6 Mistakes You're Probably Making With Hair Rollers, According to a Hair Pro

As a beauty editor, I've tried many hairstyling tools during my career. From my trusty £35 hairstyling wand that I can't live without through to the blow-the-budget Dyson AirWrap and other all-singing, all-dancing hair multi-stylers that have been doing the rounds of late. There aren't many that I've not tried.

One conclusion that I've drawn is that some hairstyling tools are easier to use than others, and hair rollers are a category I've found particularly tricky to master. I'm talking about Velcro hair rollers specifically, which hairstylists are able to use to achieve seemingly impossible volume and bounce. But when I've tried them, I've found all the hard work I put in drops out within 30 minutes. So I got to wondering, How do you use hair rollers and get the kind of volume you see celebrities achieve?


(Image credit: @haileesteinfield)

It turns out there are some key mistakes some of us might be making when it comes to using hair rollers, which might be why we're seeing our hair fall flat. To find out how to use Velcro hair rollers as well as heated hair rollers, I got the the lowdown from Jack Merrick-Thirlway, creative director at Neville Hair & Beauty, for all the hair roller tips. Neville prides itself on its chic blow-dries, so I couldn't think of anyone better to ask.

How to Use Velcro Hair Rollers

Mistake 1: Not Prepping the Hair


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

First things first, you want to put in the prep to get the most out of your hair rollers. One mistake is not washing out your shampoo or conditioner sufficiently. "Not rinsing the hair properly after it is washed before rollers are put in will leave the hair heavy, which counteracts volume," says Merrick-Thirlway. "Once washed, add a blow-dry lotion to the roots and rough-dry the hair to 90% dry," he adds. Styling product–wise, you'll want to look for products that add hold without weighing down the hair. Try L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni Art Pli, which hairstylists love for adding weightless hold to hairstyles, or JVN Complete Blowdry Styling Milk through the lengths.

Mistake 2: Using the Wrong Size Hair Roller

If you're finding your hair is falling flat within moments after taking the rollers out, you might be using too large of a size. "The smaller the roller, the tighter the curl will become, whereas the larger the roller, the straighter the hair will be, but you will achieve more volume," says Merrick-Thirlway. If you're in doubt, choose a smaller hair roller than you think you need. "You can always comb out too much volume, but you can't add it in after," he says.

Mistake 3: Using the Wrong Technique


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

When your hair is about 90% dry, you want to take a round hairbrush and blow-dry one section at a time before placing the roller into the hair.

"Start by blow-drying the hair with a medium round brush, such as the Neville 1403, to take out the rest of the moisture," says Merrick-Thirlway. A round brush manipulates the hair to add that soft bend and bounce to your lengths. Twirl the brush through your hair as you blow-dry and repeat this a couple of times. You can even roll the hair all the way up into the brush and blast your hair dryer nozzle for extra hold and shine. Naturally, this is harder to do on yourself, so it might take a few practice runs to get the knack, or if you have a round brush attachment on a mutli-styler tool, this will make the job much easier.

You'll then want to immediately roll the hair into the roller while it is still warm—if it cools down, you'll loose the curl and volume. But if you let it cool down while in the roller, your style will set into place.

Mistake 4: Using Too Much Hair in Each Roller


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

"One mistake is taking too much hair in a roller at once," says Merrick-Thirlway. "Make sure to use smaller sections to ensure complete efficiency of the roller." So if you're using three-inch rollers, you'll want to take a section that is no wider than three inches. Equally, you want to make sure the ends of your hair are neatly secured into place. "Not making sure that the ends of the hair are cleanly wrapped in the roller can often leave the curl messy," he says. 

Mistake 5: Putting the Rollers in the Wrong Way


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

This will be different for everyone and down to personal preference, but if you want to add volume to your roots, Merrick-Thirlway recommends applying them in such a way. "The best way to use hair rollers is always to go in the opposite direction to where the hair is naturally sitting to get maximum volume, making sure that all of the ends of the hair are tucked into the roller cleanly." Want extra volume at your roots? Curl the hair underneath rather than over. I personally prefer rolling them over for some face-framing curls.

Mistake 6: Not Letting the Hair Cool Down for Long Enough


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

If you're too hasty in removing your hair rollers, you're lessening your chances at your style lasting. "Make sure the hair is completely cold before removing the rollers, as this will set the hair," says Merrick-Thirlway. "This is usually around 10 minutes, but this depends on the thickness of your hair." The safest bet is to keep them in until they're totally cold to the touch before removing. If you want to speed up the cooling-down process, try blasting the cold shot setting on your hair dryer over the rollers.

Then, you'll want to carefully remove each roller and gently shake out the curls with your fingers. "Finally, use hair spray to set once the rollers are removed to ensure longevity of the look," he says.


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

How to Use Heated Rollers


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

As for how to use heated rollers, many of the same principles apply as the Velcro ones. "When using heated rollers, you do not need to blow dry the hair first—you can add these into dry hair," says Merrick-Thirlway. This makes it ideal if you're short on time, or don't have the arm gymnastics to twirl a round brush through each section of hair—the heated rollers do all of the hard graft for you.

1. Prepare the Hair


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

Just as you would prepare the hair for Velcro rollers, you want to do the same for heated rollers if you can. Even though you can use these on dry hair, working on clean hair is a good idea, and a heat-protection spray will help prevent damage. Be sure to brush through the hair to remove any tangles and ensure a smooth finish.

2. Apply the Heated Rollers


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Heated rollers come in lots of different shapes and sizes. You'll want to pick the size that suits your hair and gives you the results you're looking for. Larger roller equals more volume and less curl (and possibly less staying power), whereas a smaller roller will deliver tighter curls and longer results. These BaByliss heated rollers have three sizes to choose from, so you can tailor them to different sections of your hair. I like to use the smaller ones on the longer lengths of my hair, as I find these tend to drop out first. 

3. Let the Hair Cool Before Removing


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

Let the hair cool down completely before removing these. It can be tempting if you're in a rush, but they will only drop out if they haven't fully cooled and set into place. Think of a candle when it's burning; the wax warms and becomes fluid, but when the candle cools, the wax sets. It's the same analogy with your hair.

4. Set Into Place 


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

Because these rollers are smaller than my Velcro ones, they give tight curls when first removed. But the advantage of this is that you can manipulate the hair to loosen them out. I like to take some hair spray onto a comb or Wet Brush and brush through to loosen any areas that look a bit too prom 2002. Then I apply a bit of oil in my palms and run through the lengths to add shine before finishing with hair spray.


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

Shop Heated Hair Rollers

Eleanor Vousden
Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK

Eleanor Vousden is the beauty editor for Who What Wear UK. She was previously deputy editor at Hairdressers Journal, health writer at Woman & Home and junior beauty editor at beauty website Powder. She has also contributed to Wallpaper and Elle Collections with written and styling work.Working as a beauty journalist since 2015 after graduating in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, she has been highly commended at the BSME Talent Awards for her work on Powder and also contributed to the title winning Website of the Year at the PPA Awards.Eleanor’s journalistic focus is to provide readers with honest and helpful beauty content. Through words, video and live broadcast, she has interviewed several celebrity makeup artists, hairstylists and top dermatologists throughout her career, as well as celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Scarlett Johansson. She has a particular interest in finding solutions for acne and eczema, which she has experienced firsthand. She has also amassed a large collection of fragrances and can never say no to a new candle.When she’s not writing or testing the latest beauty product or treatments, she’s on the seafront in her hometown of Brighton and Hove, where she lives with her partner and her miniature dachshund.