Roller Styling Techniques

Hair styling with rollers
Rollers 101: A How-To and What-To Guide for Roller-Styling the Hair
We’ve mentioned many times that roller-sets are a great way to get long-lasting curl in a style, and in fact many styles are created entirely through the use of rollers. Adding curl adds volume and fullness to the hair, and adding curl can help to dramatically transform a cut into a completely new look.
Yet to an entire generation of women, the idea of the “roller set” has been relegated to the category of “old fashioned” techniques, and much of the usefulness of roller-set styling is lost.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to many salon stylists, who see rollers as an integral part of their styling arsenal and use them religiously. Nor does it apply to those clients who like the long-lasting styles generated by roller styling. Where it does apply most is in home-use and the fact that the introduction of tools (like the curling iron and flat iron) has been accompanied by the idea that these modern approaches to styling are inherently superior because they provide near-instantaneous results.
This attitude has become so prevalent that most salons have seen a steady decline in the use of roller sets for styling the hair (outside of chemical services like perms). As each new generation of stylists are licensed and join with new, trendy salons, we seem to see fewer and fewer professionals who make a regular practice of using rollers to style the hair. Yet the primary focus of our concern here today is in the in-home, personal use of rollers by individuals to style the hair.
So, in the spirit of renewing interest in using rollers to style the hair, and helping individuals make the choice in which tools are right for them, here are some basics in roller styling.
The Tools
The tools for styling the hair that fit the classification of “rollers” are varied in design and situational suitability. What this means is everyone has a set of criteria and needs for styling their hair and there are different types of rollers that work better or worse in certain situations. These tools can be broken down into different categories: wet-set styling, thermal tools, and perm tools. We’ve done in-depth discussions on perming tools before, and that information can be found here.
For the other two “categories” thermal tools are fairly similar in appearance and construction, but differ greatly from the wet-set tools in that thermal tools almost universally require that the hair they are used on is dry. The wet set tools can vary the level of moisture in the hair.
One of the better features of roller sets overall is that they generally use less heat to style the hair (if any at all) and therefore don’t add to the cumulative damage caused by repeated thermal styling. (Even thermal tools like hot rollers are generally gentler on the hair than curling irons or flat iron styling.)
Hot rollers
Each tool in the categories has pros and cons to recommend them toward specific uses and situations. Here are the some of the most common varieties of roller design and the specific pros and cons for each, as well as how they might best be used.
Thermal Tools:
Hot Rollers
Also known as thermal rollers, and heat setters, these tools generally feature a thermally-retentive and conductive core material that is heated by the base unit that acts as housing and storage for the tools.
The surface of the roller may be padded or otherwise coated along the shaft where the hair is wound to provide even transfer of heat, protection from overheating and non-stick, non-snag contact with the hair. Dried hair is wound around the preheated tool and secured in place with the (usually) accompanying clips or pins.
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