Tutorial | Soft Waves with Heated Rollers


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, though, let me quickly introduce you to my heated rollers. Everyone, these are my heated rollers:

Babyliss Pro 30 piece heated roller set

Babyliss Pro 30 piece heated roller set

Babyliss Pro 30 piece heated roller set

This is the Babyliss Pro 30 Piece Heated Roller Set (I promise Babyliss aren’t sponsoring these posts, by the way, I just really like their hair products…), and I’ve had it for a few years now, which is why the case is looking a little bit scratched and, well, dusty. It turns out that extreme close-ups under studio lights will highlight every single speck of dust on shiny black plastic: good to know.

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. On with the show!

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s what my stick-straight, hard-to-curl hair looks like before using heated rollers:

long, straight hair before using heated rollers

I’ve blow-dried it here, and also applied some heat protector: I’m currently using this one by Aveda, but I’ll be honest, I never really notice much of a difference with heat protectors. Other people seem to swear by them, though, so if you’re worried about the heat damaging your hair, go for it.

Today I want to add some loose waves, so I’m using the two largest sizes of roller: I use the blue ones (which are the second largest in the set) on the front and top of my head, and then the largest (red) ones on the bottom layers. Just to confuse you, though, the ones in the next photo are white, and that’s because this is the post I mentioned last week, which I started shooting, and then abandoned halfway through, meaning I had to do some of the photos a few days later. I also changed my mind about the style I was going for, hence the change of colour: apologies for the confusion, but if you could just pretend the rollers you see below are blue, that would be awesome:

how to use heated rollers

See: they’re totally blue, aren’t they? Thought so.

So, what I’m doing here is taking a section of hair at a time, placing the roller a couple of inches from the root, and then wrapping the rest of the hair around it, working away from my head, in an anti-clockwise direction.  For this look, I roll each strand of hair in the same direction, with the exception of my fringe, which I roll in the opposite direction, like so:

using heated rollers to create loose waves

There was apparently no way to take this photo without doing that weird “raised eyebrow” thing, so I’m dying a little bit inside right now, seriously.

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:

different kinds of grips for heated hair rollers

I find the metal pins a bit fiddly to use, and my hair always seems to slip out of them, so I always use the “claws”, but if you have this set, at least you have the option of both.

Anyway! If I had used the white rollers used in this photo, or the yellow ones, which are the smallest in the set, I’d have ended up with very tight, corkscrew curls, a bit like my childhood idol, Neneh Cherry. I’m going for looser waves, though, so, following the principle of “the bigger the roller, the looser the curl”, I used the larger ones instead, and ended up looking like this:

hair in rollers

And I thought The Awkward Eyebrow was going to be the worst photo of the day! I dunno: some people manage to look glamorous in heated rollers, but I’m not one of them, and that’s just the cross I have to bear. Anyway, as I was saying: the larger the roller, the looser the curl. With that said, because the length of my hair will tend to drag any curls out anyway, I’d probably use the blue rollers on my entire head if I had enough of them – at least that way I know that if the curl does loosen, it won’t be left totally straight. I don’t have enough for that, though, so I use the red ones on the bottom layers, and just accept that those stands will end up looking less wavy.

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 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 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:

hair curled with heated rollers

hair after using heated rollers

This is what it looks like when the rollers first come out. You can, of course, just leave it like this if you want (you’ll probably want to at least gently comb through it with your fingers/a wide-toothed comb), but I normally take a round brush and carefully brush through it, which leaves me with this:

hair after using heated rollers to create loose waves

tutorial: how to use heated rollers to create loose waves

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 to use heated rollers

Hi, I'm Amber, and I'm a full-time parenting/lifestyle blogger, and author of My Blogging Secrets, now available from Amazon. I live in Scotland with my husband, Terry, and baby son, Max, and you can read more about me here.

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  1. 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…

    • Yeah, the biggest ones just make my hair a bit “bendy” – for volume, I actually think velcro rollers do a better job, because they’re even bigger, but if it’s curls I want, I have to go a bit smaller!

      • 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!


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