IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hot rollers are making a comeback — and I'm ditching my curling iron for them

Plus, expert tips on how to use them.
TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Molly Calhoun / Amazon

As a child, I remember my mom sitting at her vanity wearing hot rollers while she applied makeup before going out. I classified heated curlers in the “those are something old people use” file … and I completely wrote them off. Fast forward to adulthood, and hot rollers are no longer vintage throwbacks, but instead they’re having a major moment — again.

“Hot rollers are definitely coming back,” says Illeisha Lussiano, hairstylist and owner of The Way, a hair salon in New York City. “The type of self-care we once watched our moms or aunts do for themselves is popular once more — and for good reason.”

The spike in use is due to a variety of factors. First, hot rollers allow you to be a master multitasker. “You’ll save a lot of time because you don’t have to continuously hold a curling iron in your hair,” Lussiano says. “You can do your makeup, eat breakfast and have coffee while they do their work.” Second, if used in moderation they’re not as damaging as other hot tools. “Quality hot rollers that have a soft or velvety flocking are a bit gentler on hair,” she says. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, “Hot rollers will give you some volume, but most of all, they will give you a polished, luscious, sexy look.”

I’ll take “polished” and “luscious” over “flat” and “frizzy” any day. It would also be a nice break from my signature look, which lately seems to be “greasy ponytail.” So, I set out to try this cult-favorite Conair set, which also happens to be Amazon's No. 1 top seller in "hair rollers."

Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers

Trust the (shockingly easy) process

Full disclosure: I’ve never, ever used hot rollers before. I have long, color-treated hair that’s naturally wavy. While I can blow-dry it and get decent volume and polish, it can also skew frizzy when humidity is high. So, where to start? “You’ll get the best results when hair is on the cleaner side,” Lussiano says. “Do not try to put in rollers on fourth-day hair that has a ton of dry shampoo in it, because it won’t respond well.”

With that advice in mind, I washed and conditioned my hair, and then applied a heat protectant before blow-drying it with a round brush. I didn’t take a ton of time blowing it out because I was relying on the heat from the rollers to take out any last little bit of moisture — and frizz. I plugged in the Conair curlers, and true to their promise, they heated up in just 85 seconds.

This Conair set came with both larger and smaller rollers, and Lussiano says that you simply use the smaller rollers where you want a tighter curl.

Writer Molly Fahner Calhoun using Conair hot hair curlers in her hair
After following Lussiano's tips, using these rollers was a breeze.Courtesy Molly Fahner Calhoun

“Begin by putting in curlers where you want the best hold,” Lussiano advises. I decided starting in front made the most sense, so I sectioned the hair down the center of my head and got to work with the pieces at the top of my forehead. After a few false starts getting the motion right, I figured out how to put the curler at the base of each hair section, then wrapped each lock around the curler and secured them with one of the provided clips.

I was worried that I was going to singe my fingertips while wrapping my hair, but the ridged edges of the Conair rollers made it easy to roll them without burning myself. I was able to pick up the pace after the first few tries, adding more curlers on the sides of my head and the back. I had a little trouble keeping them rolled tightly, but they held well after repositioning the clips. For my first time out, I’d say it took me about 10 minutes to get all 12 rollers in. With practice, I’m certain I can easily cut that time in half.

Get voluminous curls in just 10 minutes

Expert tip: “If you roll the curler from the end of hair up toward the base of your scalp, you’ll get more of a sexy blowout look,” Lussiano says. “But if you start by placing the curler at the base of a hair section and wrap your hair around the curler, you’ll get more of a beachy look. The hot roller is really similar to a pin curl or rag curl, but you don’t have to sleep in them.”

The instructions said to leave the curlers in for 10 minutes, so I spent that time doing my makeup, checking emails, and tidying my desk. “The whole concept of heated hair curlers involves allowing the curlers to cool before removing,” Lussiano says. “If they’re not completely cooled, you’re not maximizing their use.” But each person is different, she says. Meaning, if you have finer hair, you could try leaving them in for a shorter period of time. If you have dense or thicker hair, you could experiment with leaving them in longer. To get the best results, Lussiano suggests spraying the curlers with hairspray to set them while they’re on your head.

Before and after images of writer Molly Fahner Calhoun using Conair hot hair curlers
I will never doubt the power of hot rollers again.Courtesy Molly Fahner Calhoun

When my curlers no longer felt warm, I gently unclipped them and slowly unwrapped the hair so I wouldn’t tug out the curl. The result? I had bouncy, frizz-free hair that looked like I’d spent hours on it — or $50 on a professional blowout. The best part was that it looked really, really good, without looking overdone.

Over the next several hours, the body and curls started to fall a bit, so in the future, I think I’ll leave the curlers in for 15-20 minutes instead of 10. Where I think these rollers would really shine is on limp, second-day hair to give it a pick-me-up. For now, I’ll continue with the at-home hair process, and sit back and enjoy the compliments about my shiny, voluminous curls.

For more articles like this, check out:

Subscribe to our Stuff We Love and One Great Find newsletters, and download our TODAY app to discover deals, shopping tips, budget-friendly product recommendations and more!