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Hot rollers bring together the best parts of a curling iron and a non-heated roller set. You get that big bouncy curl, and you don’t end up with sore arms or the crick in your neck from holding up a curling tong. “When I think hot rollers, I think Hollywood glamour or goddess,” says Greg Ruggeri, stylist and founder of Salon Ruggeri. “One of the main advantages of hot rollers over other styling devices, such as a round brush or curling iron, is that they can create curls and waves that last longer,” says Maria Elizabeth, founder of Salon deZen. Hot rollers heat hair from the inside out, setting the curl more firmly. “This means that the style can last for days,” Elizabeth adds, “without needing touch-ups.” No matter your hair type, there’s a set of hot rollers for you — but to get the best results, you’ll want to blow out and smooth curly hair before use, says Siobhan Benson, a stylist at CutLoose. Stretching natural, detangled hair before applying a lightweight serum should work, too, if you’re avoiding heat.
They might seem intimidating, so we’ve found a selection of the best sets of hot rollers whether you’re a professional, a beginner, or someone who has dabbled on and off for years. If you know which type of rollers you’re looking for, use the handy links below to jump straight to that section. Otherwise, read on for seven recommendations from nine experts who style with hot rollers both at work and at home.
What we’re looking for
Fairly self-explanatory but important: You’ll want to wait only so long for your rollers to reach the right temperature. We’ve outlined each set’s heating time — chances are that the less time they take to heat up, the more convenient you’ll find them. But some materials take a little longer to heat up and leave you with a lasting curl.
A hot roller’s barrel size will better suit certain hair lengths. Larger barrels — over two inches, generally — will work better on longer hair, and vice versa for shorter hair. We have a couple of separate picks tailored to hair length but have noted throughout which sets would typically best curl a particular length. In many cases, a mixture of barrel lengths makes the set suitable for all hair types as well.
Best hot rollers overall
Heat-up time: Two minutes | Hair-length suitability: All hair lengths
These rollers from T3 were recommended by three stylists and by Marcia Rhodes, who has used hot rollers at home for a decade. “I have fine, limp hair and find that hot rollers are the best way to add volume that lasts all day,” she says. After trying several brands, she keeps coming back to T3. Both Lauren Kunijo, stylist and co-owner of Kenna Kunijo salon, and Ruggeri say the T3s are really user-friendly. “Simply turn them on and let them sit for a moment. If you are a bit nervous to use them, take them out when the roller is warm to the touch,” says Ruggeri. With natural and textured hair, it’s easier to wind up to the scalp from the ends of dry, detangled, and sectioned hair. For other hair textures, you can either wind up or wrap your hair around the roller, securing it with a clip or a pin. “Let the rollers cool down for about ten minutes, and there you have it,” Ruggeri says.
Best less expensive hot rollers
Heat-up time: One minute | Hair-length suitability: All hair lengths
Andrew Fitzsimons, a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with Madonna and the Kardashians, often uses this less expensive set. The rollers’s titanium plates heat up quickly, and the three barrel sizes offer styling versatility. “With them, you can achieve a standard blowout, beach waves, tight curls, or big ringlets depending on the size of the curlers you use,” he says.
Best hot rollers for beginners
Heat-up time: 75 seconds | Hair-length suitability: All hair lengths
Caleb Backe, a hair expert at Maple Holistics, and Ghanima Abdullah, stylist and beauty consultant at the Right Hairstyles, say that most people initially struggle to get the hang of hot rollers. “There is a learning curve when you’re first starting out,” Abdullah says. For that reason, Fitzsimons also recommends these Conair rollers for first-time users. A plastic cap at either end of each roller protects your fingertips from getting singed. You may need a bit of time and patience to set each roller in place with the clips. And though having 20 rollers in the set may seem like overkill, the variety of sizes will help you try out different looks. “Once you get comfortable with using hot rollers, your options are really limitless,” Fitzsimons adds.
Best hot rollers for professionals
Heat-up time: Three minutes | Hair-length suitability: All hair lengths
Two of our stylists recommended these hot rollers for a professional to keep in their kit. Like the Conair rollers, “this set comes with differently sized rollers so that a stylist can easily use them on short, medium-length, or long hair,” says Abdullah. They heat up fast, and evenly, since they’re made of titanium and ceramic. As a result, Abdullah says, “they hold the heat better and consistently create great curls on different heads of hair.” Elizabeth of Salon deZen agrees and says that the different barrel lengths give you the flexibility to style almost any client.
Best for thin hair
Heat-up time: Two minutes | Hair-length suitability: Short hair
“This set has five rollers, which makes it just enough to style thin hair,” says Abdullah. “The rollers are pretty large, at 1.5 inches, so they’re big enough to create current styles with loose curls.” Abdullah also notes that the set’s compact size makes it a solid option for travel (and at under $30, you can’t really argue with the price).
Best hot rollers for short hair
Heat-up time: Two minutes | Hair-length suitability: Short hair
Thanks to the slimline shape, this nine-roller set is a great choice if you have short hair (or, alternatively, if you’re trying to give your longer hair tighter curls). “I’ve been experimenting with a few different hot-roller sets for years now, and these are my secret recipe when I want to create a soft, voluminous, and effortless-looking hairstyle,” says Yvey Valcin, founder and master stylist at Yvey salon.
Best for thick or long hair
Heat-up time: 85 seconds | Hair-length suitability: Long hair
Most personal hot-roller sets contain five barrels, Abdullah says, but this one from Conair goes up to eight to allow for thicker and longer hair: “These are two-inch rollers, so they will still create loose curls on long hair.” Abdullah explains that the flocked nature of the rollers (their velvety coating) allows the hair to be locked in, and that leads to longer-lasting curls.
• Ghanima Abdullah, stylist and beauty consultant at the Right Hairstyles
• Caleb Backe, hair expert at Maple Holistics
• Siobhan Benson, stylist at CutLoose
• Maria Elizabeth, stylist and founder of Salon deZen
• Andrew Fitzsimons, celebrity hairstylist
• Lauren Kunijo, stylist and co-owner of Kenna Kunijo
• Marcia Rhodes, VP at Amendola Communications
• Greg Ruggeri, stylist and founder of Salon Ruggeri
• Yvey Valcin, founder and master stylist at Yvey
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