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Hot rollers are like regular hair rollers, except they heat up to provide faster, longer-lasting results. The technology isn't anything new—it's been around for nearly 100 years. And while the process might look like something from a 1960s sleepover, it remains one of the best ways to achieve voluminous curls, coils, and waves. The kits can look intimidating, but compared to their unheated counterparts, hot rollers are pretty user-friendly and efficient. They won't make your arms as tired as using a curling iron, either. So, which sets stand out from the rest?
Byrdie Tested & Approved
To help you narrow down your options, we researched and tested standout sets that promise efficiency, body, and bounce. After trying them out in The Lab, our team gave each option a score between 1 to 5 (5 being the best) based on ease of use, curling ability, hold, and smoothness.
Scroll down for the best hot rollers for every hair type and budget.
Best Overall: Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers with Heated Clips
No tension or snaring
Temperatures aren't specified
What do buyers say? 81 percent of 4,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars and above.
Our number one pick is Conair's Xtreme Instant Heat Rollers. After trying them out firsthand, our testers gave them 5 stars for ease of use and curling ability and 4.5 stars for hold and smoothness.
The set comes with 20 rollers and includes three sizes ranging from 0.75 to 1.25 inches in diameter. While the heat-up time isn't specified in the product description, they took about 10 minutes to get hot. You can choose from 12 heat settings using the old-fashioned dial on the front of the caboodle, though the exact temperatures aren't specified, either.
Each ceramic barrel is covered in velvet flocking, which our testers said helped prevent tension and snaring. Additionally, heated clips ensure no strand is left out of the action, and the plastic tips help you avoid burning your fingers.
All in all, this set was impressive. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of pricier options, our team was satisfied with the design and overall results. They said it gave them bouncy, well-defined, long-lasting curls, plus it works well with various hair types and textures.
Material: Ceramic, aluminum | Amount: 20 | Diameter: 0.75, 1, 1.25 inches | Features: Velvet flocking, heated claw clips, 12 heat settings
What Our Testers Say
"It covers all the basics of hot rolling that you need and works well with a variety of hair types and textures."—Danielle Ransom, editorial commerce producer
Best Value: BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter
Clips are hard to attach
Temperature isn't adjustable
We also liked the Nano Titanium from BaBylissPro. Our testers awarded it a 5 for comfort, noting that the rollers didn't put pressure on their scalps and weren't too tight or loose. This set clocked a 5 for curling ability and 4.5 for hold and smoothness, as it didn't cause noticeable damage or change the hair's texture.
It comes with 20 ceramic-titanium rollers ranging from 0.75 to 1.25 inches in diameter. While the clips required a little force to get on, they worked well, were painless to remove, and didn't cause snaring.
Material: Ceramic titanium | Amount: 20 | Diameter: 0.75, 1, 1.25 inches | Features: Velvet flocking, butterfly wire clips, infrared heating
Best for Natural Hair: Caruso Ionic Molecular Steam Setter
The best option for natural hair is the Caruso Steam Setter, which earned a 4.25 score for curling ability, a 5 for hold, and a 4 for curl smoothness. However, our testers gave it a 3.25 for ease of use, noting that there was a bit of a learning curve.
Once they got the hang of it, they were pleasantly surprised with the frizz-free, crease-free results. The curls were defined and voluptuous, and since the steaming process doesn't use heat, it's less damaging to the hair.
Material: Plastic, foam | Amount: 30 | Diameter: 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5 inches | Features: Steaming device
What Our Testers Say
"While there is a bit of a learning curve, this is a solid, affordable pick for achieving a variety of curl styles that last without damaging your hair."—Danielle Ransom, editorial commerce producer
Best for Long Hair: Chi Smart Magnify Ceramic Rollers
Creates classic curls
Rims are hot to the touch
Long locks? Chi's Smart Magnify Rollers are your best bet. This set clocked a 4 for ease of use and comfort, 4.5 for curling ability and hold, and 4.25 for smoothness.
You'll get nine ceramic barrels in your choice of a 1-inch or 1.25-inch diameter. While they have velvet flockings, our testers noted that the rims get slightly hot to the touch. The rollers hold securely in place with the included claw clips, and when you pull them out, you can expect a classic hot-roller look: not too glam, not too tight, just bouncy and full of body.
Material: Ceramic | Amount: 9 | Diameter: 1–1.25 inches | Features: Velvet flocking, claw clips, bacteria-killing LED light
"These hot rollers gave me the classic hot-roller curl I was expecting. My curl held for longer than any of the others I tested."—Erin Johnson, editor
Best for Short Hair: Calista Hot Wavers Heated Rollers Style Set
Slightly hot to the touch
The small size of the Calista Hot Wavers ended up being the best option for achieving kink-free curls on shorter hair. Our testers gave this nostalgia-inducing set a 4.5 for curling ability and 4 stars for ease of use, hold, and smoothness.
We liked that the barrels have grippy teeth, making it super easy to wrap your hair around while ensuring a secure hold until you're ready to take them out. There are two temperature settings, and they heat up in about five minutes. Though the barrels are slightly hot to the touch, our testers said they don't burn your fingers.
Material: Plastic | Amount: 12 | Diameter: 1, 1.5 inches | Features: Grippy teeth, two temperature settings
Best for Volume: Remington Ionic Conditioning Hair Setter
Not ideal for long hair
If it's volume you're after, the Remington Hair Setter has your name on it. Our testers gave this affordable kit a 4.25 for ease of use, a 4.75 for curling ability, a 5 for hold, and a 4.5 for smoothness, noting that there were no kinks in sight.
These ceramic rollers come with color-coordinated metal pins that match the different barrel sizes and offer a super-secure hold. Once they pulled them out, our testers were thoroughly impressed with the long-lasting body and definition.
Material: Ceramic | Amount: 20 | Diameter: 0.75, 1, 1.25 inches | Features: Metal J-clips, velvet flocking, cool-touch ends
What Our Testers Say
"These hot rollers gave me bouncy Marilyn Monroe curls that lasted way longer than I expected!"—Ruby Grais, product tester
Best Splurge: T3 Micro Volumizing Hot Rollers
Lots of features
Only eight rollers
If you can swing the steep price, you won't regret investing in a set of T3 Hot Rollers. Our testers gave them a 4.5 for ease of use, a 4.75 for curling ability, a 4.5 for hold, and a 4.25 for smoothness.
While it only comes with eight rollers, there's a lot to love about this feature-rich kit. The ceramic barrels are coated with velvet flocking, and the ends have a cool-touch grip to prevent burning. After pulling them out, our testers said the condition of their hair didn't seem to be negatively affected, and they left large, glammed-up curls in their wake. Our team also preferred the sleek, modern display stand over the retro-looking caboodles.
Material: Ceramic, aluminum | Amount: 8 | Diameter: 1.5, 1.75 inches | Features: Velvet flocking, crease-free clips, cool-touch ends, two heat settings, auto-shutoff
"The display case looks so nice, and the claw clips are super strong, so I was able to walk around easily while my curls were setting. When I took out the rollers, I was left with big, glam curls that stayed in place."—Erin Johnson, editor
The best option overall is the Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers. Earning a 4.75 overall score from our testers, this reasonably priced, user-friendly set offers a secure hold without any snaring and delivers well-defined, long-lasting curls. Having said that, if you're open to splurging on a high-end option that delivers on its promises, the T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers won't let you down. Flaunting a sleek design and ensuring voluminous, kink-free curls with lasting hold, our testers gave this set a 4.5 overall score.
How We Tested
In our quest to find the best-of-the-best hot rollers, we took our time looking into today's offerings, researching different types of rollers, combing through user reviews, and interviewing experts. We purchased several sets to try out in The Lab, our in-house testing facility in Brooklyn, where our team awarded each product a score between 1 and 5 (with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst) based on ease of use, curling ability, hold, and smoothness.
Other Options We Tested
Conair Xtreme Big Curls Hairsetter
Though this set is more affordable than most, our testers said the rollers didn't hold heat very well, plus there's only one size, which limits the styles you can achieve. In the end, the kit earned a 2.9 overall rating.
John Frieda Body & Shine Smooth Waves Hair Rollers
These hot rollers were pretty user-friendly, but they were a bit disappointing in their ability to create and hold any definition. While the barrels did offer loose, glam-style curls off the bat, they fell out pretty quickly. Our testers gave this set a 3.25 overall rating.
Remington Compact Ceramic Ionic Hair Rollers
This set was not the most convenient to use, as there aren't enough rollers to cover an entire head of hair at one time—at least not if you have a long, thick mane. They heat up fast, but the metal pins aren't the greatest, and the results left a lot to be desired. All in all, our testers gave this bundle a 3 for overall value.
Meet the Expert
What to Look For in Hot Rollers
According to Nader, the best kinds of hot rollers have soft velvet flocking over the metal barrels. He explains that this prevents kinks, creases, and indentations you'd often get with the kits of decades past.
Nader also says it's best to opt for rollers that fasten to the hair with metal pins. "These secure to the hair beautifully compared to using a hair clip with claws," he tells Byrdie. On the other hand, claw-style fasteners can be a bit easier to attach, though they don't always offer the most secure hold.
Nader recommends getting a set of hot rollers that contains at least two sizes of barrels—even better if it's three. This will allow you to create a multitude of looks. "You'll also then have the choice to give your hair extra body by using the smaller rollers if needed," he says.
How do you use hot rollers?
According to Nader, wait until the rollers are properly heated and then wrap sections of hair around each one. Leave them in until completely cooled, then use a boar bristle brush to break up curls and give the hair a smooth, sleek, glamorous finish, he says.
How long do you leave hot rollers in?
It varies among sets. Hot rollers usually take at least 10 minutes to work, though it's usually not longer than a half-hour. For the best results, leave them in until they've cooled down entirely.
How do you use hot rollers on short hair?
According to Nader, the rule of thumb is "the smaller the roller, the tighter the result." However, when you've only got a few inches of hair to work with, you won't be able to wrap them completely around a larger barrel. In other words, smaller rollers are generally best for shorter hair.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in beauty. With expertise from a stylist in mind, she compiled our testing insights from The Lab, combed through product specs, pored over user reviews, referenced peer-reviewed studies, and rounded up our top picks. She has tried hot hair tools from multiple brands on this list, including Conair, T3, Remington, and Chi. Theresa covers haircare, skincare, makeup, and wellness products at Byrdie.