Everything You Need To Know About Hot Rollers

Everything You Need To Know About Hot Rollers

If you’re a woman with flat, straight hair, you probably already know how hard it is to achieve those dreamy curls. While many opt for a curling iron, curling wand, or various other curling tools, the easiest way to get uniform and long-lasting curls is to use hot rollers.

Aside from offering incredible volume to your hair, hot rollers allow you to create a variety of soft and romantic hairstyles that are bound to suit virtually any event. From going to work to visiting a friend, and even attending a big event, curly hair is good for any occasion.

But, the classic curling tools have come a long way since the days when you watched your mother or grandmother walking around with a head full of pink or blue plastic. Now they come in a variety of shapes and forms.

Woman using hot rollers.

To help you fully understand the capabilities that hot rollers have to offer, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. In it, we’ll tell you what these inventions are and who invented them.

We’ll also tell you the difference between hair rollers, hair setters, curling irons, and hot rollers. Then, we’ll share the different types of hot rollers on the market today and tell you how these mechanisms work.

We’ll give you a step by step guide on how to use them, highlight the best way to use them if you have short hair, and share some of the most popular hairstyles achieved by using hot rollers. Lastly, we’ll tell you how to store and maintain your hot rollers.

So, without further ado, let’s get started:

What Are Hot Rollers?

While these tools have been around for decades, hot rollers are one of the least appreciated styling mechanism on the market today. The concept behind these styling tools has not changed a bit since its beginnings, however, the technology has.

Hot rollers are used to style a person’s hair. They come in the shape of a tube and are heated and then rolled into a person’s hair in order to create a specific hairstyle that is voluminous and more often than not, curly or wavy.

Woman using hot rollers.

These styling tools are not for use overnight. Instead, they work quickly by heating the hair into the position you’d like it to hold. Typically, they take anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour to work their magic.

Who Invented The Hot Roller?

Solomon Harper was the first man to invent hot rollers. While there is not a lot of information about him, as an African American man, he made a great impact on the black race.

He invented thermostatic controlled irons, hot rollers, and combs. He had his electrically-heated hair rollers patented in 1930, and then again in 1953 when he launched a better design.

The Difference Between Hair Rollers And Hot Rollers

A normal hair roller is a small tube that is rolled and secured into a person’s hair in order to produce curls. These can also be used to straighten a person’s hair. The diameter of these mechanisms varies according to the person’s hair.

Once hair rollers have been placed in the hair, the hair is heated with a hair dryer or any other device that can dry and set the hair into its curled position.

On the other hand, hot rollers, also known as hot curlers, are heated in a chamber and then set into the hair. As these cool, the hair keeps its curled form. While they offer similar results, hot rollers are easier and quicker to use.

While the main difference between these two styling tools is the heat, hot rollers also don’t require you leave them in overnight. Instead they take a matter of minutes to work their magic. 

Hair Setters Vs. Hot Rollers

While hair setters and hot rollers are often used interchangeably, these styling tools do have some significant differences. The most dramatic difference is the methods by which both these devices work.

Often hair setters use steam to set the hair whereas hot rollers use direct heat. Other specifics that make the two tools different include clips and finishes, making them slightly different to use. That being said, they offer the same end result of curling hair.

Curling Iron Vs. Hot Rollers

On the other hand, curling irons and hot rollers are very different. While they again offer similar styling results, the mechanisms are very different to use. Aside from the fact that you have to give curling irons your undivided attention, you’re also limited to one size and style of curl.

Curling iron.

With hot rollers, on the other hand, you can place them in your hair and leave them there while you get on with jobs around the house. They also often come with different sized rollers meaning that you can choose what hairstyle you want each time.

Typically, hot rollers are safer than curling irons as you’re less likely to burn your ears, neck, and scalp. Also, hot rollers are designed to be cool enough to touch, unlike curling irons which will burn you as soon as they come into contact with your skin.

The Different Types Of Hot Rollers And Hair Setters

While hot rollers and hair setters offer very similar results, there are different types that offer different finishes. Some hot rollers also have less of a detrimental effect on your hair. Here are the most common types of hot rollers and hair setters:

Ceramic Hot Rollers

Ceramic hot rollers have a ceramic core that lock in the style and seal the cuticles by using ions and far-infrared heat. These allow you to benefit from a shiny finish while also eliminating any frizzing. These hot rollers are particularly good for hair that is damaged or not in good condition.

Hard Plastic Rollers

Hard plastic rollers are typically cheaper than other types available and come in different forms. The most popular is the plastic mesh type. These are normally more like setters as they do not use heat to dry the hair.

The mesh material allows the hair to dry quickly so they are best used on wet hair. They leave you with a smooth and beautiful curl.

Nano-Titanium Hot Rollers

Nano-titanium rollers typically use ceramic to produce far-infrared heat to avoid damaging the hair. One of the biggest benefits of using nano-titanium hot rollers is that you won’t have to use hairspray to keep your curls. These tools are known for offering amazing and silky curls.

Ion Hot Rollers

Ion hot rollers are also ceramic infused. The ionic technology used the heat the hot rollers allows them to better lock in the curls. Also, this technology is awesome for hydrating the hair, thus leaving you with more shine and moisture.

How Do Hot Rollers Work?

Hot rollers use a combination of heat and moisture to lock the hair into a specific voluminous and curled position. The heat works to keep the hair in the right position without the use of chemicals, and typically leaves you with tighter curls than hair setters.

Woman using a hot roller.

The moisture is used to not only add volume to the hair but also keep it healthy as other heat-based hair styling tools tend to damage the hair by drying it out. The use of heat and moisture offers very quick results that last much longer than with traditional tools.

A Step-By-Step Guide To Using Hot Rollers

When it comes to using hot rollers, there are a few things you will need. These include sectioning clips, a comb, a brush, and your hot rollers. Once you have all these tools, you can get started. Here is a step-by-step guide:

1- Choose The Right Size Rollers

As we mentioned before, hot rollers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which offer different styling results. Generally speaking, the smaller the barrel of the roller, the smaller your curls will be. The size you choose will completely depend on your individual preferences.

2- Wash And Prep Your Hair

Before you prep your hair, be sure to wash and fully dry it. While we recommend you air dry your hair, you can use a hair dryer if you do not have the time to let it dry naturally.

Also, we suggest you invest in a heat protection spray when using hot rollers in order to not damage your hair. Some models come with special far-infrared and ionic technology allowing the roller to moisturize your hair while also heating it into your desired position.

3- Warm Up Your Rollers

Once you have chosen the right size roller for your hairdo, plug in your hot rollers and give them a good fifteen minutes to fully heat.

Once again, there are some more advanced devices that can heat up the rollers in less than five minutes. You can find out more by reading your manufacturer’s instructions.

4- Section Your Hair

To use your hot rollers efficiently, divide your hair into manageable sections. To do so, use your comb and divide your hair into three sections, one on the left, one on the right, and one at the back. Start from the front of your head to the nape of your neck.

5- Use Your Rollers

Before you use your first hot roller, make sure that you start at the front of your head. Some believe that the back will be harder and therefore start there. While this is true, the hair from the front gets in the way making the whole process longer and more tiresome.

We recommend you choose your first section and spray hairspray into it so that you can be sure your curl will keep its form for longer. This will also stop it from frizzing. It is worth noting that the placement of the rollers will have a serious impact on the type of curl you produce.

Using Hot Rollers

For example, if you want bountiful curls, you must place the roller under your section of hair and then wrap the ends around the barrel. Roll your roller backward towards your head and secure it tightly in place.

If you have longer hair and would like curls that drop to the tips, place the rollers at the tips of your hair roll them up towards your head. By leaving them slightly loser, you’ll allow the weight of the rollers to hang towards the tips of your hair.

6- Roll The Sides

While the process of attaching rollers is the same on the sides as on the front and the back, the direction you choose will make a difference to the hairstyle you end up with. Horizontal rolls will add extra volume to your hair whereas vertical rolls will leave you with looser curls.

Also, note that you can mix up your rollers from small to medium and large depending on your preferred outcome.

7- Let Your Rollers Cool In Place

Once you’ve placed all your rollers in your hair, you must allow them to cool in place for a minimum time of 30 minutes. If you remove the rollers before they have fully cooled, you may end up with flat hair or curls that do not keep their shape for very long.

8- Remove Your Heated Rollers And Set Your Hair

Once your rollers have cooled, remove them one by one. Once all of them have been removed, run your fingers through your hair gently.

This will leave you with a more natural look. You can use a hairbrush and brush each curl individually to get a more glamorous look. Last but not least, set your curls by giving them a final spritz of hairspray.

Using Hot Rollers On Short Hair

When it comes to using hot rollers on shorter hair, the process is very much the same. The key difference is the size of the rollers you use.

Because with shorter hair you need to add a lot more volume to achieve the desired effect, tighter curls, and therefore, smaller rollers are necessary.

While the size of the rollers do differ, you must still go through the prep side of things.

This means washing your hair, adding the adequate heat protection spray, and drying it before getting started.

Lastly, make sure that you divide your hair as you would with longer hair.

This part is a little more difficult and you may need to divide your hair into smaller sections. Aside from being easier to work with, smaller sections will leave you with tighter curls.

Short hair hot rollers.

Once your rollers are heated and you’ve rolled them on into your hair, it’s just a matter of waiting for them to cool completely and you’ll be ready to style your hair according to your individual preferences.

The Most Popular Hairstyles Achieved Using Hot Rollers

Hot rollers are notorious for leaving you with beautiful, tight curls. That said, they’re also famous for achieving a variety of hairstyles not seen with other styling tools. Here are five of the most amazing hairdos you can get by using hot rollers:

1- Big Curls

Hot rollers can help you achieve a classic big curl look. This is especially nice for people with longer hair. Hot rollers give big volume waves which are great for all occasions.

Whether you’re getting ready for a party, going to a work meeting, or getting married, big curls can add a level of class to your event.

To achieve this look, make sure that the hair is completely dry before using the rollers. You should also apply hairspray once you take off the rollers.

2- Big Updo

While similar to the big curl look mentioned above, this updo adds an extra level of volume to your hairdo, perfect if you want to use accessories. To achieve this look, spray your hair with hairspray before wrapping it from root to tip around a hot roller.

Once the hot rollers are cool and you’ve removed them, gather all your hair to the center of your head and secure all of it with bobby pins rather than a hair band so that your hair doesn’t lose its shape or volume.

3- Sleek Waves

To achieve sleek waves, the only option is to use hot rollers. Using curling irons to achieve these results often leads to loose waves with awkward kinks in them. Start by rolling from the tips of your hair to the mid section of each strand.

Once the rollers have set and cooled, remove them one by one very gently. Then, spray each curl with hairspray and brush them individually to keep their shape.

4- Playful Curls

If you want to add a little fun to your hairstyling, you could play around with different sized rollers. The best way to achieve prominent results is to apply styling cream to your hair before blow drying it.

The trick to getting a really playful look out of this technique is to mix and match the size of the hot rollers.

Make sure they are completely random so that your hairdo doesn’t come out looking too perfect.

Once your rollers are cool, you can choose how tight you want your curls to be. If you want a more outlandish look, leave them tight.

 If you want to go a bit more formal and elegant, brush through them individually so they’re not as tight.

Playful Curls.

5- Ringlets

Ringlets are a bold option for many, but they are very fun, and very individual. To achieve this look, you must add a lot of hairspray to your hair before using the hot rollers. This will allow the curl to keep a tight form as they set.

One of the most important parts to remember if you want ringlets is to use the smallest rollers you can find. You must also divide your hair into a lot of small sections. The more small sections you make, the tighter and more apparent your ringlets will be.

Maintaining ​And Storing Your Hot Rollers

While there isn’t much maintenance to do when it comes to your hot rollers, there are a few tips and tricks to ensure that they stick with you for the foreseeable future.

Cleaning Your Hot Rollers

We recommend you clean your hot rollers after every use, especially if you apply hair products to your hair before putting in your rollers. In order to do so, you must ensure that your styling tool is completely unplugged and cooled.

When it comes to the outside of the unit, all you have to do is wipe it down with a damp cloth. Do not use any harsh cleaning products as this could ruin your roller set in the long run.

To clean your rollers, you can either use a damp cloth or a cloth with a mild or natural detergent.[2] Before you store your hot rollers, you should wipe them completely dry or let them air dry. If you don’t, you may find that they eventually deteriorate.

Storing Your Hot Rollers

When it comes to storing your hot rollers, you must unplug your unit once you have finished using it. By forgetting, you’ll create a dangerous fire hazard in your home.

Once you have wiped clean your rollers and dried them thoroughly, place them in their storage unit. Place them in their intended position- this is normally upright and straight. Make sure to not touch the heating plate as this could still be hot.

If your unit is still hot, we recommend you leave it to cool. Once it is cool, secure the storage case with a strap or a strong elastic band. Some models come with special cases, clips, or zips that allow them to stay intact if dropped.

Hot rollers.

Last but not least, store your hot rollers away from children or anyone who would be tempted to use them without your permission. Ensure that this place is dry in order to avoid any unnecessary wear and tear.


Hot rollers are exceptional stylish accessories. They allow you to create a huge variety of hairdos no matter what length or type of hair you have. Better yet, there are some affordable models now available that offer the same results as more expensive ones on the market.

To find out more about hot rollers and some of the best products available today, check out our buying guide. In it, we’ve shared some information on features you should pay attention to as well as highlighted five of the best models available at the moment.