Do Rollers Damage Hair?

For those of us with fine or damaged hair, styling is a challenge.

Heat is absolutely the last thing our hair needs, but if - like mine - your hair tends to look a little 'wild' without it, then leaving it to air-dry is simply not an option!

We all know that blow-drying is bad - and using tools like curling irons or straighteners is even worse.

But what about rollers? Are they a safe way to add volume, curl, or to smooth the hair?

The answer is maybe - but it depends on the kind of rollers you use, and how you use them.


Do rollers damage hair?


The trouble with tension...

All types of rollers put the hair under tension, which can be very damaging if that hair is already fragile. If rollers are wound too tightly, they can cause breakage along the hair shaft, or even from the root.

If you use rollers on a regular basis, this can lead to traction alopecia, and possible permanent hair loss if the follicles themselves become damaged.

To avoid these problems, don't wrap the hair too tightly around the rollers and ensure you're not using them on a daily basis. Avoid sleeping in them too - even if the rollers are designed for wearing at night! Doing so dramatically increases the tension at the roots, making further hair loss likely.


Heated rollers

These may be better for your hair than curling tongs, because their temperature is not as high.

What's more, any waves or curls created with heated rollers last longer than those made with tongs. This is because the rollers are cooled in the hair, which sets the style, and means you won't need to use them as often.

But as heat is still involved, the hair can very easily become dry.

If you really want to use heated rollers, choose ceramic coated ones such as Infiniti Pro by Conair (Amazon) - they tend to heat more evenly and operate at a lower temperature that some other types.

And ALWAYS ensure that you hair is dry before putting in ANY heated rollers to avoid further damage.

Steam rollers

These have become more widely used of late, with the easy-to-use Caruso ION Steam Hairsetter (Amazon) among the most popular.

They work a little differently to standard heated rollers, in that you briefly set the rollers over a steam vent to warm them, before placing them in the hair. As a result, they are easier (less hot!) to handle, with the steam heat more gentle on the hair than dry heat.

As with standard heated rollers, steam rollers should be used on dry hair.


Caruso ION Steam Hairsetter (Amazon)

Sponge Rollers

These are super-gentle on the hair. You put them in when your hair is damp and the sponge absorbs the moisture as your hair dries, setting the curl.

It's possible to leave the hair to dry without using heat, although I find that this can take an incredibly long time! Nevertheless, a brief blast with the blow drier is less harmful to your hair than tongs, or even heated rollers. 

If you really want to avoid heat altogether, sponge rollers will work on dry hair too, although the effect is not as pronounced or long-lasting.

Sponge rollers tend to be smooth - but to be extra kind to your hair, try those covered in satin such as Evolve Rollers (Amazon).

Satin rollers tend to be recommended for use at night - but as I mentioned earlier, I'd avoid wearing them overnight because of the damage caused by tension.

| RELATED: How a silk or satin pillowcase may benefit your hair

Velcro® Rollers

If you have fine or damaged hair, I strongly recommend giving these a miss!

It's a shame, because they are easy to use, don't need clips to stay in the hair, and don't require much heat (just a quick blast with the blow dryer to dry the hair off).

But the very thing that makes them so effective - their ability to 'grab' on to the hair - is the thing that makes them so damaging!

I find they cause terrible breakage and it's virtually impossible to take them out without them taking several of your hairs along with them!

Some people with long, fine hair have even had them become thoroughly entangled and had to resort to scissors to remove them!

To sum up...

Rollers are kinder to the hair than tongs or flat irons, with the exception of Velcro® rollers, which are best avoided.

Satin covered sponge rollers are the kindest of all - particularly if little or no heat is used. But if you DO use heat, be sure to apply a protective spray first.

I'd love to hear from you if you use rollers on fragile hair. Which do YOU find the kindest? Do you have any tips for preventing damage? Please contact me here and let me know.


Comments from our readers...

I agree about the Velcro rollers. My hairdresser likes to use them, but I stopped using them because they seemed to make my hair loss worse. Also, I quit using my blow dryer so that the Rogaine foam could be more effective.

I found that using a boar bristle brush such as the Spornette g-36 (available here, from Amazon) helps with the frizziness and seems to be less damaging. I have a couple of the round brushes and sometimes I leave them in to set like a roller.

I love this product: Sexy Hair BSH Play Lite Soft Volumizing And Texturizing Powder.

Melissa, USA


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