Hot Rollers vs. Curling Iron | Which Styling Tool To Get for Those Gorgeous Locks

In 2019, the hot rollers vs. curling iron debate still rages on as it did decades ago for good reasons. Men and women want the best hair – no bad hairs, if you please – because it’s their crowning glory and it speaks volumes about their personality. Both obviously result in the desired hair curls, from relaxed beach waves to tight ringlets, but each one has its pros and cons.

We also want to point out that foam hair rollers can also be used as safer alternatives to hot rollers and curling irons, especially if you have dry or damaged hair due to overexposure to heat, chemicals (e.g., dyes), and hair care products. These curl the hair without the need for heat although the results will only last for a few hours, at most, while the results from using hot rollers and curling irons last for a few days. 

Hot Rollers vs. Curling Iron: A Comparison of Qualities

Both hot rollers and curling irons use a combination of moisture and heat in curling the hair. The heat provides the extra holding power for the curls while the moisture minimizes the damage caused by the heat. These appliances don’t usually require a setting gel to achieve the curls but there may be hair products applied afterwards to maintain their glossy and curly quality.

Hairstyle and Hair Type

Hot curlers or rollers are excellent for achieving more natural volume to otherwise thin hair. These also work well for curling thin, straight, and long hair into loose curls and beach waves, among other wavy hairstyles.

There are even hot rollers for short hair that can achieve these hairstyles without the need for professional training. 

Curling irons are great for a wider range of hair curling styles and types. These are great for thick, curly and coarse hair as well as for thin, fine and short hair so it’s no wonder that women like to keep them handy, even when they already have foam rollers and hot rollers. These work well for achieving nearly every type of hairstyle from loose waves to big curls, thanks to their variable temperature settings, as well as give ringlets that will make Shirley Templeton-wannabes jealous.


The best hot rollers are relatively expensive but these are also more durable and practical than their inferior counterparts since these have great features, such as steam technology and ceramic parts. But if you’re on a budget, then you should consider affordable electric rollers with useful features (e.g., variable heat settings) so you will still get beautiful curls.  If you want a smaller appliance with a portable design, then travel hot rollers are also great choices.  

The best curling irons for any hair type are also fairly expensive but you’re paying for high quality, not to mention that you will also enjoy longer-lasting curls. These electric curlers typically have pure ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium technologies 

Ease of Use

In terms of ease of use, hot hair rollers take the cake, especially for beginners. Just plug them into an electrical outlet, let them become hot, take about 1½ inches of your hair strands, place them in a hot roller, and roll up your hair; repeat the process as many times as needed. Then, pin them and let them cool for several minutes, and remove the rollers. 

Your hair will have more volume and curls than before! Yes, it’s easy as pie. You should also consider curling wand vs curling iron and read our Bed Head Waver reviews.

The best 3 barrel curling iron aren’t exactly for beginners in achieving curly hairstyles since these require multitasking, sort of. You have to hold the iron for several seconds to a few minutes over your head to achieve the desired curls.

Your hands and arms can be in awkward positions so these become tired, even numb, after a while. 

The difference between the two appliances become evident when you’re curling long hair. While you can let the hair rollers do most of the work, so to speak, you have to hold the iron so you do most of the work. 


With heating rollers, there’s less risk of burns to your fingers, hands and scalp because these are heated in a base charger before these are rolled in your hair. Plus, you cannot unwrap them from around your hair until they have cooled off. 

But with curling irons, the risks come from actually handling the appliance. The barrel, for one thing, conducts heat that can cause burns to your hand, shoulder and even scalp, if you’re not too careful. These appliances also have a high temperature range, from 180 degrees to 450 degrees, so direct contact with the hot barrel can become hazardous.

In both appliances, nonetheless, proper use is a must to maximize the results and minimize the risks. You must then read articles and watch videos on how to curl long thick hair whether you’re using hot rollers or a curling iron. 

Required Time

We have to say that both appliances require time, energy and effort to achieve the desired results. Your decision between heater rollers and a curling iron with partly depend on the amount of time you’re willing to spend curling your hair. You may want, for example, a curling iron because it takes less time for the barrel to become heated than the rollers.  

Risk of Damage

Keep in mind that the application of heat, especially when it’s for prolonged periods or when it’s high temperature, will likely cause damage to the hair strands.  But which one causes less damage? 

We have to say that hot rollers are gentler on your hair because these aren’t as hot as curling irons.

The latter can reach temperatures of up to 450 degrees that can burn hair strands. Again, it’s important to use the right heat settings and to practice safety at all times when you’re using either hot rollers or a curling iron to achieve curled hair. 

Features Available

Hot rollers come in different sizes from small to large and, thus, you can achieve different hairstyles using different sizes of rollers. You can buy two or more sizes without paying an arm and leg for them, too. 

Curling irons come in two types based on barrel type, namely, a tapered and a cylindrical barrel. You can buy several cylindrical-type curling irons in different sizes, if you have the money for it. But if you want an all-in-one curling iron, you should look for a tapered-type one – you can curl your hair into different curls with a single appliance.  

Which hair curling appliance is better? Well, it actually depends on your specific needs and wants! You may choose the hot rollers for long hair because these are easier and safer to use than a curling iron. But you may also choose the latter because these are cheaper, as well as come with more features and, thus, can be used to achieve a wider range of hairstyles. 

How To Use Hot Rollers

The following curling hair tips will increase your chances of getting the best results from using hot rollers and of getting the best value for your money (i.e., durability).

  • Be sure that your hair should be dry (i.e., no water from shower or bath); it’s the most important tip how to curl long hair quickly. Brush your hair so that it’s as smooth as possible with little to no tangles.
  • Mist your hair with either a thin layer of mousse or setting spray. Run a comb through your hair to evenly distribute it.
  • Separate strands of your hair into 1-inch sections, particularly in the area where the curls will be.
  • Start rolling a hot roller at the top of a section and wrap the hair around it; check that the ends aren’t tight. Repeat the process as many times as needed.
  • Wait for several seconds until the rollers cool off and these can be removed.

Tip: When curling hair, place the rollers vertically instead of horizontally. You will get soft, loose and long hair curls with a tousled effect with vertical placement. But if you want Marilyn Monroe-like volume, then go ahead with the horizontal placement.  

How To Curl Your Hair With A Curling Iron

In many ways, the steps how to curl hair with a curling iron are similar to using hot rollers. A few tips to keep in mind.

  • Choose the right size of curling iron. For tightly wound curls, a ¾-inch barrel or less is a great choice. For large, bouncy waves, a 1-inch barrel or larger is a better option.

  • Start with freshly washed hair. Use shampoo and conditioner that will reduce frizz, rinse and dry with a towel, and apply a hair mousse.

  • Blow-dry your hair and use a boar bristle brush to smooth out the tangles. Apply a heat protectant to your dry hair afterwards.

  • Start with the lowest setting on the curling iron and then work your way up the temperature range until you find the best temperature for your hair. Adjust as needed so your hair doesn’t become damaged from the heat.

  • Divide your hair strands into sections of two or three stacked layers. Use lobster clips to hold the hair sections that will not be curled first.  

  • Curl your hair in sections. You may have to experiment with the thickness of the hair sections, as well as the amount of heat applied and the duration, to achieve your desired results.  

Shake out the finished curls to loosen them and create a natural-looking finish. Set your curls with hairspray, if necessary, although most hairstylists leave the curls be for a sleek, modern and stylish look.  

In conclusion, it’s easy enough to learn how to curl hair if you have the right appliance! Buy either of these two appliances and start your hair curling journey today!