Hot Rollers vs Curling Irons: Hairstylists Settle the Debate

Hot Rollers vs Curling Irons: Hairstylists Settle the Debate

Hailey Bieber with blue and pink hair rollers in her hair

@haileybieber / Instagram

In This Article

Hot Rollers Curling Irons Hot Rollers vs Curling Iron: How to Choose The Final Takeaway

Anyone trying to achieve perfect curls probably has two questions in mind: what is the best technique and how to make them last all day? While yes, a lot will depend on your skill level and familiarity with the style, another huge determining factor is what tool you use. The options might seem endless with new innovative hot tools launching daily. However, when it comes to curling hair 101 we’d say your two basic choices are hot rollers and curling irons. 

While curling irons are typically a go-to intro hot tool nowadays, chances are you’ve seen the recent viral hot roller trend on TikTok with over 235 million views. Yes, we are talking about that nostalgic method from the 30s. Both are iconic techniques and can be used to achieve similar results, but which one fares better when it comes to creating gorgeous curls? Below, we’ve asked hairstylists Marc Mena and Sandra Simmons to give us the lowdown on the pros, cons and considerations when it comes to hot rollers vs curling irons.

Meet the Expert

  • Marc Mena is an internationally recognized celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Jennifer Coolidge, Mindy Kaling and Neve Campbell. He has been featured in publications such as Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan.
  • Sandra Simmons is the owner of Beyond Glam, a London hair and beauty studio that offers styling services as well as a range of wigs and accessories.

What Are Hot Rollers?

Hot rollers are heated styling tools that are used to create curls and volume in the hair. “They come in various sizes and are typically made of ceramic or velvet material,” Simmons tells Byrdie. They are heated before they are rolled into sections of hair (hence the name) and are great for creating long-lasting smooth curls. “They’re very retro which might explain why they’re becoming popular again,” Mena adds.

JLO in a bathroom with bouncy voluminous curls

@chrisappleton1 / Instagram


Hot rollers are easy to use which makes them ideal for anyone who doesn’t know how to use a curling iron. The rollers usually come in a round case which will need to be switched on in order to heat the rollers. Once they’re applied, you are welcome to move around while they set, so you’ll definitely have a little more freedom than you would with an appliance that needs to be plugged into the wall.


While hot rollers offer a little more protection from accidentally burning yourself, as they usually come in a case, they do take a little longer to heat up. Your hair type is also something you’ll need to take into consideration if it is your tool of choice. “Hot rollers may not be as effective for very straight or thick hair and may not provide as much control over curl size and shape,” Simmons says.

When it comes to the finished look, hot rollers leave hair with voluminous bouncy and long-lasting curls, however they are bulky in size and take up a lot more space than a curling iron. Additionally, the heat benefits aren’t as great as they seem. “Hot rollers only retain heat for a few minutes so once they’ve cooled down, there’s not really an advantage to keeping them in,” Mena says.

What Are Curling Irons?

Curling irons are heated styling tools that can be used to create various types of curls. They have a cylindrical barrel that comes in different sizes to create various types of curls; from tight spirals to loose waves. “Curling irons can be made of ceramic, tourmaline or titanium,” Simmons adds.

Shea Mitchell in a bathrobe with long loose curls

@justinemarjan / Instagram


As curling irons come in all shapes and sizes, you can switch up your texture as you wish. “From straight, curly, loose and even tight curls – the options are unlimited,” Mena says. Curling irons are ideal for all hair types and they’re more versatile as there’s more control over the curl size and shape that is being created. 

Instead of a bulky case, curling irons are generally easier to throw into a bag or suitcase when on the go. “Wavytalk’s 5-in-1 is such an effective tool for creating gorgeous curls. It’s easy to travel with and you don’t have to worry about having a drawer full of irons because this one comes with five different attachments,” says Mena. “A bonus is that it’s great for all hair types and can be used to create a wide variety of curls – anything from loose to relaxed to voluminous.”


It’s no secret that heating appliances can cause hair damage if they aren’t used in moderation and curling irons aren’t an exception. Mena and Simmons agree that excessive use of curling irons can cause hair damage. “They also require more skill to use effectively to ensure that they provide as much volume as hot rollers while protecting the overall health of the hair,” Simmons adds.

Hot Rollers vs Curling Iron: How to Choose

The most important thing to consider when deciding which tool is right for you is your hair type and texture, as they will have a big part to play in the finished look. “Hot rollers may work better for fine or damaged hair while curling irons may be more suitable for thicker or straighter hair,” says Simmons. Something else you’ll need to consider is the type of look you want to achieve. If you’re going for an effortless, retro-inspired look, then hot rollers might be best for you. However, if you prefer more control over your curls, Simmons recommends using a curling iron.

The Final Takeaway

This debate truly comes down to personal preference across how much time you want to spend on a style, hair type and texture, and your overall skills in the hair department. If you lead a busy lifestyle and want a quick and easy look, hot rollers are probably best for you. If you can opt to spend a little extra time curling your hair and prefer a more customizable curl, then reach for a curling iron.


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