How much hair should I use per roller?
A:This will depend on the type of style you are creating. Using a 1-inch section of hair is usually a good starting point. If you are using Velcro rollers, they should be able to hold themselves up without pins. If the rollers start loosening, there is too much hair around the roller.
Q: Why do my curls fall flat so quickly?
A:There can be several reasons your hair doesn’t hold the intended style or volume for very long after curling it. Your hair should be completely, 100% dry when removing the rollers. If you aren’t sure, use a hair dryer or hairdryer diffuser for a few seconds to get rid of any dampness. Once you remove the rollers, brushing your hair instead of just using your fingers to separate the curls can cause them to become elongated. Another reason your curls might not be holding is that you’re using too much or too little hair product or your hair is too clean. Not sectioning your hair in small enough pieces will also affect the set.
Why trust Us
At Us Weekly, we aim to inform readers to make smart purchasing decisions, saving you both time and money. Our editors are obsessed with finding products in a variety of categories from fashion and beauty, to home and fitness.
We try various products, so we can recommend our favorites, and we also summarize feedback and data from other customers. Data, like product reviews and ratings, helps us recommend the best product choices for individual price points and needs.
On top of that, we highlight unique product features for special use cases, ingredients preferences, and more. We strive to make sure you are discovering new products that can make your life easier, while keeping you up to date with the best product choices for types of items you already know and love.