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How To Use Hot Rollers: A Step-By-Step Guide

woman with hair rollers

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for hot tool alternatives. As someone with fine, color-treated hair, my strands are damaged super easily by excessive heat. Even as someone blessed with naturally wavy hair, however, I love having the freedom to play around with different types of curls and textures—so it’s difficult for me to give up heat styling entirely. Who knew that the answer to achieving gorgeous, long-lasting curls (without using scorching curling irons) has been sitting in my closet for years—if you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about hot rollers.

When it comes to hot rollers, you might remember your mother or grandmother using them when you were a kid—and the vintage styling tool is still a fool-proof option for creating gorgeous, voluminous ringlets and loose waves.

Wondering how to use hot rollers? Read on for our step-by-step guide plus a few of our favorite sets to try.

Are hot rollers better than curling irons?

When it comes to the hot rollers vs. curling iron debate, there is no clear winner. It all depends on the curl type you’re looking to achieve. If you have fine hair and want to give your ringlets an extra bit of oomph and long-lasting volume, hot rollers are the better option for you. Since hot rollers use way less heat than a traditional curling iron or wand, they’re also a great alternative if you’re looking to achieve curls with half the damage.

Wondering how exactly to use hot rollers? If you’re just bought a new set but don’t know where to begin, keep scrolling for our step-by-step guide.

Choose the right size.

When you use a regular curling iron, the bigger the barrel, the looser the curl—and the same applies for hot rollers. If you’re aiming for big, loose ringlets or waves, Opt for larger hot rollers if you’re aiming for big, loose ringlets or waves and smaller ones for tighter coils. You can also mix and match if you want various sized curls throughout your look. Once you’ve selected your hot rollers, plug them in, and let them heat up.

Prep your mane.

As with any hairstyle, how you prep your strands is going to make or break your final look. If your goal is all-over volume, prep your mane with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner like Matrix Total Results High Amplify Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner. This system cleanses and conditions to help boost the structure of fine, limp hair. After you wash your hair, apply a dime-size amount of volumizing mousse like Matrix High Amplify Foam Volumizer Mousse throughout your hair to give it touchable thickness and all-over volume.

It’s important to note: If you have very wavy or curly hair, you’ll want to ensure your strands are as smooth as possible. Use a blow dryer or flat iron to smooth out your texture a bit before you begin styling.

Once your strands are completely dry, brush through them to remove any knots or tangles. Then, apply a few spritzes of heat protectant like Redken Iron Shape 11 Thermal Holding Heat Protection Hairspray throughout your strands to protect against heat damage. Now, you’re finally ready to get started!


Begin by dividing your hair into four separate sections—one at the crown, one in the back, and one on each side of your head. You may need to create a few more sections if your strands are on the thicker side. Use a hair clip to hold each section in place until you’re ready to apply the rollers.


Start with the top section and separate it into three even segments. Hold one of the sections straight up and place the roller underneath the hair a few inches from the ends. Wrap your ends under the roller and then continue to roll the rest of your hair, making sure you’re rolling away from your face.

Once you’ve reached your scalp and the entire section is wrapped around the roller, use hair pins to hold it in place. Repeat this step with the remaining sections. You can also roll some pieces towards your face if you want your ringlets to go in all different directions.

Let your curls set.

You can’t rush perfection, right? Once your rollers are in place, it will take a few minutes for your curls to form. Use a few spritzes of high-hold hairspray like Pureology Style + Protech Lock It Down Hairspray and let the rollers cool down for about 20 minutes before removing them.

Lock in your look

Take your pins out and gently remove the rollers from your hair. Softly tousle your strands to loosen the curls and complete your look with a few more spritzes of high-hold hairspray. If you’ve made it this far, congrats! You’ve officially mastered the hot roller technique.

Looking for the best set of hot rollers to buy? Below, we’ve gathered five of our top picks.

The Best Hot Roller Sets To Buy Now

T3 Luxe Volumizing Hot Rollers

T3 Luxe Volumizing Hot Rollers

Who says hot rollers are old-school? When it comes to modern hot roller sets, T3’s Luxe Volumizing Hot Rollers are unbeatable. This set offers dual temperature settings for all hair types and a soft, velvety coating for shiny, tangle-free results. It also has auto-shutoff after an hour—so you’ll never need to worry about accidentally leaving your iron on again.

T3 Luxe Volumizing Hot Rollers, $119.00 MSRP

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter

When you have thick hair, you’ll need all the help you can get. That’s why we recommend picking up a jumbo-sized set like BabylissPro Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter if you have plentiful locks.

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter, $64.95 MSRP

Remington Compact Ceramic Hair Rollers

Remington Compact Ceramic Hair Rollers

If you’re looking for a hot roller set that’s perfect for on-the-go, you can’t go wrong with Remington’s Compact Ceramic Hair Rollers. This set features worldwide voltage for traveling and is made with ionic ceramic technology. The result? Long-lasting curls with reduced static and frizz.

Remington Compact Ceramic Hair Rollers, $14.96 MSRP

John Frieda Body & Shine Smooth Waves Rollers

John Frieda Body & Shine Smooth Waves Rollers

If you prefer soft, bouncy waves over tight curls, give John Frieda’s Body & Shine Smooth Waves Rollers a try. These jumbo-barrel rollers are specifically designed to achieve the perfect voluminous waves. This set also offers various temperature settings, five butterfly clips for comfortable hold, and ionic conditioning that helps gives hair frizz-free shine.

John Frieda Body & Shine Smooth Waves Rollers, $36.93 MSRP

Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers

Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers

Want the same results with half the effort? Opt for self-grip velcro hair rollers like Drybar’s High Tops Self-Grip Rollers. This six-pack of medium and large rollers roll easily into the hair and create mega-lift and volume without pulling or tugging.

Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers, $10.00 MSRP

Interested in more expert styling tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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