How to Use Hot Rollers on Long Hair, Including the 5 Best Options

Woman with brunette hair and curls

Dee Mills / Byrdie

One of the biggest fundamental lessons a hairstylist learns early on in their education is how to do a roller set. I remember learning it myself and thinking, ugh, I’m never going to use this. But I was so wrong. It may seem like an outdated task because it’s not a frequent demand for salon clientele, but over a decade into my career, I can confidently say that hot rollers are still very relevant. In fact, behind many of our favorite red carpet hairstyles is a good roller set.

Some stylists use velcro rollers, flexi rods, or magnetic rollers, but hot rollers, specifically, can produce some pretty stunning long, cascading curls—sans effort. Once you switch over to hot rollers, gone are the days of a tiring arm workout from trying to do a major blowout at home. Compared to your barrel iron curls, they also give you a more full-body curl with far more longevity, celebrity stylist Kim Kimble tells us. To achieve dreamy, voluminous waves using hot rollers, we tapped Kimble and hairstylist Gregga Prothero for their pro tips and industry expertise.

Meet the Expert

Ahead, check out our how-to guide for using hot rollers on long hair.

Step by Step Hot Rollers for Long Hair

Design by Zackary Angeline

Hot rollers will add volume to your roots, keep your strands shiny and smooth, and give you curls that can last for the rest of the week (depending on your hair type, of course). The best part? "Pretty much any hair type can use hot rollers," says Prothero. "The best candidates for hot rollers would be people who want full-bodied curls, whether they have straight or curly hair. If you have curly hair, round brush or blow-dry your hair," comments Kimble. 

However, she urges caution if your strands are damaged since the heat from the roller set might further exacerbate hair's fragility. Prothero agrees: "If your hair is brittle or very damaged from too much heat or chemical services, it’s best to not use hot rollers or any sort of heat styling."

How to Use Hot Rollers on Long Hair

For healthy waves with a heaping side of gloss and bounce, follow these steps.

01 of 06

Section Your Clean, Dry Hair

Model with clean, dry hair

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Unlike the wet sets of yore, you're going to want to start out with dry hair before using your hot rollers (after washing and detangling, that is). Any moisture in your strands or oil on the scalp may sizzle and fry your hair once the heat of the rollers is applied and is, therefore, best avoided. "If the hair is dripping wet, the hot rollers will take a really long time to work," adds Prothero.

Also, be sure to use a heat protectant for extra security, says Kimble. Although hot rollers are less damaging to hair than curling irons, they're still a method of heat styling. We suggest spraying Kimble's Blockbuster Heat Protectant ($11) or Davines Love Smoothing Perfector Serum ($29) onto hair before blow-drying on a low heat setting.

Next, you'll want to section your hair according to your desired parting to make it easier to style. You can section in quadrants or you can do this around a mohawk section—whatever makes the most sense for you and your growth pattern, length, and desired result. The main goal is to stay organized and help you manage your hair neatly as you go

02 of 06

Start Rolling, With Special Attention to Direction and Size

Model rolling her hair toward the scalp

Dee Mills / Byrdie

The key to getting major volume from using hot rollers is the same when using any heat application or tool: direction. When you over-direct your hair one way and then lay it in the opposite direction, you’re creating lift in the hair. So when you place your rollers in, the angle at which you’re holding your hair out when rolling it down to the scalp is going to dictate how much volume you get once the roller is removed.

Make sure that each subsection of hair you grab is the same thickness as the width of the roller. As with a curling iron, if you take too large a section, the curl will fall flat in the end.

For long, cascading waves, you’ll want to place your medium rollers around the face, and your larger rollers down the mohawk center section towards the crown of the head where you want the most volume. Rolling away from your face will create that wind-blown look you're probably after.

03 of 06

Make Sure Your Rollers Are Secure

Model clipping a roller in her long hair

Dee Mills / Byrdie

As you roll up each section of hair, be sure to fasten securely—your roller set should come with crease-free pins or clips. And remember: "If you don’t want the curl too tight, make sure you use the right size for the right curl," notes Kimble.

04 of 06

Wait 15 to 20 Minutes

Model removing a hot roller

Dee Mills / Byrdie

One of the best parts about using hot rollers is the nearly instantaneous results. Once hair is prepped and pinned, 15 to 20 minutes is all it takes for your set to work its curling magic. During this time, get dressed, enjoy a snack, meditate—whatever. "The main advantage of using hot rollers is you get to multitask as you get ready," says Prothero. Also, it won't hurt to spritz on some hairspray, texturizing spray, or a dry-oil mist (depending on your hair's specific needs) while you wait. "Setting sprays work to lock in the curl," adds Kimble.

05 of 06

Check Your Roller Temp, Then Remove

Woman with one tendril of hot rolled hair down; the rest of her hair is in rollers

Dee Mills / Byrdie

Once your 15 to 20 minutes of wearing the rollers are up, check to see that they've cooled. "Wait until the hot rollers are completely cooled down before taking them out," emphasizes Prothero. "This ensures the curls keep their shape throughout the day. You can use the cool button on your blow-dryer on low to speed up the cooling time."

06 of 06

Style and Go

Woman with hair that has been hot rolled

Dee Mills / Byrdie

And there you have it: Bouncy, voluminous, hot-rolled hair. If your hair is still looking a little too straight for your liking, Kimble suggests giving a little bump to the ends of hair while blow-drying (her Pro Hair Dryer ($43) is where it's at).

Best Hot Rollers for Long Hair

Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers with Heated Clips

Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers with Heated Clips
Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers with Heated Clips $45.00

For long-lasting curls, look no further. Conair's set comes with velvet flocking to help prevent tension and snaring, and plastic tips so you won't burn your fingers.

Caruso Ionic Molecular Steam Setter

Caruso Ionic Molecular Steam Setter
Caruso Ionic Molecular Steam Setter $37.00

Frizz-free (and crease-free) hair is easily within reach with Caruso's ionic steam set. Utilizing steam, rather than heat, ensures less damage to the hair.

 CHI Smart Magnify Small Ceramic Rollers

Chi Smart Magnify Ceramic Rollers
CHI Smart Magnify Small Ceramic Rollers $110.00

Ceramic rollers help to evenly distribute heat (and ensure the rollers heat up fast). Plus, the kit comes with enough clips that you can easily curl your entire head yourself.

T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers LUXE

T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers LUXE
T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers LUXE $140.00

If it's volume you're after, these rollers will get you where you want to go. They work on all hair types, from straight to coily, and promise lots of body and lots of shine, to boot.

Remington Ionic Hair Setter

Remington Hair Setter
Remington Ionic Hair Setter $21.00

Three roller sizes allow you to easily cover your entire head with curls. Plus, this kit comes with specially designed J-clips, which securely hold the rollers in your hair with less creasing.

  • Are hot rollers better for your hair than a curling iron?

    Curling irons have higher heat settings than rollers so, while they can often yield a tight curl, they can cause damage as a result. The danger with rollers, however, is that your hair can get caught in the coils, leading to breakage or damage.

  • What are the least damaging hot rollers?

    Hot rollers that utilize steam will help to ensure that less damage is caused to the hair shaft as they are less likely to burn the hair.

  • Do hot rollers ruin your hair?

    If you use a well-made product, and ensure you are using it correctly, there shouldn't be any damage to your hair. Just be sure the rollers aren't too hot, and that you have the right tools to clip them in place without causing breakage.

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