How to Use Hot Rollers to Create 4 Different Hairstyles, Including a Blowout and Beach Waves

These nostalgic hot tools have officially made a comeback. Here, several stylists explain how to use them to get these popular, volume-boosting looks.

Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

As a child, you likely watched your mom or grandmother using hot rollers to achieve more volume or re-create a look they saw on the red carpet. Now, the hair tools have made their way back into the mainstream, and thus into your beauty cabinet. But, despite being extremely popular, rollers can be daunting to use. What size is best for you? What direction do you roll them in? Where on your head should you place them?

While these questions are all valid, using hot rollers doesn't have to be a high maintenance task—in fact, they're designed not to be. "Hot rollers offer us the opportunity to get voluminous curls in such an effortless way," says Brittany Secrest, an Irresistible Me Hairstylist Partner and the owner of Hair Daze Salon in San Diego, Calif. "Who wouldn't want to be able to curl their hair while doing their makeup or other tasks? It's so simple, yet it looks so chic and unique."

In addition to being great for multitasking, hot rollers also affords you the opportunity to try out different styles. From a blowout and beach waves to tight curls and big ringlets, the looks you can achieve with hot rollers are endless—once you know how to wield them, that is.

How to Set Up Your Rollers

Like a curling iron or hair straightener, hot rollers require very little maintenance to set up. "The best thing about hot rollers is the ease. You plug them in and within a few minutes, they are ready to use," says Jamie Wiley, Global Artistic Director at Pureology.

Most sets have a light indicator that will let you know when the rollers are ready to use (they typically take about two to three minutes to warm up), but be sure to reference the manufacturer's recommendations first, as every product is a little different. "Place them back in their case when finished. It's that simple," Wiley says.

curlers sectioning
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How to Section Your Hair

Sectioning your hair correctly will make the entire process of styling your hair with hot rollers easier and more organized. "General rule of thumb: Make sure the sections you are taking are the same width as the rollers you are using," says Secrest. After making each section, secure the hair in place with a clip until you're ready to roll.

  1. Make a section at the top of your head in a rectangle form, like a mohawk. The section should start at your hairline and travel back just below the crown of your head.
  2. Then make another section on the left and right sides of your head, from the mohawk down to the ear.
  3. The final section is dedicated to the hair at the back of your head; this was left out when sectioning the top and sides of your hair.
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How to Use Hot Rollers for a Blowout

Giving yourself a salon-quality blowout at home is easier than it seems, especially if you have hot rollers in your arsenal. Wiley recommends starting with the mohawk section of your hair first, as this is what sits over everything and what you see the most. "Setting this first will allow the top to process longer, creating a stronger curl and ultimate hold later on," she says.

Rolling the Top Section of Hair

  1. On clean, dry hair, use a rat tail comb to create a part that runs parallel to your hairline and is 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.
  2. Starting at the bottom of your hair where the ends are, place the largest sized roller on top of the hair and roll it backwards away from your face until it's about 2 centimeters from your scalp.
  3. "Repeat this process until you can fit two to three rollers within your crown area, depending on the dimensions of your head," says celebrity hairstylist LeAna Mcknight, the founder of SL Raw Virgin Hair and owner of Stylist Lee Hair Studio in Hollywood, Calif.

Rolling the Back Section of Hair

  1. Now, move on to the back section of your head, just below the crown. Taking about 2 inches of hair at a time, place the rollers underneath your hair at the ends and roll toward the nape of your neck. There should be about two more large rollers placed here.
  2. At the very nape of your neck, split the remaining hair into two sections—the left side and right side of your nape. Using one small to medium-sized roller on each side, place the roller underneath your hair at the end and roll each section of hair down toward the nape of your neck. Secure each roller in place with a clamp.

Rolling the Side Sections of Hair

  1. Finish with the left and right sides of your head. Section each side into two smaller sections, parting the hair diagonally. Using two small to medium-sized rollers on each side, place the rollers under and roll downwards away from your face.
  2. Secure all the rollers with a clamp and let them sit for 25 to 30 minutes before removing.
ring curls
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How to Use Hot Rollers for Big Ringlets

According to Secrest, hot rollers were made for big ringlet curls. Start by sectioning your hair as you did above, then follow the same step-by-step process outlined for achieving a blowout look. Use the largest rollers in your set around your entire head, taking up 2 to 4 inches of hair as you go.

The only difference between this look and the blowout (besides hot roller size) is that instead of rolling the hair at the nape of your neck into two separate, medium-sized rollers, you should roll those strands into just one large roller. McKnight says to spray each section with holding spray before applying the other rollers to your hair.

Secure each piece in place with a clamp. "Once complete, let rollers sit for 20 to 25 mins and then remove the hot curlers gently, allowing ringlets to drop," says McKnight.

Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How to Use Hot Rollers for Beach Waves

To achieve beautiful, loose waves, McKnight says you'll need to decrease your roller size. "For example, if you normally use a large-sized roller of 1 3/4 inches you'll need to step down to a medium sized roller of 1 1/2 inches," she says.

Rolling the Top Section of Hair

  1. Starting on clean, dry hair, section your hair following the steps outlined above. Use a rat tail comb to part the mohawk section of your hair down the middle.
  2. Take a small section from the area closest to your central parting. Starting at approximately the halfway point of your hair shaft, McKnight says to begin wrapping hair around the hot roller in the same way you would if using a wand curler.
  3. Once you've wrapped the hair strand around the roller and reached your ends, begin rolling the roller downward away from your face as you go.
  4. Repeat on both sides of your part until the top section of your hair is completely rolled.

Rolling the Side Sections of Hair

  1. Repeat the steps outlined for rolling the top section of hair on both the left and right sides of your head.

Rolling the Back Section of Hair

  1. Finally, move on to the back section of hair. Without parting your hair, take a small section of hair at a time and roll it the same way you did in the previous sections.
  2. Secure all the rollers with a clamp and let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes and then gently remove.
tight curls
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

How to Use Hot Rollers for Tight Curls

To achieve tight curls, you'll want to use the smallest rollers available in your set. McKnight recommends using 0.75 inch to 1-inch sized rollers.

For this look, Secrest says to repeat the steps you followed for beach waves, but with smaller rollers and smaller sections of hair—taking up about 1 or 2 inches at a time. Secure all the rollers with a clamp and allow them to sit for 30 to 35 minutes.

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