10 Types of Hair Rollers and How to Use Them

Everyone loves a good curl, but for many of us (especially those of us with naturally straight or short hair), figuring out how to tweak our hair into a lovely, full-bodied look may be a bit overwhelming. It is hard to know where to start getting that curly hairstyle of your dreams as there are many options when it comes to hair rollers.

Fortunately, whether you have long hair, medium-length hair, or short hair, creating beautiful curls is something possible for every curl lover to learn. There is something for everyone and every style, from hot irons to steam rollers to brush hair rollers. Take a look below at the many types of hair rollers broken down by type and figure out which will work best for you, your hair type, and hair length!

10 Types of Hair Rollers and Their Uses

There are many hair roller brands to choose from, but they all fall under ten basic types that can be used to create various styles for many different types and lengths of hair. They are as follows:

1. Hot Rollers

Hot rollers (also known as heated rollers) come in a box that is plugged in to heat the rollers up.

Once the rollers are warm enough, you wrap your hair around them from end to scalp and use a clip to keep your hair attached. Wait for the roller to cool down, at which point you take them out, and voila—curly hair!

Don’t forget to use hair spray to help the curls set and last as long as possible.

Pros of Hot Rollers Cons of Hot Rollers
  • Quick
  • Curls will last a while
  • They come in various sizes, including jumbo hot rollers for a more relaxed curl or a wave and small rollers for short or thin hair
  • The heat can cause damage to your hair
  • You will have to apply a heat protection serum to your hair before putting them in

Hairstyles You Can Create with Hot Rollers

Not only are hot rollers a simple and quick option for creating curls, but they can also help create an endless number of hairstyles. Just a few looks they can be used to create are:

  • Beachy
  • Curly bob
  • Curly ponytail

2. Foam Rollers

Foam rollers, known as sponge rollers, have been in use since the 80s and are still a popular option for creating beautiful curls.

Start by washing your hair and letting it dry until it is only a little damp or slightly wet your dry hair. A small section of hair at a time, and starting at the end, roll up each piece of hair in the roller to the scalp and pin it in place. Go to sleep, and when you wake up, your curls will be in place and ready to style.

Foam rollers come in a variety of sizes and types, including pillow rollers.

Pros of Foam Rollers Cons of Foam Rollers
  • You don’t need to wait for rollers to heat up
  • No heat damage
  • You don’t need to put any protection on hair
  • You can sleep with them on
  • Come in different sizes and can be used on short hair
  • Curls won’t last as long
  • If they are rolled too tightly consistently, they can cause the hair to break or lead to hair loss

Hairstyles You Can Create with Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are a great option for that retro hairstyle that you’ve always wanted to try. Many people use them to create the elegant and classic 1930s and 1940s hairstyles such as the:

  • Curly pageboy
  • Finger wave

3. Velcro Rollers

Velcro rollers have a Velcro pad on the top that helps the roller lock in place without using a clip.

Using these rollers requires a little bit of prep, including washing, conditioning, and towel drying your hair until it is only slightly damp, then adding some anti-frizz serum to it. Then divide your hair into three sections, and—depending on the style you are going for hair—further divide these sections.

It is important to limit the amount of hair for each roller. The section of hair should not be wider or thicker than the roller itself, or it will not curl properly. Once you have the proper amount of hair on each roller, roll it up to the scalp and continue until all your hair is rolled. Using some light heat (such as with a hairdryer) dry your hair completely. Wait for the rollers to cool completely, and take the rollers out. Then, add some mousse to keep the waves intact.

Pros of Velcro Rollers Cons of Velcro Rollers
  • Work great on thin or flat hair
  • Adds body
  • Creates loose and soft curls
  • Works well on long hair
  • There are Velcro rollers that are great for short hair
  • Won’t create tight curls or ringlets as effectively as some other types of rollers
  • Requires more preparation and care when rolling to create the look you are going for
  • Can leave your hair frizzy

Hairstyles You Can Create with Velcro Rollers

Because these rollers are ideal for big, loose curls or waves, some hairstyles that you could effectively create include:

  • Beachy waves
  • Extra volume
  • Soft, voluminous curls that can be worn down or piled on the head

4. Steam Hair Rollers

Steam hair rollers are rollers similar in shape and style to heat rollers, except that as opposed to coming in a box where they are all heated up simultaneously, these rollers are heated up one at a time by holding them over steam.

You then place them at the end of each section of hair and roll them up to your scalp the same as with a heated roller. Take the rollers out once they are completely cooled.

Pros of Steam Rollers Cons of Steam Rollers
  • The extra moisture of the steam along with the heat helps hold the curls in place
  • Long-lasting curls
  • Less frizz
  • You don’t have to worry about heat damage
  • Are great on natural hair
  • More time-intensive than other types of hair rollers
  • If rolled up too tightly, they can break hair.
  • You cannot sleep with them on

Hairstyles You Can Create with Steam Rollers

These rollers work great for a variety of hair types and are excellent for:

  • Adding volume
  • Soft waves for long hair
  • Soft curls for short hair
  • A tousled look for short hair

5. Flexi-Rods

Flexi rods, also known as bendy rollers, are ideal for creating tight spiral curls.

Brush out your wet hair, and add detangler and mousse to it. Taking an inch wide or so of hair and starting at the scalp, wrap the hair around it and bend the rods in the direction you want and until they are in place and will not fall out. Leave them in 3+ hours and then take them out.

Pros of Flexi-Rods Cons of Flexi-Rods
  • No damage from heat
  • Comfortable
  • Creates spiral curls
  • Works well on natural hair
  • Good for longer hair
  • Can be slept on
  • It takes more time to learn how to use them
  • It takes more time to put them all in
  • Do not come with clips to keep the hair in place
  • Hair can get caught on and snag on the inner wire that gives the roller its flexibility

Hairstyles You Can Create with Flexi-Rods

There are many gorgeous hairstyles you can create on natural hair and other hair types. Some of these hairstyles include:

  • Short curls
  • Mohawks and fauxhawks
  • Long loose spirals

6. Magnetic Rollers

Magnetic rollers are plastic rollers with ventilation holes. Though you can use them on dry hair, you will have to use pins to hold the hair in place, whereas if the hair is wet, it will automatically stick to the roller (thus why they are known as magnetic).

Starting from the end of each section of hair, roll all the way to the scalp. From this point, you can either dry the curls with a blow dryer or—if you have some extra time—you can let them air dry.

If you plan to blow dry your hair to hurry up the process, make sure you put a protective serum on each section before you roll it up. Once the hair is dry, take the rollers out and style the curls to your liking.

Pros of Magnetic Rollers Cons of Magnetic Rollers
  • Come in a variety of sizes to create anything from loose waves to spirals
  • Don’t fry your hair
  • Good for people new to hair rollers
  • Will create a variety of looks
  • They can be used on natural hair
  • They can’t be worn to bed
  • Not comfortable
  • You need to wait for the curls to dry, which can take hours if you do not want to use any heat source at all

Hairstyles You Can Create with Magnetic Rollers

Like several of the other rollers mentioned above, magnetic rollers can create quite a few looks depending on their size:

  • Soft, beachy waves
  • Extra volume and body for flat hair
  • Smaller curls for natural hair
  • Giving definition to layers by flipping them out or in
  • Adding wild curls to a bob

7. Brush Hair Rollers

Brush hair rollers, as they sound, are plastic rollers with spines that stick out from the roller, mimicking a brush.

The steps for using these rollers are the same as most other rollers: first, divide your hair into sections, and starting at the end of each section of hair, roll it up until it reaches the scalp. Wait a few hours before taking the rollers out, and then style your curls using a light setting spray.

Though brush hair rollers are like magnetic or Velcro rollers in that the bristles help keep hair in place, you will need some assistance to keep the hair in the roller using a pin.

Pros of Bush Hair Rollers Cons of Brush Hair Rollers
  • They give you smooth curls
  • You don’t need to worry about detangling them, as the roller itself acts as a brush by keeping the hairs from crossing over each other
  • Good for long or short hair
  • No heat damage to your hair
  • Come in a variety of sizes
  • They can cause damage to hair or hair loss if rolled too tightly
  • It takes a long time for the curls to set—usually a few hours
  • Not comfortable
  • They cannot be worn to bed

Hairstyles You Can Create with Brush Hair Rollers

As with many of the other rollers brush hair rollers can create a variety of styles, including:

  • Extra “bigness” for a short bob
  • Loose, beachy waves
  • Soft, voluminous curls
  • Body and volume for long hair that can be dragged down by weight

8. Ribbon Curlers

If you are looking for another option for those spiraling ringlets, the ribbon curler is another great option to look into. Each of these curlers comes with a stick with a hooked end and a spiraling piece of fabric. Just place the stick into the end of the fabric and push it until the hook comes out of the other end.

Starting with damp hair, divide the hair into one-inch sections. Take each section and twist it slightly. Making sure the hook is facing the ceiling, hook your hair into and then gently pull the hair down into the spiraling fabric until the stick comes out completely.

You can either sleep in the ribbon curlers or blow dry your hair dry. To take the curlers off, completely straighten the fabric, gently squeeze the rubber at the scalp, and slide off the hair.

Pros of Ribbon Curlers Cons of Ribbon Curlers
  • Comfortable
  • They can be worn to bed
  • They can be used in conjunction with other hairstyles easily
  • Only creates ringlets
  • Only works on medium-length to long hair
  • It takes time for the curls to be set

Hairstyles You Can Create with Ribbon Curlers

There are many beautiful hairstyles you can create with ringlets from a ribbon curler, including:

  • Half up, half down
  • Waterfall braid
  • Fancy updos for formal events

9. Rag Rollers

Rag rollers are an option for creating great curls on a budget. You can either buy rag rollers at a beauty supply store or you use scraps of fabric you may have around the house.

Starting with damp hair and mousse—if you want the curls to hold their shape for a while—tie the fabric halfway down an inch-wide section of hair. Once the knot is secure, pull the fabric to the end of the hair, and then start rolling as you would a regular roller until you reach the scalp.

Finish it off with a double knot, go to bed, and untie the rags and gently pull the fabric off in the morning.

Pros of Rag Rollers Cons of Rag Rollers
  • Not expensive
  • Creates ringlets or softer curls
  • Works on a variety of hair types
  • Works for long, medium-length, or short hair as you can adjust the fabric size for each length
  • Comfortable
  • It takes a while for the curls to set
  • Only curls the ends of the hair, so if you’re looking for an overall curly look, these aren’t a good option

Hairstyles You Can Create with Rag Rollers

Some beautiful hairstyles that can be created from rag rollers are:

  • Body and wave for short hair
  • Defining layered hair by making the ends flip in or out (your preference)
  • Curly ponytail
  • Waterfall braid
  • A French twist with curls at the top

10. Spoolies

Spoolies are another hair curling option with various sizes for creating big curls, ringlets, or big waves.

Built similarly to a lopsided hourglass, you place the spoolie on the scalp, wrap the hair around the thin middle section, and then collapse the top over it to lock the hair in place. You can leave the hair for hours or overnight for tighter curls. However, if you need some quick body on the go, you can leave the spoolies in for as little as 10 minutes.

Pros of Spoolies Cons of Spoolies
  • Can create a variety of looks
  • They can be worn to bed
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Works on natural hair
  • Many sizes, including original, large, and jumbo
  • Hair can get snagged if you are not careful
  • Silicone material may cause hair to dry, so you may have to put a moisturizer in your hair first before rolling it

Hairstyles You Can Create with Spoolies

Spoolies are truly versatile, and because they create everything from waves to ringlets, they can also be used for:

  • Updos
  • Curly ponytails
  • Waterfall braids
  • Extra body throughout your hair
  • Half up, half down looks

Final Thoughts

Though choosing the right hair rollers for you can be overwhelming, you can be reassured that many of them, such as heated rollers, Velcro rollers, magnetic rollers, and brush rollers can be used to create many of the same styles and curls. For the tighter curls, spoolies, ribbon curlers, and flexi rods can create ringlets are to die for.

The most important thing to keep in mind is how much time you have to create a look and plan accordingly—whether it’s wearing curlers overnight or using heat-protective spray and hairspray to complete the look. Rollers are a great option to get those curls you want no matter your hair type or length with minimal heat damage.