Hot Rollers vs Curling Iron: 5 Reasons Why Curling Irons Are Better

By Leah Williams •  Updated: 08/26/22

Do you collect styling tools for your hair? What’s your take in the great hot rollers vs curling iron debate?

For most people, curling hair in the morning is a huge part of their daily rituals and sometimes, one hot tool is not enough. If the same thing is true for you then you might have a growing collection of curling irons, curling wands and/or hot hair rollers in your kit right now! We’re talking about hot rollers, curling irons, flat irons galore!

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Personally, I prefer curling irons over hot rollers to create curls any day of the week. Curling irons are the first ones that I reach for in the mornings. But that’s just me. In this guide about both hot rollers and curling irons, we are listing down all the cool features that a curling iron has that hot rollers lack.

If you are torn between hot rollers and curling irons, this is one debate that you shouldn’t miss!

Hot Rollers vs Curling Iron: What’s the Difference?

Hot Rollers

Hot rollers look like your traditional hair rollers but these devices can be heated to curl the tresses without using a hairdryer. Using hot rollers is somewhat similar to a curling iron as far as hair prep goes (you condition your hair before curling and then divide your tresses into sections) but you’ll have to attach each roller.

Also, you have to leave the curlers for several minutes to create and build the curls.

The heated surface of the hair roller could be made with ceramic, ceramic-tourmaline, or titanium, just like a traditional curling iron. The size of the curlers varies from small to large curlers, giving users plenty of styling options.

To get longer-lasting curls, you could give your tresses (with the rollers still attached) a spritz of setting spray or after removing the rollers. You could also apply a thermal styling gel on the mane before curling hair.

Hot rollers were extremely popular in the mid-90s when the “Rachel” hairstyle was trendy. But the love for hot rollers as hair styling tool faded as the Rachel’s popularity waned. During this time, curling irons and flat irons became more popular than hot rollers as curling tool.

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Curling Iron

A curling iron features a heat-producing barrel that’s often made with coated or solid ceramic, tourmaline ceramic, Teflon, or titanium material. Curling the hair involves conditioning the tresses and drying the hair thoroughly. Then, the hair is divided into sections. Wrap a hair section on the curling iron, twist, hold for a few seconds then release.

Curling irons come in an array of sizes and designs. Some come with built-in clamps, others are clipless. There are curling irons with tapered, reversed tapered, bubble or traditional straight barrels. The features of these devices are just as diverse.

I feel that some of the designs are rather gimmicky but for the most part, curling irons offer more styling freedom and you will get a lot of use out of these devices.

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Factors to Consider Before Buying Hot Rollers or a Curling Iron

Hair Length

Your hair length is one of the most important factors to consider before getting either of these styling tools. Hot rollers and curling irons come in many sizes, certain sizes are ideal for short hair while others are only best for long hair and extra-long hair.

Personally, I think that hot rollers are best used by people with shoulder-length, medium-density hair. If your hair is too long or too thick, you’ll have a hard time wrapping each hair section in place. Also, the hot rollers might not be big enough to accommodate thick hair, which could lead to very loose curls.

Hair Style

What kind of hairstyle would you like to wear? If you love the look of defined waves and tight curls, opt for the curling iron. If you want loose curls with no volume, go for the hot rollers. The design of a curling iron allows you to pump up the volume at the base of the tresses for full-bodied curls.

This effect is something that will be hard to achieve with hot rollers.

Ease of Use

Some people prefer hot rollers to create curls because they could curl their hair much faster but some users could say the same thing when it comes to curling irons. When choosing between curling irons (or curling wands) and hot rollers, always get the one that’s easiest to use.

If you ask me, I find a curling iron to be much easier to use simply because the device curls my hair in seconds. I don’t have to spend more time attaching the rollers one by one. 

Hot Rollers vs Curling Irons: 5 Reasons Why Curling Irons are Better


Hot rollers have their own storage case; the size of the case will depend on the size of the curlers. If you bought the bigger hot rollers then be prepared to save some room on your vanity table; the case will take a lot of room.

On the other hand, if space is an issue then opt for a more compact curler like a curling iron. Most curling iron are slim and easy to store, these won’t take a lot of room in your vanity.

The design will also play a role in how easy the device is to use. Unless you are an expert, using hot rollers take more time compared to that of a curling iron. You have to attach the rollers one by one and leave them on for a few minutes. That’s not a problem for some but for others, the design of the curling iron makes styling fast and fuss-free.  


Speaking of fuss-free styling, how fast can you curl a full head at the crack of dawn? Some people work much faster with hot rollers compared to a curling iron and vice versa but as for me, I work at a snail’s pace in the morning. A styling tool that lets me create the hairstyle that I want in the fastest time possible is a godsend for me.

With hot rollers, you have to let the rollers sit for several minutes to curl your hair. Most people like having some time to themselves while waiting for their hair to curl, they could do their makeup, tinker with their phone or prepare their outfit for the day.

I do that sometimes but I can be quite impatient. If I’m doing something right now, I want to finish it as quickly as I could before I move on to the next activity. That’s why I prefer a curling iron, I could finish the styling after a few minutes and then head out as soon as I’m done with my hair.


Most hot rollers come with features that are standard in basic curling irons including tourmaline, tourmaline-ceramic, or titanium heating surface, a built-in clip, and different curler sizes. That’s pretty much it.

Curling irons, on the other hand, offer more styling choices as far as features go. Some of these styling tools come with basic features like a timer, variable heat settings, and different wand designs. Others have auto-shutoff features, quick heat-up, LCD displays, and so on.

If you want a basic set of curlers, one that you could use like traditional hair curlers then you’ll love hot rollers. On the other hand, if you want a hot tool with all the bells and whistles or you simply want a curler that offers more features for the price, opt for a curling iron.

I tend to favor curling irons (or a curling wand) with great safety features so the choice is obvious to me.

Price and Quality

Price and quality will depend on the brand. There are affordable hair styling tools for best results that are surprisingly budget-friendly.

I’m against using the price as the sole deciding factor when buying hot tools – or any product for that matter – because quality, to me, is more important, but if you are looking for affordable curlers, opt for hot roller tools. 

However, there are nice quality, mid-range curling irons that cost less than some hot roller sets. These devices are priced similarly for basic ones but the price will go up for advanced curlers, especially curling irons.

So my advice would be to compare rates to get the most bang out of your dollar. As for me, a hair curling iron suits my budget and my beauty routine so it’s what I reach for 99% of the time.        

Hair Type

Hot rollers are much gentler on the tresses and create less damage to your hair because the rollers simply retain the leftover heat for a few minutes before cooling down. This is why hot roller products are often recommended for people with fine hair, hair that’s prone to damage, as well as treated hair. But the trade-off with gentle heat is that the curls do not last very long.

If you have very straight hair and that will not hold a curl, you’ll have better luck with a curling iron or curling wand. A curling iron retains heat throughout the hairstyling process so curling is fast and efficient. Since the device could produce high heat, the curls last longer too. 

I know I sound like a broken record but I have coarse, thick, curly hair. Hair rollers do not work for my mane simply because the heat isn’t high enough to turn my tresses into smooth hair! Of course, high heat could increase the risk of hair damage, which is why I never skip nor skimp on hair protection products. 

Conclusion: Hot Rollers vs Curling Irons?

While I get that hot rollers may appeal to some people, particularly multitaskers, a curling iron suits my beauty routine to a T so in the rollers vs curling iron debate, I have chosen a side (can’t you tell?).

I would definitely choose the curling iron over hot rollers any day. Everything about a curling iron works for me. It’s easy to use, it’s space-efficient, it suits for all hair type, and it does the job in half the time.

I mean, what more can you ask for? What about you? Are you more of a hot roller person or does a regular curling iron rocks your boat?

Leah Williams

Leah Williams is the founder of Lucky Curl and has been in the hair care and styling industry for the last 15 years. Since then, she has developed incredible expertise and a deep understanding of how to treat and style the most difficult hair types and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with the readers of Lucky Curl.

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