mom and daughter smiling with hair rollers

Hair Rollers Are Back—Here’s How to Use Them for a Bouncy Blowout

Your grandma's favorite styling tools are popular again, and they're an easy, damage-free way to create gorgeous styles at home.
By Jennifer Aldrich
April 02, 2021
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Opening family photo albums and looking at old pictures of loved ones is a fun and nostalgic experience. In these images, your grandma (or great-grandma, depending on your age) is probably rocking some perfectly coiffed curls thanks to her hair rollers. The American inventor Solomon Harper created the first electrically heated rollers in 1930, right in the middle of the Great Depression, according to Conair. In 1953, Harper updated his design to create better, longer-lasting curls, and women around the world have been creating effortless looks ever since.

Over the years as new hair technology has become available, many people resort to using a curling iron or even a flat iron to curl their hair. (I've been using both of these tools for the past decade for my own hairstyles.) But recently, I've seen a few social media users and influencers, like hair guru Lilly van Brooklyn, show off super bouncy curls thanks to the humble hair roller. I was thrilled to see the return of rollers because I'm not new to curlers. My grandma used brush rollers to curl her hair, my mom puts in velcro versions every day, and I use heated ones to style my strands. (Shoutout to my mom, who started me early with sponge rollers at age three and then heated ones a few years later.)

The Best Hair Rollers for Gorgeous Styles

"I personally love using rollers; they are some of my favorite styling tools," says celebrity hairstylist Nai'vasha, founder and CEO of Curl Queen. "There are many different types of roller," she explains, and some of the most popular are: hot rollers, hook and loop rollers, flexi rods, and foam rollers. Before you get rolling, Nai'vasha recommends prepping your tresses. "It sets the tone and base for the final look," she says. Nai'vasha likes to use the Curl Queen Glove ($48, Curl Queen) to make her hair "smooth and manageable." If you have fine, flat hair, spritz some texturizing spray, like the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray ($48, Sephora) for some volume. "Then, I begin sectioning and rolling the hair in my desired style," Nai'vasha adds. After you take your rollers out, use a wide-tooth comb ($1, Sally Beauty) and some hairspray, such as the Living Proof Style Lab Flex Hairspray ($27, Sephora) to finish the look.

To help you with your at-home blowouts (that cost a fraction of what you pay for at the salon) here are different kinds of hair rollers to add to your styling tool collection.

hot rollers
Credit: Courtesy of T3

The Best Heat Hair Rollers

My personal favorite (and one of Nai'vasha's top picks) is heated rollers. "Hot rollers are preheated hard rollers with a fabric outer layer," she explains. "These are typically used during session styling for volume and quick styles." These rollers by T3 feature HeatCore technology that makes the rollers heat up quickly and then transfers the warmth evenly to your strands. Each package comes with four 1 ½-inch rollers, four 1 ¾-inch rollers, and eight crease-free clips. "They give me so much volume, shine, and play," Nai'vasha says. 

Buy It: T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers Luxe ($119, Ulta)

velcro hair rollers
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

The Best Hook and Loop Hair Rollers

"[These] rollers are thin almond-shaped fabric with a [hook and loop] closure," Nai'vasha's says. "These are typically used for dry styling and dry setting for a more billowy effect." There are a few ways you can style your hair with these self-grip ones. You can either use a curling iron or a wand first and then wrap each curl in one of the High Tops. Or, you can just use them in non-heat-treated hair. Make sure to be careful when you take them out (do not rip them out!), so you don't cause any damage.

Buy It: Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers ($10, Sephora)

flexi rods
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

The Best Flexi Hair Rods

"My personal favorite for everyday usage is the flexi rod," Nai'vasha says. "My hair is super thick and curly, so these tend to lend more styling options for my lifestyle." Nai'vasha notes that these rods come in different styles and sizes and are often used for perms. This pack contains 42, 7-inch rods in seven different widths to create various curls. One 5-star buyer writes that they "can't believe" they waited so long to purchase these rods. "These curlers are incredibly easy to use and they give you gorgeous curls that last for days."

Buy It: Tifara Beauty Flexible Curling Rods ($13, Amazon)

foam hair rollers
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

The Best Foam Hair Rollers

I still remember my mom setting my hair in these sponge-like options before I went to bed as a child. For looser waves, use the thicker rollers in dry hair, and for tighter coils, use the thinner ones with damp strands. These colorful ones from Conair come in a package of 48 in four widths. A pleased 5-star purchaser notes that they're "perfect for little girls." 

Buy It: Conair Foam Rollers ($11, Walmart)