How to Use Hair Rollers to Curl Hair

woman getting rollers put into hair

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Ask anyone to use hair rollers and they'll physically recoil. They seem dated and needless when we have the technology of curling tongs, but there are two big reasons that is wrong. Firstly, for anyone with fine hair, a few heated rollers around the hairline and on top of the head can work wonders in the mornings while you're applying your makeup. Even if you don't have fine hair, they can fake the look of a blow-dry without the need for an inconvenient hair appointment.

Secondly, curly hair is back. And those long foam rollers can create a very impressive '80s curl without the damage of a heated tool.

Want to master the art and become a high (hair) roller? Yeah, us too, which is why we called on Tresemmé UK hair ambassador Aaron Carlo, Shelly Aguirre, Stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, and celebrity hairstylist and newly-minted YouTube millionaire Annagjid “Kee” Taylor to find out how to use hair rollers (because it's pretty much a lost art, thanks to curling irons).

Meet the Expert


Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about using hair rollers.

How to Use Foam Hair Rollers

"Long foam rollers were originally called Molton Browners—they're for tighter curls or tighter waves, depending on how they're wound. You can apply them to towel-dried hair and sleep in them—as the hair dries, the curl will set," explains Carlo.

"Foam rollers have a very easy design for clients to use on their own. The clip to secure them is attached to the roller so some clients will have an easier time. The bigger the roller, the bouncier the hair, the smaller the roller, the more tight the curls will be," adds Aguirre.

And if you'd like to try using foam hair rollers for yourself, Taylor gave us a step-by-step breakdown.

  1. Choose what size of foam rollers to use. This is an important step because the size of the roller will affect the size and shape of the curl.
  2. Section your hair into small parts. One for the top, one for each side and two sections in the back of your hair. Make sure to keep them separated by claw clips.
  3. Position your rollers either vertically or horizontally. The way in which you position your rolls will determine the type of curl.
  4. Start rolling the top section of your hair. The larger the section of hair, the looser the curl will be.
  5. Continue adding foam rollers to the rest of your hair. 
  6. Clasp the rollers on the bottom to prevent unsightly crimps or dents.  
  7. Foam rollers are soft and best to leave in over night and removed in the morning. Finish with an oil or serum to combat frizzy ends.

How to Use Velcro Hair Rollers

"Velcro rollers will give a gentle set to already blow-dried hair," explains Carlo. "Unless you apply heat with a hair dryer after they're in place, they won't actually change the hair texture."

Aguirre provided us with some additional tips. "Velcro rollers are ideal! They give you volume and lift, without too much curl. I recommend that you use Velcro rollers immediately in place of the round brush sections after you dry. Most clients would need the volume at the crown, so 5 or 6 rollers would do the trick! When using Velcro on clean dry hair, a little mousse will help maintain that volume. On day two (or three), use a light hairspray then comb the hair straight up with the roller and leave them in for as long as you can. I teach my clients to put the Velcro’s in then do their makeup. That gives the hair time to get the most lift. This should be done on dry hair.

Taylor gives us her step-by-step tutorial below:

  1. Prep your hair! Velcro rollers work on damp or dry hair, and you can decide which you want to start with. 
  2. Using a comb, make a four to six inch section at the top of your head. Begin making a 1 to 1 ½ inch part at the crown of your head of that section and begin to wind the hair in the roller forward, toward the forehead, complete for each section.
  3. Use a blow dryer on low heat setting for 5 minutes to speed up the process. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes to set before you unravel. 
  4. Depending on how long you want the style to last, set with a soft hold hairspray or mousse for extra stay power.

Carlo adds, ""Always roll your hair rollers away from the face, otherwise the hair will bounce forward and look old-fashioned."

How to Use Hot Hair Rollers

Hot rollers are a great option if you're looking for more defined curls that are big and bouncy. And the best part, you don't really have to worry about heat damage.

"I would say that hot rollers will give you more of a “set” look with big and bouncy curls, where as an iron can be used for a loose wave or tighter curl and everything in between, explains Aguirre. So if it’s a bouncy style you’re going after, I would recommend the hot roller set And you can also get more volume with a roller set, however, it might be too much for certain hair types. Most hot rollers are made of ceramic so there won’t be too much heat damage," she adds.

If big, bouncy curls are up your alley, then follow Taylor's handy step-by-step directions.

  1. Part your hair into sections. I like making a deep side part, since it will give your hair more volume than a center part.
  2. Be sure to protect your hair from the heat. Polish the ends with a heat protection serum first before applying the rollers. 
  3. Take the roll and start from the top and then wrap the hair around so the ends aren’t as tight as they would be if you started rolling from the bottom.
  4. All of the rollers should be placed vertically to create cascading curls.
  5. Leave the rollers in for 20 minutes and then gently loosen the curls with your fingers or wide tooth comb. Instead of locking it in with hairspray, finish the look with a dry texturizing spray for added movement. 

"If you're using heated rollers, which are preferable because they set the hair quicker, leave them to cool while you apply makeup," says Carlo.


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