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- Hair rollers are old-school hair curlers in the form of cylindrical tubes that are rolled into the hair to style waves and curls.
- Rollers come in a variety of sizes and styles, with hot rollers, velcro rollers, and flexi-rods being the most common types.
- You can use hair rollers both on dry and wet hair, with or without heat styling tools, depending on the type you are using.
If you’re going to curl your hair, one of the most obvious methods is to use hair rollers. This staple hair styling tool comes in a range of styles, from hot rollers to curling rods, and can be used with or without heat depending on your haircare needs. In this guide, we’re highlighting the best hair rollers that you should buy and sharing some critical tips to nail your next roller set.
Your Guide to Hair Rollers: Contents
- 15 Best Hair Rollers & Hair Rods to Buy
- The History of Hair Rollers
- Types of Hair Rollers and Tips for Choosing the Best One for Your Hair Types
- How to Use Hair Rollers & Hair Rods
- Hot Rollers vs. Curling Irons
- Other Hot Roller Tips to Know
15 Best Hair Rollers & Hair Rods to Buy
From hot rollers to hair rods, below, you can find the 15 best hair rollers that will give you the type of perfect curls you are aiming to achieve.
1. Best for Preventing Frizz: Remington Ionic Conditioning Hair Setter
These hot rollers can create the perfect curls while freeing up your hands to multitask as they set your hair. We like that there are three color-coded sizes to help you create waves, bouncy curls and mimic the perfect blowout. This set of hair rollers also comes with an exclusive J-clip, which helps to keep the rollers in place.
The velvet middle helps to create volume, while the cool-touch ends help protect your hands as you use them. But you’ll also like that the Thermal Wax Core helps these rollers maintain a high heat for longer, which translates to a style that lasts longer. We also like that each roller features ionic conditioning to help improve shine and prevent frizz. Buy it on Amazon!
2. Best for No-Heat Styling: Tifara Beauty 42-Pack 7” Flexible Curling Rods
Hot rollers are cool but they usually don’t come in a large enough quantity to be realistic for anyone with medium to long hair. If you prefer a no-heat styling option or have a bonnet blow dryer, these curling rods are a great solution. The 42-piece set is great for all hair types and can be used on wet or dry hair. The flexible style makes these a better option for overnight roller sets. Each roller is seven inches long, but you get a range of widths from ⅜ of an inch to 11/16 of an inch. Buy it on Amazon!
3. Best Luxury: T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers LUXE for Volume, Body and Shine
This eight-piece set of hot rollers is primarily designed for big sexy hair. These hair rollers have two heat settings and are perfect for placement in the crown to create voluminous hair. The velvet rollers help to improve sheen and minimize frizz.
You’ll get four extra-large rollers that are 1 ¾-inch wide and four large 1 ½-inch rollers. The cool-grip edges make handling these rollers safe, and the included clips hold them securely in place. But this roller set is perfect for travel since it features an auto world voltage, so you never have to worry about shorting out your appliance because of voltage incompatibility. Buy this set at Nordstrom!
4. Best for Quick Styling: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter
If you’re a fan of BaByliss heat tools, then their hot rollers should be on your shortlist. This time, you get 20 velvet-flocked rollers in a range of sizes from small (¾”), medium (1”), and large (1 ¼”). These hair rollers feature nano titanium technology that relies on far-infrared heat to give you faster styling control. Plus, these heat up quickly, so there’s no waiting forever for your rollers to be ready to use. Shop for this set at Ulta!
5. Best Affordable: Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Jumbo and Super Jumbo Hot Rollers
You shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get big sexy hair. This set of hot rollers from Conair is not just affordable, but also easy to use. We like that this set comes with clips to keep your rollers securely in place.
The Conair hair rollers are ceramic-based for better heat transfer and longer-lasting curls. You’ll like that you get 12 total flocked rollers – four that are 1 ¾-inch wide and eight that are 1 ½-inch wide. These rollers also heat up in a rapid 85 seconds to keep you on the move. Shop for them on Amazon!
6. Best Self-Grip: Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers
If you prefer using a bonnet or traditional blow dryer, then these self-gripping velcro-based jumbo rollers from Drybar are a great option for creating strategic volume at the crown. Because of the velcro design, these hair rollers don’t require additional clips. You’ll get three extra-large rollers and three large rollers. Buy the set at Sephora!
7. Best for Thick Hair: Caruso 30 Molecular Steam Hairsetter
If you’re looking for a large number of hot rollers, this 30-piece set from Caruso is a great option. While they can only be heated one at a time, this is also a great travel-friendly option since it features dual voltage. These hair rollers are rated safe for all hair types and come with a bonus storage bag to keep everything organized. Buy it on Amazon!
8. Best Compact: Remington Pro Hair Setter with Thermaluxe Advanced Thermal Technology
If you’re limited on space, then some of the larger hot roller sets might not be ideal for you. We like that this Remington hot roller set is a slimline solution with 20 rollers (12 large and eight medium) that relies on dual heating technology to heat up in just 90 seconds and create the perfect curls in just five minutes. You’ll like that each hot roller is paired with a clip, so you can easily roll your hair and keep it securely in place. These hair rollers are ceramic-coated to minimize damage and ensure even heat. Shop for it on Amazon!
9. Best to Use with Heat Styling Tools: Hot Tools Thermal Velcro Rollers
If you liked the idea of the Drybar self-gripping rollers but felt that there weren’t enough in this kit, the Hot Tools alternative is more affordable and offers a larger quantity. In this set, you get 16 rollers in an assortment of sizes, ranging from jumbo to small. Like the Drybar hair rollers, these are also velcro for a self-gripping feature. For the best results, use them with a blow dryer on damp or dry hair. Buy the set at Ulta!
10. Best for Loose Waves: John Frieda Body & Shine Smooth Waves Jumbo Rollers
Big sexy hair doesn’t have to be a chore. In this set, you’ll get five jumbo hot rollers that are designed to give you volume at the crown and create soft, luscious waves. These hot rollers are titanium ceramic but are also flocked to improve shine and prevent frizz.
The John Frieda set also comes with butterfly clips to hold them in place. While these hair rollers take longer to heat up (2 minutes), we do like that you can choose between two temperature settings. Plus, they feature an ionic conditioning-based technology that helps to flatten and smooth the hair cuticle. Buy it on Amazon!
11. Best Ceramic: Kitsch Ceramic Thermal Hair Rollers
If you prefer more elevated hair rollers, this set from Kitsch is perfect. While they are velcro rollers designed to create volume at the crown, you’ll like that they feature ceramic construction, making them perfect for use with your blow dryer. The ceramic material helps to properly conduct heat for a smooth, yet voluminous and lifted effect. Shop for this set at Ulta!
12. Best for Volume: UrbHome Large Hair Rollers
Self-gripping hair rollers aren’t new, but usually, you don’t get a lot in one set. We like that this option from UrbHome is a 12-pack of jumbo rollers with a 44-millimeter diameter. And the vented design makes these perfect for improved airflow as you set your hair with a blow dryer. For the best results, use these rollers closer to your crown for enhanced volume. Buy it on Amazon!
13. Best for Travel: Revlon Curls-to-Go 10 Piece Travel Hot Rollers
Curling your hair on the go shouldn’t be a hassle. We like these hot rollers because each of the 10 rods has a ready dot indicator that turns white when they’re hot and ready to be used. You’ll love that you get five large rollers and five medium ones. And the included metal pins help to securely hold the rollers in place. Plus, the travel-friendly pouch and dual-voltage setting make this a great solution for international travel. Buy it on Amazon!
14. Best for Multi-Style Curls: Leandro Limited Assorted Self-Grip Rollers
These Leandro self-gripping hair rollers are another great exclusive option that you can find at Ulta. We love that you get three sizes, ranging from large to small. This collaboration product from BaBylissPRO and Conair means you’re getting the best of both worlds from two leaders in haircare. The self-grip design makes them easy to use and ensures they stay put. Meanwhile, the vented design guarantees proper airflow as you create volume with your blow dryer. Buy it at Ulta!
15. Best Multi-Sized: Conair Compact Multi-Size Hot Rollers
Hot rollers have a reputation for being stingy with the total number of hair rollers that you get. But in this set, you get 16 rollers in a wider range of sizes. You’ll get eight small rollers, six medium ones, and six large ones. Create the perfect amount of volume and use the color-coded stainless-steel clips to securely hold each roller in place.
Each roller comes with a starter grip, so you don’t have to fight to begin rolling your hair. You’ll also like that the container base features an indicator light that lets you know when the curlers are ready to use. Buy it on Amazon!
The History of Hair Rollers
Hair rollers (also known as hair curlers) are cylindrical styling tools that you wind your hair around and either with the use of heat, or a setting solution, create curls, waves, or volume in your hair. They are such an essential part of hairstyling and are a staple tool for salons and at-home haircare.
But When Did Curling Hair Become a Thing?
But where did this must-have item come from, and why are they so ubiquitous? Using a heat tool to curl hair isn’t new as even ancient Egyptian nobles curled their hair and beards for ceremonial events.
However, the modern concept of using a hot tool to curl hair is credited to Marcel Grateau – a name you should know if the term “Marcel iron” sounds familiar – that would be the first iteration of a curling iron in the 1870s. But quite a few decades would pass between the original curling iron and its many safety concerns, and when hot rollers would emerge on the scene with their more user-friendly design.
A Mid-Century Invention
While we can’t confirm when generic hair rollers first appeared in the beauty world, we do know that hot rollers emerged on the scene in 1930 thanks to Solomon Harper. He is credited with inventing a better version in 1953 as well.
Types of Hair Rollers and Tips for Choosing the Best One for Your Hair Types
Even though hair rollers are a pretty versatile tool, it’s always best to pick the right roller that is ideal for your length and hair type. Let’s talk about the most common types of rollers you’ll find as you shop, and then discuss how to pick the right option for your length and hair type.
In the 15 recommendations we made earlier, we highlighted four popular hair roller choices. So, we’ll briefly highlight each one, best practices, and most compatible hair types.
Some general tips to keep in mind when shopping for hair rollers are:
- Large rollers are perfect for long hair, while those with short hair should consider getting smaller ones.
- Steam rollers produce the longest-lasting curls and are perfect for hair that is difficult to curl.
- Dry rollers are the most versatile and fastest to use for achieving silky-smooth waves.
- Wet hot rollers are the most forgiving for hair, as they cause less hair damage than the dry ones.
- Ceramic and ceramic-infused rollers release negative ions and are perfect for minimizing hair frizz.
- Classic hot rollers are best for thick or naturally curly hair to style big, voluminous curls.
- Foam and steam rollers are good for silky and thick hair.
As the name implies, hot rollers are either battery or electric-powered and act like mini curling irons that are safe for you to handle to individually heat sections of your hair. They’re ideal for quickly curling your hair and giving you a hands-free solution, so you can do other things like getting dressed or apply makeup as your hair sets.
Hot rollers usually come in a range of sizes, but you’ll most commonly see them in large and jumbo sizes since they’re ideal for adding volume to the roots at the crown of your head.
But you’ll also find that hot rollers can vary between velvet-flocked versus smooth exteriors. A velvet-flocked surface is better if you’re concerned about taming flyaways. Keep in mind, though, that the larger the roller, the more likely you are to get waves or just volume. So, it’s best to use these rollers with medium to long hair.
However, the big question becomes whether you should opt for a single heat setting or one with multiple heating settings. If you have coarser hair, a single heat setting paired with a high temperature is best to create smooth and sleek strands. But if you have fine or damaged hair, multiple heat settings are better, so you can pick a lower temperature.
Velcro hair rollers are a classic choice if you want to give yourself a blowout effect without the need for a round barrel brush. Velcro rollers are ideal if you struggle to keep rollers in place since the velcro exterior helps to grip your hair and hold the roller securely without the need for pins or clips.
You’ll usually find velcro rollers in the large or jumbo size, but it is possible to find smaller options. With the larger rollers, you’ll create waves or lift at the roots. And smaller rollers will help you create curls.
This roller type usually features a vented or ceramic design, and the option you prefer is going to be dependent upon your preference. A vented design makes them perfect for use with a hair dryer since air can easily move between and through the rollers. In contrast, a ceramic velcro roller can help to properly set your hair since it will warm with the heat from your dryer and also maintain that heat evenly.
However, without the use of heat, velcro rollers won’t change the texture of your hair. And this is why many people prefer them as a way to create volume at the crown.
Steam Hair Rollers
Steam hair rollers are technically a sub-category of hot rollers, but they work slightly differently. While they’re also hot rollers, they use steam to set your curls. Many people believe that steam works better to set curls as opposed to simply using heat by itself.
Steam sets are also great for people with coarse or natural hair who want to create a straight or soft curly look without relying on a more permanent chemical treatment to achieve that style. This is because the steam infuses moisture into your hair – an essential aspect that naturals and curly-haired mavens need to prioritize.
You should apply steam rollers to dry hair and wait for the steam to work its magic.
If you are trying to minimize your reliance on heat tools, flexi-rods are a great solution. Also known as bendy rollers, these curlers are a universally friendly option that is ideal for so many hair types and textures – especially ladies with natural hair. When used with the right setting product, flexi-rods can create long-lasting curls without the risk of damaging your strands like steam or hot rollers can pose.
Because these hair rollers tend to be narrower than traditional rollers, these are best for creating spiral curls. They’re best used to set wet or damp hair. However, since hair is damp, you either need to let the hair air-dry or pair with a blow dryer to speed up the process.
Also known as sponge rollers, foam rollers are perfect for getting well-defined ringlets without using heat styling. These are made of soft foam and use a plastic cap on the outside to hold the hair in place. You just use small sections of damp hair to apply them, securing with clips, go to bed and wake up to perfect curls.
Sponge rollers are basically like foam rollers – only the material is slightly different. Again, you apply them at night and wake up to soft culls without using any heat styling.
For perfect long-lasting frizz-free curls, you need heated rollers that also come in a variety of sizes. Apply them to damp hair, wait for 20-30 minutes for the hair to dry and set, and you get bouncy curls without much pain.
As the name implies, magnetic hair rollers come with a magnetic snap closure that simplifies the task of curling hair. These rollers can be used on wet hair since only wet hair snaps onto them.
Brush Hair Rollers
For professional-looking silky-smooth curls that you get at the salon, go for brush hair rollers, which feature bristles on the surface to smooth out your hair while styling. Use them on damp hair to get perfect curls in a few hours.
Peco Hair Rollers/ Spoolies
Also known as button curlers, these hair rollers look like caps and are perfect for getting long-lasting defined curls. You use them on dry hair, taking small sections and wrapping around the barrel from roots to tips. Wait for the pods to cool and set the curls before removing, and you are done.
How to Use Hair Rollers & Hair Rods
For many people, using hair rollers can be a challenge. If you’re not sure how to properly use them, it’s easy to make mistakes and spend all that time only to end up with less than stellar results. So, let’s break down the right way to use each of the rollers we highlighted, assuming you’ve already selected the right style and size for your hair length and type.
Let’s Talk Placement and Basics
No matter which roller you decide to use, you need to think about how you want your hair to look in the end and apply the hair rollers accordingly. Follow this roller placement guide:
- For curls that go back, place the roller behind the section of hair.
- For curls that go forward, place the roller in front of the section of hair.
- For curls that go down, place the roller under the section of hair.
- For curls that go up (flipped-out look), place the roller above the section of hair
Using Hot and Steam Rollers
It’s always important to confirm whether the roller you want to use can be applied to wet, damp, or dry hair. This distinction is important because you can end up with limp curls as a result. However, most hot rollers are designed for use with damp or dry hair.
• So, either air-dry or use a blow dryer to get your hair 75 percent dry before you set it on rollers.
• Make sure you’ve properly combed or brushed your hair so that it’s free of tangles. Then apply a heat protectant because even though most steam and hot rollers are designed to be gentler than traditional hot tools, constant exposure to heat can damage your hair over time. Follow up with a setting spray.
• Section your hair so that you have at least four sections: the crown and three sides. The largest rollers should be set on the crown to create volume and lift.
• If you’re facing the mirror, hold the roller horizontally and begin by rolling the hair away from you so that when you’re done, you can see your roots. Keep the width of rolled hair no wider than the roller you’re using and use the included clips to keep the rollers securely in place.
• But keep in mind that depending on your preferred style, the way you apply the rollers to your hair will have to be modified. For bouncy curls and added volume, the above method is fine. But if you’re hoping to create spiral curls, you’ll need to hold your rollers vertically as you roll your hair onto them.
• Also, remember that bigger rollers are going to give you volume or waves, whereas classic curls require small to medium-sized hair rollers.
Using Velcro Rollers
Velcro rollers are ideal if you prefer setting your hair when it’s wet or damp, or like the idea of using a blow dryer to create lift, volume, or to set curls. While the process of setting your hair on velcro rollers is the same as with hot rollers or steam rollers, the difference is in what you do after you’ve finished putting up your hair.
With hot rollers, after you’ve set your hair on the rollers, they do all the work, so you don’t have to. With velcro or self-gripping rollers, your job is only half done. But we will add that depending on how long your hair is, and how much hair you’re trying to set on each velcro roller, you may find that even though the product claims to be self-gripping, you still need a clip or pin to keep it in place.
• With velcro rollers, you’ll need to decide whether you want to air-dry your hair or use a blow dryer. If you prefer to air-dry, plan on waiting for at least an hour for your style to fully set and dry. If you’re pressed for time, a blow dryer is the way to go. Whether you opt for vented or ceramic velcro rollers, a blow dryer can not only speed up your drying time but also help to quickly set your style.
• Using medium heat and a concentrator nozzle, make sure to evenly cover your head with heat, paying special attention to the roots on your crown to create volume. Make sure you blow-dry your hair in the direction that it was set on the rollers to avoid frizz and flyaways.
• However, if you’re using velcro rollers all over your head instead of just at the crown to create volume, we recommend investing in a hooded or bonnet hair dryer. This will give you even heat all over your head, and save you from the discomfort of achy arms.
• And as with hot rollers, pay attention to the size of the rollers. Jumbo velcro rollers are best for creating volume. Large rollers will create waves, and small or medium-sized rollers are best for traditional curls or spirals.
• Once you’ve finished with the blow dryer step, let your curls sit for about 15 minutes on the rollers before you attempt to remove them.
• The biggest difficulty with velcro rollers can be that it’s easy for your hair to get tangled in them as you take them out. So, rather than unrolling them like you would a traditional hair roller, pull them to the side to gently release them. The benefit of this is that the velcro can also act as a final brush to smooth your hair as they work through the length.
Flexi-rod rollers are one of the few options that can also create a gorgeous, defined curly style even for air-dried hair. These hair rollers are perfect for recreating a straw or rod set. They’re a fan-favorite because they’re soft, flexible, stay in place, are ideal for longer hair lengths because of the length of the rod, and you can comfortably sleep in them.
However, flexi-rod hair rollers are best for smaller spiral curls or medium waves since even the largest flexi-rod curler is usually only equivalent to a traditional medium-width roller. Flexi-rods are especially popular among people with natural hair because it’s a low-manipulation option that doesn’t require heat, yet can create a beautiful style that lasts.
First, decide how you want to use your rods. Are you planning on twisting or braiding your hair and setting the ends on rods? Or do you prefer to use these rods to create a curly style that lasts?
• If you want to use these hair rollers as a finishing touch for a twist or braid set, first braid or twist your hair into sections as normal using your preferred styling products.
• Then holding the end of your section with tension to stretch your hair to its full length, wind the end along the rod and roll it up.
• A big benefit of flexi-rods is that you can easily twist the ends of the roller to hold it securely in place. A popular option is to do this hairstyle at night, and allow your hair to set while you sleep.
• For a traditional curl set, depending on the state of your hair, you may need to use heat. If your hair is already straight because it is either naturally straight or relaxed, then simply choose the styling product of your choice and apply it evenly throughout your hair.
• It’s up to you whether you want to dampen your hair with water before you begin. Section your hair and roll it onto the flexi-rods.
• You can set this style at night and rely on an air-dry approach to create the style or sit under a dryer hood to speed up drying time.
If you are natural and use flexi-rods to create a smoother texture without heat, pay attention to your sections. The goal is to use thinner sections of hair to optimize airflow. If you put too much hair on a rod, you’ll end up with uneven results and hair that looks frizzy with no discernable curl. And most importantly, don’t rush!
Air-drying naturally curly hair on flexi-rods can take time. Depending on how wet or damp your hair is, this could require a full day of wearing flexi-rods. Taking them down too early will leave you with damp hair that will turn frizzy as it dries.
When you’re ready to take down the hair rollers, simply unwind them starting at the bottom of your head and working your way up to the crown. Separate the curls to create volume, and if you prefer, fluff with your hands or a pick to further loosen the curls.
Hot Rollers vs. Curling Irons
While there’s no definitive right or wrong option between hot rollers or curling irons, people often wonder if one is preferable to the other. The styling tool you use is going to come down to personal preference. Both of them offer the same benefits – a quick way to create a defined curl or volume in your hair. But they both have their benefits and disadvantages.
Hands down (pun intended), hot rollers are great if you’re trying to multitask. While you do have to initially spend time setting your hair on the rollers, once they’re in, you’re free to go about your day. Use the time to apply makeup, pick your outfit for the day, or whatever your heart desires.
Another major benefit is that you’re less likely to burn yourself with a hot roller. Modern hot rollers have been designed with cool-touch ends to protect your fingers. And since you’re not waving a metal wand around your face, you don’t have to worry about injuring yourself.
Plus, most hair rollers feature a set with a range of sizes. This means you can focus on creating volume at the crown one day, or opt for an all-over bouncy curly look the next. If you’re new to hair styling, hot rollers are a safer and goof-proof option.
The main disadvantage of hot rollers is the same as with any heat tool. If you rely on hot rollers frequently, there’s always a risk of causing heat damage to your hair. So, to protect the health of your hair, always use a heat protectant before setting your hair on hot rollers.
Also, hot rollers usually aren’t recommended for people with coarse or kinky curly hair unless they’ve already straightened their hair and are now ready to style it because they do not offer the same heat output as a curling iron. So, the limited texture range, as well as the lower heat output can be a drawback.
In terms of styling, curling irons and hot rollers are equally competitive. There is a wide range of styles that can easily be achieved with both of these heat styling tools. However, whereas you get a range of roller sizes with hot rollers, unless you buy a set of curling irons or wands, you’re limited to one barrel width.
Likewise, the debate over which takes more time is dicey too. While you do get the multitasking benefits from hot rollers, you are, in theory, taking the same amount of time, whether you’re setting your hair on rollers or using a curling iron.
The biggest risk with a curling iron is that it’s very easy to injure yourself or burn your hair. Curling irons usually come with an adjustable temperature option, which can range from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Often people use too much heat and end up damaging their hair or burning it off entirely. And if you’re not careful, you can end up burning your fingers, ears, or even face with an errant curling iron that slips out of your hands.
But that wide temperature range means that curling irons are ideal for any hair type or texture. And this makes this heat styling tool a great essential option for anyone.
In terms of price, both hot rollers and curling irons come in a variety of price points to fit a range of budgets. It’s possible to find a wallet-friendly option both for hot rollers and curling irons. But if you’re looking for enhanced features like tourmaline barrels, ionic properties, and the like, no matter which tool you pick, prepare to spend more.
Other Hot Roller Tips to Know
Keep these best practices in mind the next time you reach for your hot roller set.
- Always start with clean hair.
- Always use a heat protectant, especially if you frequently reach for hot rollers.
- For a modern look, always roll hair away from your face.
- For more natural curls, roll your hair in different directions.
- Don’t forget to tousle curls. Use your hands or a wide-tooth comb to create a more natural effect.
- Size matters – bigger hair rollers equal more volume and less curl.
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