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Expert Shopper Beauty & Personal Care

Hair curlers 101 with the BestReviews beauty expert

Expertly reviewed by Oscar Molinar

From hot rollers to self-gripping rollers to foam rollers, there are lots of ways to get bouncy, voluminous curls with less effort than curling irons or wands. No matter what kind of hair you have, what kind of curls you want or how much time you have to spend styling, the right set of hair rollers can transform your hair with volume and body. We asked BestReviews beauty expert Oscar Molinar to highlight his favorite hair rollers along with his top tricks for creating shiny, beautiful curls.

In this article: Remington Pro Hair Setter Hot Rollers, Kitsch Ceramic Thermal Self-Grip Hair Rollers and L'anza Healing Volume Zero Weight Gel.

How to choose hair curlers

“The most popular hair curlers are hot or steam rollers.” said Molinar. Hot rollers are fairly easy to use and quick, but can be hard on hair, while steam rollers use steam to gently curl hair without damaging it. The downside is that can they take longer to curl since they are heated up individually.

The best hair curlers for your style depends on your hair length and texture as well as what kind of curls you want for your end result. If you have short to medium-length hair, pick smaller or narrower hair curlers. If you have long hair, try curlers with wider diameters.

“For large curls and long hair, you can’t go wrong with self-grip rollers,” said Molinar. Available in many size options, self-grip rollers are great for adding lots of volume to thin hair. Plus, they don’t require clips or pins.

How to prep hair for curling

Hot rollers work best when they’re very hot, so be sure to allow yourself enough time for the curlers to fully heat up before you start styling. Choosing the correct heat setting is also important not just for curl quality, but for your hair’s health. If you have fine or dry hair or hair that’s color-treated, keep the heat set low. If you have healthy hair or a thick or coarse hair texture, higher temperatures are safe to use.

It’s also a good idea to apply a heat protectant to prevent damage, especially if you curl your hair regularly or if your hair is color-treated. Depending on how curl-resistant your hair is, you may also want to apply hair spray to help your hair hold a curl.

How to use hair curlers

To get supermodel-worthy curls, Molinar recommends twisting sections of hair before rolling them up in the curler. If you're using hot rollers, let them cool down completely before removing them.

“Do not use a brush” on just-curled hair, Molinar advised. “All you need to do is to flip your hair over and lightly run your fingers through to separate your curls.”

For extra volume, Molinar likes to add hair spray to curled hair while it’s flipped over. “A touch of blow-dry to dry the hair spray at the nape of the neck, flip your hair back and va-voom, you have supermodel hair,” he says.

How to fix hair curler mistakes

If your hair comes out alarmingly curly after using hair curlers, Molinar suggested simply spraying your hair with some water and running your fingers through the curlers to help loosen and break them up.

You can also reapply your heat protectant and use a blow-dryer on warm to relax curls. Gently twist the curls around a round brush and angle the blow-dryer down from above your head.

On the other hand, if you remove your hair curlers and see your hair fall flat, the solution is hair spray or texturizing spray. “Your hair was probably too clean,” said Molinar. “Apply some hair spray and re-curl.”

Best hair rollers

Remington Pro Hair Setter Hot Rollers

This set of 20 rollers is a reliable go-to for soft, voluminous curls. The ceramic-coated rollers reduce stress on hair and the set heats up in 90 seconds. It comes with 12 large (1.25-inch) and eight medium (1-inch) rollers.

Sold by Amazon

T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers Luxe

This high-end set comes with eight flocked rollers in two diameters, 1.75 inches and 1.5 inches. Choose from two heat settings depending on your hair type and desired curl. The set comes in a storage case and includes clips.

Sold by Ulta Beauty, Sephora and Amazon

Kitsch Ceramic Thermal Self-Grip Hair Rollers

Roll up your almost-dry hair on these eight self-grip rollers and finish blow-drying for voluminous curls. Their ceramic-coated cores hold onto heat, evenly distributing it during cooling for longer-lasting volume.

Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

Hot Tools Soft Foam Rollers

Affordable and easy to use, foam rollers are used on damp hair to get soft curls overnight. Molinar also recommended this type of hair rollers for curling children's hair. This set includes 16 rollers in two sizes.

Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

Red by Kiss Flexi Rods

Flexible, heatless curlers are one of the latest trends for getting effortless curls. This set of five 10-inch rods has a bit of a learning curve, but the soft foam-covered rods deliver shiny, bouncy curls overnight without heat damage.

Sold by Amazon

Best products to use when curling hair

L'anza Healing Volume Zero Weight Gel

Formulated with volumizing bamboo, as well as pea flower extract and meadowfoam seed oil, this lightweight gel protects and nourishes hair. Apply it to damp or dry hair before styling.

Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

L'ange Whip Volumizing Mousse

Add volume and shine to curls with this lightweight, nourishing mousse. The formula includes antioxidants as well as vitamins A and E to make hair healthier and shinier.

Sold by Ulta Beauty, Sephora and Amazon

Moroccanoil Perfect Defense Heat Protectant

Protect your hair from thermal damage with this weightless spray, which layers easily with other hair products. It includes argan oil to nurture hair, as well as vitamin B5 for shine.

Sold by Amazon and Sephora

Chi Enviro 54 Natural Hold Hairspray

This medium-hold hairspray keeps curls intact without making hair stiff or greasy. It's formulated with silk proteins and botanical extracts to boost shine and contribute nutrients.

Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

Drybar Full Pint Medium Ceramic Thermal Round Hair Brush

The 2.5-inch ceramic barrel in this round brush is designed to heat up while blow-drying to help blowouts last longer. The vented barrel and bristle design help dry hair quickly and with better control.

Sold by Amazon, Ulta Beauty and Sephora

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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers

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