Updated December 2022
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Buying guide for best hair rollers

Some people are blessed with natural curls, ringlets, or waves. For those with straight hair, achieving these bouncy dos takes effort, product, and savvy styling. If you’re part of the latter group, then hair rollers are just the tool you need to get the volume and body you desire.

Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. The broad range of heated and unheated rollers can be especially intimidating to those using them for the first time. Besides considering your hair texture and length, you’ll need to examine the various types of hair rollers, new and old, to determine which ones will work best. The hair rollers you’re probably most familiar with are curlers and foam rollers. These tried-and-true designs have inspired spin-offs like flexible curling rods, heat sticks, and Velcro rollers, just to name a few. There are now also plenty of accessories that help hair rollers work more quickly and effectively to make the curling experience streamlined and effortless.

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If your hair rollers don’t come with a storage case, you can store them inside gallon-size resealable plastic bags.

Key considerations


Heated rollers: One of the most popular styles of hair rollers, these have a heated case or warming platform. The heated rollers are rolled into hair and secured with butterfly clips and metal U pins. The key feature of this type is its ability to distribute heat evenly across the rollers to create symmetrical curls. You can achieve a curled mane in about an hour, depending on the length and thickness of your hair.

Heat-free rollers: These are used by people who want to either avoid heat setting altogether or have the luxury of being able to wear rollers overnight. These foam or plastic rollers are generally softer and lighter than heated rollers. Their surface is specially textured to grip hair using Velcro, plastic teeth, or silicone nubs. Heat-free rollers also require clips or pins to hold them in place, which is particularly important when sleeping in them.

Rods and ribbons: More recently, flexible curling rods and ribbon rollers have risen in popularity as heat-free hair roller options. These rollers use bendable wire in their designs, so they’re self-securing, which means no more pins or clips. Simply twist hair onto the rod, roll the hair up, and fold over the ends of the flexible rod to secure. These low-maintenance hair rollers are easy to pack, safe to use, and comfortable to wear.



Length: Heated rollers and traditional heat-free curlers tend to be between 2 and 3 inches long. Flexible curling rods are between 4 and 8 inches long to accommodate the folding and twisting of the rod.

Diameter: The diameter is what varies the most when it comes to roller sizes. They can range from 1 to 3 inches, and jumbo rollers can be 4 inches or more. As you can imagine, the smaller the roller, the tighter the curl.

The assortment of roller sizes varies from set to set, which is especially important if you have a layered hairstyle. Some sets have rollers that are all the same size, while others include as many as four sizes. With that said, sets usually include around a dozen rollers, so you’ll need to buy more than one set if yours doesn’t have enough of the size you require.


Plastic: Plastic rollers are the most popular material choice for both heated and heat-free styles. Those used in heated sets are made with heat-resistant plastic, so they won’t melt or warp. Heat-free rollers are often made with lower-quality plastic and are rarely heat resistant.

Ceramic and titanium: These materials are most often seen in heated rollers because they heat up quickly and hold on to heat for a long time. They’re often coated with velvet to minimize heat damage to hair. It’s important to be mindful when plucking these from the heated platform because certain parts of the rollers are exposed and could burn your fingertips.

Foam: Foam rollers are soft, lightweight, and flexible, which is why they’re a popular choice for those people who prefer to sleep while their curls set. Traditional foam rollers are inexpensive, while flexible rod rollers tend to be much pricier.

Setting hair with rollers

Use rollers on slightly damp hair. It’s recommended that you use hair rollers on slightly damp hair. Soaking wet hair will take far too long to dry in rollers, even heated ones. Dry hair can be a bit stubborn, which is why most people spritz water on dry hair to achieve optimal moisture. Not only does it help the curls set better, but the dampness also tames frizz.

Section the hair properly. This is crucial when curling hair in rollers because it makes sure that the hair is parted evenly and the curls fall naturally. While you can grab pieces and simply roll them up, you’ll end up with irregular curls and perhaps a lopsided style. Divide your hair into straight, easy-to-manage sections with fingers or a comb. Another way to section hair effectively is to separate and clip sections before you start rolling. Veteran stylists say this is a real time saver.


Hair spray: SEXYHAIR Spray and Play Volumizing Hair Spray
Make sure your curls stay put all day with an extra-hold hair spray. We like this one from SEXYHAIR, which is a favorite among pageant competitors for its strong, volumizing hold and shiny finish. It fights humidity for up to 72 hours to keep curls and ringlets completely frizz-free.

Roller clips: Conair Hot Roller Super Clips
Secure your rollers with strong clips. We like this ten-piece set from Conair, whose clip design prevents unsightly bumps and marks in the hair. The teeth are placed close together to help trap heat and produce firm, uniform curls.

Hair roller prices

Hair rollers cost between $4 and $80, mostly depending on the sophistication of their design.

Inexpensive: You’ll spend between $4 and $10 for heat-free, budget-friendly hair rollers, including twist and foam rollers.

Mid-range: When you spend between $10 and $40, you’ll find a wide range of home and travel heated hair roller sets. There are also premium heat-free roller styles at the lower end of this bracket.

Expensive: For better heating and curl-setting technology, expect to spend $40 and more for ceramic and titanium heated hair roller sets.


  • Buy more than one set. Those with thick or long hair often purchase more than one set of hair rollers to achieve smaller curls or ringlets.
  • Pay attention to the forecast. Some hairstyles are no match for Mother Nature, no matter what products you use or how well you set your curls. Before you commit to curls, make sure the weather isn’t against you with downpours, high winds, or extreme humidity.
  • Check all angles. Use a mirror to see hard-to-reach areas behind your head to make sure all the hair rollers are properly in place.
  • Count rollers and clips. Be sure to count your rollers and clips before and after you use them to make sure you haven’t lost or misplaced pieces.
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Always take your time with hair rollers. Trying to rush through setting your hair can result in uneven curls.


Q. Will hair rollers damage my hair?
Hair rollers that use heat to set styles may cause some heat damage to hair, so it’s a good idea to use heat protectant styling products. Rollers that don’t require heat are safer alternatives, however pulling hair too tightly into them can break hair strands.

Q. How long will it take for hair rollers to set my curls?
There are many variables that affect set time, including hair thickness, length, and texture. Short and fine hair will set more quickly, while longer, thicker hair could require overnight setting. As with most other hairstyling tools, rollers that use heat will set curls more quickly than heat-free options.

Q. I’m wearing my rollers overnight, so do I need to wear a bonnet?
Some people wear a bonnet or hairnet as another way to prevent rolls from coming undone. Others choose to forgo bonnets and hairnets because some materials can cause your scalp to sweat at night.

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