How to use heated rollers

How to Use Heated Rollers to get Soft Waves in Even the Straightest Hair

I’ve been asked a few times now for a post on how to use heated rollers (or how I use heated rollers, rather…) so today’s the day Ima make those dreams come true.

(Today’s also the day I’m going to stop talking like that, because I really don’t know what came over me there- sorry.)

Now, the thing is, there are actually a few different ways to use heated rollers, and they all create different looks. Today, though, I’m going to show you the technique I use most often, which creates soft, slightly messy waves – although, to be honest, the “slightly messy” bit is mostly just accident, really. Hair, as I’ve said many times before, is not something I claim to be an expert on, so, as always with anything marked “tutorial” on this blog, this is just the way I do it, m’kay?

First, things first, though…

How to use heated rollersMY HEATED ROLLERS

I have the Babyliss Pro 30 Piece Heated Roller Set , which has been going strong for a few years now. I bought this set mostly because it contains quite a lot of rollers compared to some of the other sets I looked at (I also liked the pretty colours, and the fact that it comes with its own stand, though…), and as I have quite a lot of hair, I figured I’d probably need them all. I actually very rarely use every single one of the rollers at any given time, so a smaller set would probably have done just as well, but it’s nice to have a few different sizes to try.


As this tutorial is all about how to use heated rollers to create soft, “Hollywood” waves, rather than tight curls or ringlets (All of which can also be achieved with heated rollers…) I mostly use use the two largest sizes of roller in the set: I use the second largest on the front and top of my head, and then the largest ones on the bottom layers. Just to confuse you, a lot of articles on the subject of how to use heated rollers will tell you to do this the other way around, and use the largest rollers on the bottom of your head: what you need to bear in mind here, though, is that the larger the roller, the looser the curl you’re going to get. I personally find that the largest size in this set doesn’t create enough of a curl for my liking, so I reserve them for the bottom layers of hair, which is less noticeable, and use a small size on the top layers, which are the ones people actually see.

(It’s also worth noting here that, if your hair is very long – or just doesn’t hold a curl well – the curls you get when you first remove the rollers aren’t the curls you’ll keep: they WILL loosen up a bit after a few minutes, so my top tip here is to always choose a roller that’s slightly SMALLER than you think you need, so that, when the curl does start to droop, it won’t go completely straight.)

how to get loose waves in even the straightest hair

How to use heated rollers to get loose waves in even the straightest of hair


Once you’ve selected your rollers, it’s just a matter of taking a small section of hair at a time (Some people will section their hair off with clips before they get started, to make it easier. I’m much too lazy for that, but it DOES seem like a good idea, so go for it…) , placing the roller a couple of inches from the root, and then wrapping the rest of the hair around it, working away from the head, in an anti-clockwise direction. For this look, I roll each strand of hair in the same direction: if you’re going for a messier – or less “styled” look, you can try alternating the direction of each roller.

Once the hair is fully rolled, I secure it with one of the plastic “claw grips” which came with my rollers. The set includes both these grips and a selection of metal pins, but I find the pins tend to leave an imprint on my red hair, so I always use the “claws.

Because this look isn’t supposed to be be too “done”, I don’t follow any particular pattern when putting the rollers in. I do part my ginger hair as usual before I start, and make sure I maintain the part as I roll, but one of the reasons I like this look is that it’s so easy to do, and doesn’t require much thought or planning on my part. Gotta love that.


Once all the hair is rolled, all you have to do is wait. As for how LONG you wait, well, that’s up to you, but basically the longer you leave the rollers in, the better the curl you’ll get, and the longer it’ll last, so the longer, the better, really. If I’m doing my natural red hair for a big night out, I’ll sometimes put the rollers in in the morning/afternoon, and then just leave them all day, but most of the time I just put them in as soon as my hair’s dry, leave them while I do my makeup and decide what to wear, then take them back out again.

The curl won’t last as long that way, but I’ll still be left with more volume/curl than I’d have naturally, and that’s good enough for me, most of the time. At the very least, though, you should try to leave them in until they’ve cooled down: for the curl to last, your hair really has to go from hot to cold, so if you take the rollers out while they’re still warm, your curls will drop out pretty quickly.

Speaking of curls, I guess no post on the topic of how to use heated rollers would be complete without some photos of the results, would it?

how to get soft waves with heated rollers

So, as you can see, it’s loose, and not too “done”, and although I know this post feels a bit like the Never-Ending Story, it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do, too, which is why I like it. Once you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple of minutes to put the rollers in, so I normally let them heat up while I’m blow-drying my hair, leave them in while I do my makeup, and then take them out once I’m done. For me, that’s quicker than having to sit and curl each stand individually, as you do with a curling iron, say: the downside is that it doesn’t last quite as long, so if you stick around, I’ll try to feature some longer-lasting curls soon. Or that’s the plan, anyway…


How I get curls that last for days in my stick-straight here

Related: How to use sleep in rollers

Related: Babyliss Curl Secret

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  • Marye


    You’re my savior. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this “how to use heated rollers”!

    January 27, 2016
  • Why have I never thought of using the larger ones on the bottom? Every tutorial I’ve ever seen has said to put these on the top for more ‘volume’, supposedly, but they drop out so quick when they’re that loose a curl, particularly on my long hair, leaving me with lovely waves UNDERNEATH the straggly, virtually straight top layer mess. I feel like such an idiot now. I’ve got a newer set of rollers but it looks to me like they might be the evolved version of yours from those clips, so thankfully this is all totally relevant to me… I still feel like a fool though! This is why me and curls just don’t get along…

    January 27, 2016
      • Sorry to butt in on this exchange, but I am having EXACTLY the same thought as CiCi right now, as in I put the larger ones on top but now I’m wondering WHY?!! I so have to dig out my Babyliss hot rollers (vintage ones from the 1960s, courtesy of an older sister) and have another go but doing it the other way around to what I normally do. Thank you!! xx

        January 28, 2016
  • Zhenya


    You‘re so pretty Amber. Curls suit you so much.

    January 27, 2016
  • Grasshopper


    Ooohh, reading this post makes me want to try hot rollers again! The last time I did was in high school and my hair was long and SUPER thick back then. It seemed to take forever to roll it all up and there were never enough of the right size in the set I had. The curls never lasted long either. But, my hair has thinned a little now and I’m totally digging your technique for actually rolling the hair up on the roller… seems much easier than starting from the bottom of the hair strand.

    January 27, 2016
  • Zhenya


    Hi, Amber!
    I envy your stick straight hair. I‘ve got curly and hard to straight one.

    January 30, 2016
  • Your hair is such a stunning colour! Is it all natural? x

    February 9, 2016
  • Great tips on using curlers. They can create such an effortless look or a more glamourous hairstyle depending on what you’re looking for. So they’re great to understand how to use properly to execute the curls. If you’re looking for a more immediate way to curl your hair, electronic hair curlers can provide a great, instant look.

    September 15, 2016
  • Thanks so much for sharing, your hair color and curls look amazing! I usually use hot roller too but the result is not as good as you. Gotta try again.

    December 17, 2016
  • Karen


    This is exactly the look I was hoping to get for a wedding I’m going to next weekend and here it is on my Twitter feed without having to go hunting. Thank you!

    January 22, 2017
  • Nyenge


    They are really gd

    August 11, 2017
  • Flossie


    Can you sleep in heated rollers??

    January 9, 2018