Hair rollers have been helping womankind slay the curly hair look since 1930. They are easy to use, cost-effective, safe and most importantly, get the job done well real quick. From the Marylin Monroe, Victoria’s Secret models to my very own grandmother, everybody is obsessed with these tiny little hair sorcery tools.
With as many as 12 types of hair rollers to choose from, the possibilities are practically endless. Think of any size and shape of curl and rest assured there’s at least one hair roller variant specifically designed for it.
Now, the real question is, where do you start? What are the key metrics to follow when looking for a set of rollers that’ll put up with the quirks of your hair? Most people don’t have enough time or patience to rack their brains all day to find an ideal pair of hair rollers for their specific hair type. But I do.
In this guide, my focus will be mainly on the individual functions, strengths, and weaknesses of each variant.
Not all hair curlers are made equal. To get the exact texture and look you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll need a roller that precisely matches your hair type. But before I get to the detailed rundown of different hair types (as well as tips on how to use them properly along with product suggestions), we’ll briefly go over the basics of hair rollers:
The Key Applications and Benefits of Using Hair Rollers
I don’t think hair rollers get enough love and appreciation for their amazing versatility. Apart from its ability to form swell curls with least effort, here is a lowdown of some of the lesser-known hair benefits of curlers:
Less Risk of Heat Damage
Unlike flat irons and curling wands, roller sets don’t expose your strands to the gigantic blow of high heat at an extremely close range. Their consistent and relatively gentler heat from hot rollers helps to cushion the blow of the heat on your tresses. This results in longer-lasting and healthy curls, that too without needing an elaborate follow-up care routine.
With the right roller sets, you can whip up myriads of curly hairstyles including tight ringlet-y curls/kinky curls, long and loose beach waves, natural-looking bouncy curls, you name it.
What’s even more impressive is that you don’t have to spend 20-30 minutes just blow drying your hair before styling. Hair rollers can safely go into damp hair, meaning it can dry and curl your manes simultaneously
Washing and deep conditioning is all the prep work you need before curling your maned with these nifty roller sets.
By strategically placing the rollers on your hair, you can spruce up your generally flat and limped down hair with a noticeable volume boost. Even if you are opting for a straight hairdo and only want a little bit of volume around the crown, clip the curler on top of your head for as long as you want and voila!
Your roots will get a nice lift, giving your tresses a strikingly thick and full appearance.
Ease of Use
Sure, flat irons and curling wands give you greater control over the outcome but you can’t eat snacks or check your Insta feed while using either of these equipment.
That’s why I like to believe that roller sets are the cool and hip cousins of hot irons. Once you are done fixing them into your hair, you’re free to move on with your life while the curlers do their job.
Imagine spending almost an hour perfecting curls that’ll lose their shape in just a couple of hours. The disappointment is real. Hair rollers’ ability to simultaneously dry and curl temporarily resets the hydrogen bonds of your hair.
This significantly boosts the elasticity and strength of the strands, paving the way to well-defined, texturized, beautifully springy and long-lasting curls. Applying moderate heat consistently across all the strands while resetting hair bonds helps the curls last for up to two weeks with proper maintenance.
DIY Hair Weave Styling
Making hair weave curly or wavy by roller setting is pretty simple. The gentler and consistent heating from roller sets helps to set the desired look without toying with the longevity of the weave.
If you have a straight weave and you want to do something fresh and fun with it, something that’s quick as well as low-cost, roller set is the answer.
List and Summary of 12 Types of Hair Rollers
Time to get down to the business. Here are 12 different kinds of hair rollers or curlers you will bump into while browsing through your options:
Velcro rollers are made from sturdy and smooth plastic and have velcro pads attached to them for grip. It eliminates the need for using pins or clips to secure the locks.
Self-gripping velcro rollers are pocket-friendly and dead easy to use. Moreover, there’s absolutely no risk of heat-induced damage which makes them perfect for brittle and vulnerable hair as well.
You can use velcro rollers on both dry and wet hair, although I’d highly recommend using them on wet hair for better hold and definition to your curls. This type of rollers is best suited for creating long and gentle waves and loose curls on long and thick hair.
These 2.5” wide jumbo rollers yield really big and loose curls without subjecting your delicate tresses to heat damage. These velcro rollers are generally made from hard plastic.
Although advertised as self-gripping curlers, you will need pins or clips to lock them in place. The curlers are quite flexible and have a smooth surface. You should be able to comfortably wear them under a dryer cap.
However, if you are planning to keep these on overnight, that would be a bit overambitious, though. For optimal results, use them on semi-dry hair. The silky smooth surface also prevents your curls from going frizzy right after you take off the rollers.
What I love the most about these rollers is their perfect size. Their grip is spot-on across all hair lengths, which is quite unusual for jumbo rollers. If you manage to keep them on for long enough, you will achieve salon-perfect springy and soft curls topped with a noticeable volume boost on the crown.
Foam or Sponge Rollers
Sleeping with a bunch of roller sets poking against your head will wake you up all cranky and sleep-deprived. Do I even need to explain why? Unlike traditional rollers, foam or sponge rollers gently smush against your head to minimize discomfort.
These should be your go-to rollers when you want a head full of semi-tightly weaved curls or the 80’s retro look without exposing your strands to a quick burst of high heat.
For that much sought after poofy and fuller appearance, make sure to use the rollers on slightly damp hair. Wrap and roll your hair all the way to the top, clip them up and hit the bed.
Unwind your hair in the morning, let the curls fall down on your shoulder and puff them up a bit with your fingers. That’s it. Your perfect curls will be ready to make heads turn.
These cute pink foam rollers by Conair are widely used by professional hairstylists go jazz up lackluster, limped down hair with loose and bouncy waves that hold their shape for days. The kit includes 48 counts of 2” wide rollers.
Most users have pointed out that the rollers work best on textured hair that’s at least 6” long. If you’re thinking about getting cool soft waves on your layered bob, these could be perfect rollers for the purpose. And since the curlers are baby soft, you can peacefully sleep with these on.
Unless you are extremely tender-headed, you won’t even feel their presence. To keep the curlers in place, I’d suggest wrapping your hair with a satin wrap before hitting the bed. If your hair tends to get frizzy and stiff right after curling with a wand, using these foam rollers would be a welcome change.
The soft curlers help to tame frizz and soften up your locks without the use of any heat or chemical. You can secure the curlers without pins or clips due to the self-gripping design. Plus, they are light as a feather, making them perfect for traveling as well.
Satin/Pillow Soft Rollers
The name itself is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? Pillow soft curlers are a godsend for people like me who shudder at the idea of wearing a chock full of rollers throughout the night. These are also self-gripping rollers, meaning you won’t need bobby pins or special clips to keep the rollers stay put.
You can easily wrap and roll your tresses from end to roots, only to end up with gorgeous loose curls and big waves in the morning. It’s ideal for someone who wants to go for a more “undone” look instead of a tightly weaved curl pattern.
These are arguably the best satin pillow rollers on the market right now. The satin fabric helps to add a great deal of volume and definition to the curls and is suitable for all types of hair. All you will need is a couple of clips to prevent the rollers from slipping while you’re tossing and turning in bed.
The rollers are sized between ⅝” to 1” and the ⅞” variant just about right for very short to shoulder-length hair. Apart from versatile hairstyles, these rollers also jazz up your curls with long-lasting body and movement for a fresh-outta-salon look.
Flexi Rods/Bendy Rollers
Flexi rods, spiral perm rods, bendy rollers, whatever you call it, all of them basically imply the same thing. If you are planning on giving your naturally bone-straight hair a ravishing makeover with immaculate kinky curls, look no further.
These flexible rods bend easily which makes twisting and twirling the hair around it a cakewalk. Make sure to prep your hair with a deep conditioner followed by a generous application of hair mousse/cream for curls. Alternatively, you can also use perm rods for naturally loosening and softening your kinky curls for a more laid back look.
These curling rods would be well worth the money if you are planning to get charismatic spiral waves or curls. Always use these bendy rollers on wet hair and let the curls set overnight.
This will not only give your curls extra bounce and shine but will also plump up your tresses to create the illusion of greater volume. What is even more impressive about this kit is that it comes with an assortment of 42 rollers of 7 different sizes, allowing you to mix and match different curl sizes for a dramatic effect.
Cold Wave Perm Rods
Profusely used by professionals for damage-free and precise hair perming, cold wave rods have a unique mechanism. Cold wave perm technique is perfect for creating kinky curls on short to medium-length naturally textured hair.
The key to getting the right look with cold wave perming rods is to prep your hair properly with a cold wave solution (also called reduction lotion or cream) containing ammonium thioglycolate.
Pour or spray the perm solution on the rolled-up hair, let it sit for 15 minutes, allowing your hair to absorb the solution. After 15 minutes, apply a neutralizing lotion to neutralize the chemicals in the perm solution.
For extra definition and hold, roll the curlers into damp hair and secure them with pins. Let the curls set for a couple of hours and take them off. If you are in a hurry, blow dry your hair with the rollers on until completely dry.
Cold wave perming is a delicate technique and requires precision along with quality rollers to yield desired outcome. After scouring the web high and low, I bumped into these perm rods which satisfy every criterion I had in my mind.
Suitable for both natural and transitioning hair, these flexible rods are perfect for women who want to save up the cost of visiting a salon by perming their hair at home.
Available in sizes ranging from ¾” to 11/16”, these economical elastic cold wave rods are a brilliant fusion of performance and affordability. These medium-size rods are much easier to handle and less prone to breakage than the standard skinny rods.
While the smaller diameter rollers are perfect for small and tightly weaved curl patterns, consider going for a larger size if you’re going for gentle and bouncy waves on long and thick hair.
I also loved the addition of soft boar bristles on the rods for a firm grip. The only small issue with these otherwise perfect cold wave rods is that rubber band at the bottom. The bands either come loose or break off easily.
Ribbed Hot Rollers
Ribbed hot rollers, as the same suggests, have ribbed edges to provide a nice and strong grip on straight and silky hair. One of the biggest plus sides of these hot rollers is the multiple size options.
Use the small rollers for concentrated ringlet curls towards the bottom and jumbo rollers for classic long waves or soft curls on the top layers.
Or, you can step up your hair game and give your hair some pizzazz by mixing and matching different sizes of curlers. Hot electric rollers are quick as a flash and super effective at creating a myriad of different hair styles. As long as you prep your hair well and use the appropriate size of rollers, your curls will easily hold their shape for 2-3 days.
These god-tier ribbed hot rollers with stay-cool ribbed handles extra thin and fine bone-straight hair with great finesse. The kit includes 30 rollers of four different roller sizes, ranging from small to jumbo to meet your ever-evolving hairstyling needs.
Their nano titanium barrels effectively utilize advanced far-infrared heating technology to gently heat up your strands from within. This achieves two purposes- one, it reduces the risk of heat damage and two, the curls come out sleek and neatly chiselled due to sufficient moisture retention during the styling process.
My only beef is with the heat-up time. While most premium-range rollers take only a couple of seconds to fully heat up, these ones take a couple of minutes. However, this is not a dealbreaker for me as the curls hold their shape and shine all day without needing any touch-ups.
Flocked Hot Rollers
Flocked rollers are the smoother-edged counterpart of ribbed hot rollers. These curlers have a velvety coating which holds the rollers in place. Usually designed with keratin or argan oil-infused ceramic or titanium (the pricier ones), the glossy surface of these rollers curl, condition, and rejuvenate your hair at the same time.
Ideal for extremely coarse, frizz-prone, and unruly hair, quality flocked rollers help to seal essential moisture into your cuticles which inevitably results in shiny and butter-smooth curls.
Another much talked about benefit of velvet flocked rollers is its impeccable volume building ability. Terribly disappointed with limped down, stiff hair with very little volume and zero movement? Do your hair a favor and give these rollers a go.
Finding a quality set of flocked rollers for super thick and coarse hair that has a nasty habit of frizzing up in high humidity is never easy. Very few curlers can actually beat the resistance of such hair and weave luscious, well-defined curls out of them, Conair Xtreme being one of them.
The rollers integrate ceramic heating technology for 85-sec instant heat-up and consistent heat conduction. You will have to keep the curlers on 15 minutes tops for salon-perfect results.
Just make sure your hair is blow-dried all the way through and prepped with a sheen spray or hold spray, whichever works best for you.
The jumbo rollers score brownie points for never getting too hot to touch, which is a very common complaint among hot roller users. This set of 12 assorted rollers of two different sizes is great for creating a contrasting pattern of curls.
The box also includes a bunch of sturdy hair clips to keep the curlers stay put. For adding a dynamic volume and body to frail and flat hair, use the large rollers on the top layers and small ones around the ends. This will construct a dynamic juxtaposition of kinks and waves which is on-trend these days.
Steam rollers belong to the top-tier of hot rollers as the steam released by these curlers gives the curls a fantastic hold. Irrespective of the length, density or texture of your hair, you can use steam rollers to whip up a variety of classy hairstyles.
Depending on how close you place the rollers to your scalp, you can either get highly texturized curls or loose waves. Steam rollers are the most hair-friendly curler on this list.
It styles and moisturizes your locks at the same time to give your curls a visible shine boost. Using them on dull and frizzy hair can almost magically transform it into soft-to-the-touch, bouncy curls.
Caruso steam rollers achieve healthy and long-lasting curls iced with extra volume by means of excellent heat and moisture retention. The steam breaks open the cuticles to make sure your hair absorbs all the heat which helps to set the curls faster and more effectively than heatless rollers.
The kit includes 30 rollers of 6 different widths, ranging from extra small to jumbo rollers which opens the door to endless possibilities. They are quick to set up and take as little as 10 minutes on thin hair and maximum 20 minutes on thick hair to set the curls.
The petite and small curlers are great for creating corkscrew curls while the large ones come handy when you’re trying to give your flat roots a solid lift.
The medium rollers should be your go-to choice if you want a messy and undone done that goes great with casual outfits. These dual voltage compatible rollers come with a stylish and functional storage bag for ease of travel.
Magnetic rollers are a holy grail product for those of us who lack adequate fine motor skills or coordination required for twirling and rolling the hair around the barrel.
These advanced rollers come with magnetic snap closure that automatically makes the strands wound up around the rollers. Just remember to always use magnetic rollers on wet hair only, otherwise, the magnetic effect won’t be activated.
Apart from this small novelty feature, magnetic rollers aren’t any different from regular curlers.
Specially designed for ultra-thick and Afro-textured hair, these low-cost but highly functional magnetic rollers are a good bargain for someone with weak fine motor skills.
It’s equally suitable for beginners who are unsure about how to coordinate the rollers to achieve the target look. The magnetic effect of the snap-on closures activate as soon as the rollers come in contact with wet hair.
For natural-looking tight curls on straight hair, I’d recommend sitting under a hooded dryer on medium heat settings for 1-1.5 hours, depending on your hair length and thickness.
Girls with super tight and coily hair can naturally soften and elongate their curls with these curlers without the help of heat. Despite the slightly jagged edges, the curlers don’t snag or pull your hair which is quite an achievement for a set of budget hair rollers.
Ribbon Rollers/ Spiral Hair Curler
Spiral-shaped ribbon curlers work a bit differently from traditional roller sets. These are best for creating stretchy and long-lasting spiral curls on medium or long hair. The more texture your hair has, the more defined your curls would be. Ribbon rollers come with holes in the center.
You will have to feed the hooks through the holes. Use the hooks to latch and pull sections of your wet hair through the ribbon. Continue the process until all the layers are wound up. Let the curls set overnight and bam! You will wake up with pretty curls and added volume around the crown area.
These satin smooth and pillow-soft ribbon curlers are a highly effective alternative to hot rollers. Suitable for all hair density and textures (straight, wavy, coily), the spiral curlers are available in a wide range of sizes.
However, please note that these are not meant to be used for short hair. You need to have minimum shoulder-length hair to be able to wrap your tresses from root to end. The largest size is large enough for the classic hip-length hair.
If you want to transform your stubbornly straight curl-resistant hair into a bouquet of tight and bouncy spirals, I’d suggest using a high-quality curling mousse for prepping your hair.
This should be followed by sitting under a hooded dryer for 1-2 hours on low heat and voila! Your curls will come out all spunky and smooth which will effectively hold the shape for up to a week with proper follow-up care.
Brush rollers are highly affordable and convenient to use, if for complete rookies. The grippy bristles on these rollers helps to keep your locks soft to touch and frizz-free. Keep the rollers on for a couple of hours for highly defined curls or blow-dry if you are opting for the trendy summertime undone look.
These salon-grade brush rollers, curling pins combo would make an excellent quick fix for your super straight and frizzy hair with brittle ends. The bristles are delightfully soft and don’t pull the hair when you take them off.
Any brush roller loyalist would tell you that you should always put them on slightly damp hair and use a blow-dryer on the pinned up sections for shine and volume boost. The only caveat is that the bristles tend to stick and tangle up badly if you use them on extremely long hair.
Spoolies or Peco Rollers
Peco rollers have been around since the 50’s. Ideal for both beachy waves and salon-perfect tight curls, spoolies are perfect for the rebellious souls who never settle for just one hairstyle.
From soft, beachy waves to salon-perfect corkscrew and ringlet curls, spoolies can be used for creating any shape and size of curl you have in mind. Since the rollers are made of silicone, they won’t easily warp due to prolonged exposure to high heat from your hairdryer.
No matter what outlandish kind of curls you are craving for, the original spoolies can turn your dreams into reality without leaving your pocket (or hair) high and dry. These authentic peco rollers are made from top-grade hypoallergenic and odorless silicone.
Its hypoallergenic and non-slip surface helps the curlers to stay put and come off easily without subjecting your hair to unsightly crease marks. You can safely use them under hair dryer for setting and defining your curls as the silicone material used in the rollers is heat-resistant.
A Short Guide on How to Use Hair Rollers
Although the basics of roller setting with both heated and non-heated, manual rollers are pretty much the same, manual rollers tend to move around a lot if not adequately secured with clips. Here is my tried and tested roller setting routine you can’t possibly go wrong with:
For Non-heated Rollers:
- Start off by rinsing your hair with a mild cleansing shampoo followed by a deep conditioner.
- Thoroughly comb and section your hair into about a couple of small, manageable sections. You won’t be able to get the spot-on texture and shape if the sections are too thick for the rollers you are using.
- Apply a light-hold spray for classic curls or a hair mousse for extra bounce.
- Tightly roll them up with the rollers and secure them with the bobby pins or even better, duck bill clips.
- Lightly spray a gentle-hold spray (for soft and long curls) or extra hold spray (for tight, highly texturized curls) while your curls are setting.
- If you are roller setting damp hair, it could take an entire day for the curls to properly set in. On blow-dried hair, manual rollers take about 15 minutes to complete this step. However, I should remind you that keeping manual rollers overnight adds a lot more definition and hold to your curls, allowing them to stay in shape for up to 2 weeks.
- Finish off with a hold spray or a volumizing spray/mousse for a neat and uniform look.
For Heated Rollers:
- Blow dry your hair until completely dry. You shouldn’t use heated rollers on wet hair as it could cause sizzling, which is basically the sound of your hair frying up.
- As a rule of thumb, you should partition your hair into 4-8 sections, depending on the length and density of your manes.
- Lightly mist a heat-protectant spray to soften the ravaging effects of high heat but will also add a stellar definition to your curls. If you are dealing with a serious frizz problem, better go for a hair serum or shine spray to calm down the frizz and flyaways.
- Preheat the rollers.
- Wind up your hair tightly around the rollers. Once the rollers are in positions, spritz a volumizing spray on the sides and crown area for extra volume and sheen. If you want extra hold and definition to our curls, apply a gentle or stronghold spray while the rollers are cooling down.
- Wait till the curlers cool down completely. It typically takes around 10-20 minutes for most roller sets to cool off.
- Remove the rollers, finger-rake and scrunch up the curls and you’re done! Don’t even think about brushing as it could ruin your freshly set curls.
- You may add a dash of mousse or another round off spray to finish off the look if needed be.
How to Choose the Best Hair Rollers for your Particular Hair Type
There are a gazillion of killer hairstyles you can create with hair rollers. The key is to find quality rollers that are cut out for the job and that’s where the trouble begins.
The sheer variety of roller sets available today alone can confuse the heck out of anyone. Fret not, though. In this section, I’ll walk you through the process of shopping for rollers sets online. Read along:
Heated vs Non-heated Rollers
If time is always a premium for you and your flat tresses struggle to hold their shape for more than a few hours, don’t think twice and opt for heated rollers. These time-saving gizmos work hand in hand with a blow-dryer to give you crisp, and flexible curls in just 10-20 minutes.
However, if your hair goals involve lifting your roots and adding a little bit of movement to your curls, non-heated rollers e.g velcro and foam rollers and you could be best friends for life.
If the idea of sleeping with hair rollers on is giving you jitters, simply blow dry your hair to 80-85% before wrapping up your hair and get awesome curls in less than half an hour.
Ceramic rollers are known for instant heat up as well as heat recovery combined with excellent heat conduction. Except for ultra-thick and tightly coiled hair, ceramic is suitable for all other hair types.
Most ceramic rollers are self-gripping which helps to keep the curlers secure without the help of extra pins. For extra-fine and damage-prone hair, you can go with tourmaline while premium titanium rollers handle thick and unruly hair with finesse.
Non-heat activated are usually made from polymeric foam, microfibers, and silicone. Although tough as nails, these rollers have a tendency to slip from their position because of their smooth surface.
The general rule of thumb is to choose large rollers for big and loose curls or waves. Large rollers also enhance your aesthetics by adding tons of volume or “poof” to your curls. Au contraire, small rollers help to form beautifully defined, tight wave patterns, and ringlet curls.
It’s ideal for women blessed with long, thick and coarse locks. If you want to take your curling game to the next level by weaving dynamic contrast curls, choose a set with minimum 3-5 assorted sizes of rollers.
Number of Rollers
Once you’re done figuring out the right size of rollers for your hair, time to decide how many rollers would be a good fit for your desired hairstyle. Usually, a larger number of small rollers in a concentrated area will yield a larger number of tightly weaved curls.
If you are going for long-bodied gentle and smoother curls or those sensational beach waves, reverse the rule. Use a small number of large rollers on the center, back, and sides of your head.
This comprehensive guide highlights the unique characteristics, mechanism, and advantages of the 12 most common types of hair rollers to give you a better understanding of the subject.
Although all hair roller variants have the same basic function, the subtle differences in terms of design, material, heating ability (or the lack thereof) can significantly impact the final outcome.
Ever wondered why hair rollers are still incredibly popular in this day and age of high-tech gizmos like curling wand and flat iron? To put it simply, the combination of convenience, efficiency and value for money provided by these humble hair rollers are hard to contest.
Having said that, working with a wrong set of rollers could be a colossal waste of your precious time and energy. Not just that. If you don’t use it exactly the way they are supposed to be used, rest assured they won’t be forgiving.
That’s pretty much all I had in mind. I hope that, by now, you are done wondering what type of hair roller is right for you.