Ahem, I Tried These Hot Rollers and They Made My Hair Bouncy AF
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As someone who frequents the hair salon ~every six months and winces when an inch gets trimmed off, I think it's safe to say that long hair is in my foreseeable future. And as much as I love having long, thick hair, I don't love how hard it can be to style and create volume and, ahem, maintain that volume and style throughout the day. That is until I discovered hot rollers and, most importantly, how to use hot rollers on long hair.
Hot rollers are the quickest, easiest tool for creating smooth, bouncy, and soft curls that are both voluminous and long-lasting. And because I know they require a bit of a learning curve to master, I personally tested and reviewed hot rollers on myself, chatted with hairstylist Andrés Melendez, and gathered tips from hairstylists Tippi Shorter, Joseph Maine, and Eric Vaughn to find the best hot rollers on the market and show you exactly how to use them on your long hair, whether yours is straight, wavy, or curly. First, a sneak peek at the hot rollers that made the list...
Now keep reading for all the tricks and tips from professional hairstylists below—according to my own testing and product reviewers—and exactly which hot rollers will give you that voluminous, bouncy, '90s-supermodel-inspired look.
STEPS FOR HOW TO USE HOT ROLLERS ON LONG HAIR
Step 1: Start with dry, smooth hair
Ideally, to get the best results from hot rollers, you need to begin with clean, dry hair that's on the straighter side. So if you're someone who has curly hair, you will need to blow out your hair first. If you’re working with type-3 or type-4 hair, you’ll need to first prep your hair by cleansing and conditioning it and then adding a lightweight leave-in conditioner—anything too heavy will weigh your blowout down. Then, the most important step is to seal in all that moisture with a heat-protecting serum or oil. Finally, blow out your curly hair.
Step 2: Section off your hair
Use the arch of your eyebrows as a guide to section off a strip of hair on the top of your head with a tail comb, explains hairstylist Andrés Melendez. This strip should begin at the top-front of your hair and extend to the top-back of your hair, and it will be the first area that you roll. Use a hair clip to secure it up and away from the rest of your hair. Next, depending on how thick your hair is, section the rest of your hair (i.e., the back and sides) in quadrants and secure each section. Peep this video for a visual using the T3 Hot Rollers:
Step 3: Begin rolling your hair
"The way your hair is set is the way that it is going to flow," hairstylist Tippi Shorter has told Cosmo. Beginning with the section at the crown of your head, roll your hair under the roller, that way you will get more volume and body, she explained. You should feel a bit of tension at the root of your hair, Melendez says.
If you have bangs, figuring out how to roll them so they are styled correctly can be tricky. As a rule of thumb, if your bangs are on the longer end, you'll want to roll them over the roller. If your bangs are on the shorter end, you'll want to roll them under the curler. Confused? Check out this video tutorial from YouTuber @sallykim7.
Step 4: Leave the rollers to set
To ensure your hair maintains its shape all day long, do not take the curlers out prematurely. This is the most common mistake people make, and it's the difference between hair that falls flat and hair that holds its shape. "Leave the rollers in for a minimum of 20 minutes, and a maximum of 60 minutes," says Melendez, adding that the hair should be cool to the touch before removing the rollers, as that's an indicator that the hair is properly set.
Step 5: Style and add finishing products
Comb through your hair with your fingers, playing with it so it lays right. At this point, you may notice some kinks from the hot roller clips if you're new to hot rolling—this still happens to me. If time permits and I'm not running out the door, this is where I'll go in with my straightening iron and fix any little kinks or areas that didn't set quite right. Once your hair is in a position you're happy with, spray it with hairspray, a texturizing product, or if you have type-3 curls or type-4 hair, add some hair oil to bring back some moisture.
Best hot rollers for long hair in 2023:
I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for inexpensive beauty products, but there are some things that are just worth the investment, and these T3 hot rollers are absolutely one of those products. Though they're the most expensive option on the list, I can confidently say that no other hot roller has made my hair as bouncy and voluminous as these have, as quickly or as easily.
The velvet coating around each barrel ensures my hair doesn't snag, the cool-touch grip prevents me from burning my fingers, and the super (!) quick heat-up process allows me to style my hair even when I'm in a rush. Plus, the sleek design and included case are super easy and compact to travel with.
THE REVIEW: "These are the best rollers!" one tester notes. "I have been using these for years; I have long, thick hair and I don’t have the patience to use a curling iron. They heat up quickly, and the curls are nice and wavy or tighter, depending on how you choose to style."
Associate editor, Hanna Flanagan wrote a love letter about these Remington hot rollers, making them both Cosmo-approved and a vetted option for long hair. "This Remington kit comes with 20 hot rollers—12 large 1.25-inch barrels; eight medium 1-inch barrels—and they take just 90 seconds to heat up. It also includes 20 handy-dandy claw clips, designed to securely set each roller in place and prevent creasing," she says. Hanna notes that even though she's not a ~pro~ when it comes to styling her long hair, these hot rollers were way easier to use than a curling iron or a round brush, and gave her "stunning" results.
THE REVIEW: "The Remington Hot Rollers are actually that good and totally worth more hype, writes Cosmo editor, Hanna Flanagan. "I’ll continue to use them because the process is quick and simple, and the results are voluminous and long-lasting."
Looking for '90s-supermodel-esque voluminous, bouncy hair? Get yourself some jumbo hot rollers like this set from Conair. "Use rollers that are on the larger side in order to achieve a bouncy blowout," hairstylist Joseph Maine has told Cosmo. "The larger they are, the more smoothing they're going to be." This set includes 12 hot rollers, all 1.5 inches in diameter, so you can get great volume throughout your whole head of hair.
THE REVIEW: "If, like me, you prefer larger rollers and often don't use the medium and small rollers included in other sets, then this is the hair tool for you!" writes one tester. "This set smoothes out my natural waves and gives my hair body and shape."
Hairstylist Eric Vaughn has told Cosmo that steam rollers are "very similar to hot rollers, but use a different heat source." Vaughn also noted that steam rollers typically tend to be a gentler heat source for the hair. Due to moisture provided by the steam, these rollers are a great option for those with dry, damaged, and/or tightly coiled hair.
If you have type-4 hair, make sure your hair is stretched beforehand, and apply a hair oil or serum to lock in the moisture after styling. Pro tip: When heating up the steam roller one by one, ensure each roller only heats up for 10 to 15 seconds, otherwise, the foam may become too wet from the steam, and you may not get your desired results. For an in-depth tutorial, check out Curly Calynna's YouTube video.
THE REVIEW: "These steam rollers work on natural 4c coarse hair; I used them on my dry hair and on my synthetic hair," one tester writes. "The steam doesn't straighten [coily or curly] hair, but it does make it softer and fluffier—plus, it gives nice volume and texture."
If the vibe you're going for is more of a defined curl moment rather than soft and bouncy, you need to use smaller hot rollers. "The smaller the [rollers] are, the more curl they're going to leave in your hair," Maine has told Cosmo. Each hot roller in this set of nine is 1 inch in diameter, making them small enough to create a defined curl.
The sleek platform design only heats the rollers, meaning your fingers won't get burned every time you reach for a roller. They take two to three minutes to reach the set temperature—as indicated by the LED light—and will hold the heat for 15 minutes once they're in your hair.
THE REVIEW: "I have long, thick hair and have used rollers for the better part of my life," one tester notes. "To get spiral/beach wavy curls, I twist the rollers when I take them out. They work fantastic—if you have thick hair, I highly recommend them."
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How do you prepare your hair for hot rollers?
To help mitigate damage, always spritz on a heat protectant first and prep your hair with moisturizing formulas to keep it from drying out as easily from the heat. Depending on your hair type, you'll want to prep with products accordingly. Here's a rule of thumb:
For straighter hair types: Spritz a lightweight or volumizing heat protectant (try Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil or Amika Brooklyn Bombshell Blowout Spray) through damp hair to protect your hair from heat styling without weighing it down. If your hair can’t hold a curl, rake a volumizing mousse (I love Oribe Grandiose or Herbal Essences Volumizing Hair Mousse) through your damp hair before rough-drying your hair (for texture) or blow-drying it straight (for smoother hot-roller curls).
For curlier hair types: After cleansing and conditioning your hair (and detangling it with a wide-tooth comb or a gentle brush during the conditioning process), work a leave-in conditioner (try: Shea Moisture Black Castor Oil Leave-In or Adwoa Melonberry Hair Milk) through your hair while it's still wet, and seal the moisture in with a heat protectant oil or serum (try: TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer or Design Essentials Protectant Serum). Blow-out your hair per usual, and once dry, go ahead and smooth on a lightweight hair serum (try: Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum) to seal the moisture in and get a smoother result before heat styling again with the hot rollers.
Are hot rollers better for your hair than a curling iron?
Hot rollers aren't necessarily better for your hair than curling irons—there are pros and cons to each, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Curling irons typically reach a higher temperature, making them more likely to cause damage via heat. However, although hot rollers don't reach as high of temps, they're still a form of heat styling and can also cause breakage due to the actual rolling process. To help mitigate damage, always spritz on a heat protectant first and prep your hair with moisturizing formulas to keep it from drying out as easily from the heat.
Meet the experts:
Andrés Melendez is a colorist at Whip Salon in Westport, CT, and at the Benjamin Salon in New York, NY. Melendez splits his time accommodating clientele along the East Coast, NY, CT, and FL.
Tippi Shorter is a celebrity hairstylist, the Mizani global artistic director, and curl pro. Her clients have included Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, and more. Shorter contributed to Cosmo in the past regarding how to use hair rollers if you have curly hair.
Joseph Maine is a celebrity stylist, the artistic director of Color Wow Hair, and the founder of Trademark Beauty. Maine accommodates clientele in both Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY. I spoke to Maine previously about velcro hair rollers.
Eric Vaughn is a hairstylist based in Houston, TX, owner of REV Hair Salon, and master artistic educator. Vaughn contributed to Cosmo recently about the best way to use hair rollers.
Why trust Cosmopolitan?
Siena Gagliano is the associate editor at Cosmopolitan who writes beauty and has three years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news. She’s an expert at researching and writing hair stories, like the best hair dryer brushes and the top velcro hair rollers, and feels especially knowledgeable in hot rollers for long hair thanks to having long, dense hair that takes a particularly long time to dry and style. She regularly tests and analyzes hot rollers on her own long hair for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top hairstylists to assess new products and brands.
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