How to Use Hot Rollers For Long, Cascading Waves

Less damage, more volume.

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 It may seem like an outdated task because it’s not a frequent demand for salon clientele, but eleven years into my career, I can confidently say that hot rollers are still very relevant. Behind many of our favorite red carpet hairstyles is a good roller set.

Some stylists use velcro rollers, flexi rods, or magnetic rollers—depending on the final look they’re trying to achieve—but hot rollers specifically can produce some pretty stunning long, cascading curls (for pretty minimal effort).

Once you switch over to hot rollers, gone are the days of a tiring arm workout from trying to do a major blowout on yourself. Hot rollers will add volume to your roots, keep your strands shiny and smooth, and give you curls that (depending on your hair type) can last for the rest of the week. They’re also less damaging to your hair than the curling iron. It’s a heat application that you only have to use once versus the use of a curling iron on your hair every single day, and it uses less heat than an iron to begin with. Hot rollers give you near-instant curls with minimal effort, more volume, and far more longevity than your barrel iron curls. So do we have your attention? Good. Here's how to create dreamy, voluminous waves using hot rollers.

Prepping the Hair

Unlike the original roller sets that brought women into the salon on a weekly basis (also known as a wet set), you're going to start off with fully dry hair before you use your hot rollers. Any moisture in your strands or oil at the scalp will sizzle and fry your hair once the heat of the rollers is applied, so it’s important to start off with clean, dry hair. Even though there’s less heat damage involved with hot rollers, I’d suggest spraying a heat protectant in your hair before blow drying and keeping your dryer on a low heat setting. For your smoothest results, you also want to ensure your hair is tangle-free. If needed, you can apply a leave-in conditioner or detangling spray while the hair is still wet to set you up for shiny, sleek strands at the end of your styling. Brush through thoroughly once the hair is dry and ready for rollers, using a fine tooth comb starting at the ends and working your way up to the scalp to ensure there are no tangles in sight. 

How to Secure Your Set

Section. Section the 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. Make sure that each subsection of hair you grab for a roller is the same thickness as is the width of your roller. If you take too large a section, your curl will fall flat in the end. (The same is true when curling your hair with an iron, so it’s a good rule to remember.) 

Direction. 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. 

Placement. 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. The length of your hair will determine what size roller you want to stick with. Using the same size rollers all the way around the head (and using them in the same direction) will give you that soft glam kind of curl when you’re finished. But if you want some variation, switch up the size of your rollers and the direction you place them in. Just remember that the smaller the roller, the tighter the curl. And regardless of the roller size you choose, rolling away from your face will create that wind-blown look that you're probably after. As you roll up each section of hair, be sure to fasten securely—your roller set should come with crease-free pins or clips.

Once your 15-20 minutes wearing the rollers is up, use the cool shot setting on your blow dryer to set your style.

Final Touches

To get the bouncy curls you want from hot rollers, leave them in for 15-20 minutes. It's a perfect time to do your makeup, get dressed, pack your bags, or whatever it is you need to do before leaving the house. You can also apply a spritz of hairspray, texturizing spray, or a dry-oil mist during this time (depending on your hair's specific needs). 

Try These On For Size

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Rollers
BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Rollers $70

Ranging from 3/4" to 1 1/4" rollers, this set of 20 will set you up for natural-looking waves in a variation of sizes.

T3 Hot Rollers
T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers LUXE $119

These T3 rollers are especially great for long, thick hair. They come in large and extra large sizes, with the option to add any additional rollers as needed. You'll be all rolled up in 5 minutes flat.

Conair Infiniti Pro Instant Ceramic Flocked Rollers $45

Ceramic rollers will help to keep your hair frizz-free, and these ones are also flocked, meaning they're going to grab the hair well and keep the rollers in place.

Conair Compact Multi-Size Hot Rollers $25

Have shorter hair but still want a lasting curl? These hot rollers are smaller in size, making it easier to wrap your shorter strands around them.

Remington Ionic Conditioning Hair Setter $20

These ionic rollers have cool touch ends to keep you from burning yourself as you adjust to your new hair routine.

Conair Instant Travel Rollers $20

Always on the go? Try this small travel size set of 1 1/2" jumbo rollers. It's dual voltage make it easy for you to take these with you, wherever the destination.

Remington Travel
Remington H1016 Compact Ceramic Worldwide Voltage $15

If you're in need of a travel pack for smaller curls, try this Remington set with 1" and 1 1/4" rollers.

CHI Smart Magnify Hot Ceramic Rollers $100

These high-tech rollers set up on a platform base that stays cool to the touch while it heats up the rollers in mere seconds. Sign us up!

Related Stories