The Lost Art of Roller Setting

When you think of roller setting, you may think of your mother or grandmother’s weekly ritual after shampooing. It usually included goopy setting lotions and hair pins, plus a long time under a hooded dryer. When she was finished, she sprayed her freshly-set hair in what we lovingly refer to as “helmet hair” — hair that appeared like it wouldn’t move, even if a hurricane headed her way.

Roller setting seems to have gone out with the 1970s, but did you know that it can be one of the best things you do for your long hair? Here’s why:

Blow dryers can reach temperatures of 260-280 degrees, which can cause water inside the hair shaft to literally boil. The weakened hair shaft then bursts, breaks or splits apart. Air drying your hair is a wonderful way to go if you aren’t worried about frizzies or flyaways. But for smooth, ultra-shiny, frizz-free hair, roller setting is the way to go.

Hair Roller Setting

When I visited Dr. George Michael, the world-famous long hair expert, he showed me the correct way to roller set my hair.

The result was the smoothest, shiniest hair I’ve ever experienced.

That’s because the rollers help flatten and smooth the hair’s cuticle while the constant, low heat is evenly distributed and circulated around the rolled hair. Hair dries quickly and safely.

To properly roller set your hair, follow these simple instructions:

1. Only use plastic magnetic or mesh rollers on your long hair. DO NOT use Velcro, sponge or brush rollers. Velcro and brush rollers can tangle and break your hair, while sponge rollers draw out your hair’s natural oils and moisture content. You can find plastic magnetic and mesh rollers at beauty supply stores.

Magnetic plastic rollers are smooth cylinders of plastic that allow wet hair to cling to them. They can be held in place with picks or pins through their tiny holes. Plain mesh rollers do not contain any type of brush or “teeth” that can damage hair. You can hold them in place with picks. Hair may dry faster on mesh rollers because their open construction allows air to flow around and through the hair.

2. Find yourself a good hood or bonnet dryer that you can keep at a constant temperature (around 108 degrees F or 42 degrees C). Many beauty supply stores carry hard and soft hood dryers, or you can do a search on eBay and other auction sites. There are bound to be plenty of people auctioning off their old hood dryers.

3. For the smoothest, most frizz-free hair possible, allow your hair to air dry a bit. Then, section your hair so it will fit on the width of the roller you’re using. If you pick up too much hair, your hair will overlap and won’t be as smooth and even. Use larger rollers if you’d like to achieve a smooth look; use smaller rollers for more curl.

4. For the most body, roll the top section of your hair under and the bottom section of your hair up. (see illustratons below).

5. The ends are the most important part in a perfect roller set. If you don’t roll and tuck them neatly and evenly, they could dry in a crimped manner. Take your time when rolling your hair to ensure perfectly smooth locks.

6. Your hair can be completely dry in as few as 15 minutes, depending on how damp it is when you roll it. Be sure to remove the hood dryer periodically and partially unroll a lock so you can keep tabs on how quickly it’s drying.

7. When hair is dry, carefully remove pins and unroll the rollers. You may want to finger comb your hair before comging out. And remember, NEVER use a brush on wet or damp hair!

If you roller set your hair, send us your stories and photos! We’d like to include them here!

best roller settting


Some people think roller setting is old fashioned and it may take more time, but your hair will thank you for it. I use my dryer time to work on my computer and Susan is a school teacher — she does her grading work while under the dryer.


hair under dryer

Probably the best place to find hair dryers and rollers is at an online auction or a thrift store.

You have a wonderful site and we ladies with long hair love what you have done.


long silky hair

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