The Cookbook


How Do I Use a Roller Set on Natural Hair?

Roller sets have been around for a very long time and were a classic look for many black women before us. Whether the picture in your head is of a woman walking around with the actual rollers in or the beautiful curls the set result, we all have a staple image of what a roller set is in our minds.

Most may be used to the process of straightening the hair first before applying the rollers, however it’s actually possible to achieve a roller set without applying any heat at all! Today we’ll go over how to use a roller set on natural hair so that you can achieve the style without the hassle and damage of heat application.

What Is a Roller Set?


A roller set is basically what it sounds like...a set of hair rollers you use in your hair. The rollers function as a tool that curls the hair. The kind of curls the rollers will produce depends on the size of the roller and how the hair is wrapped on the roller. 

When referring to the size of the roller, the size of the circle in the middle of the roller, or the diameter of the roller, is the size in question. Rollers typically come in similar lengths, so the width, diameter, or even circumference is the only real variation. The bigger the roller (bigger diameter) the bigger the curls. Extremely skinny rollers (small diameter) will produce ringlet type curls.

Different Wrapping Methods

When it comes to how the hair is wrapped around the roller, it can be done in two ways. The first way is to roll the hair onto itself as you roll the roller up the hair section (this will all make sense later!) The other option, which would be a little more difficult if your hair is on the longer side, is to wrap the hair around the roller in a spiral form, so the hair isn’t overlapping, but wrapped around so that each part of the hair is flush to the roller.

There are a lot of tools similar to rollers that come in longer lengths. Things like flexi rods and wave rollers are examples of tools that work the same as rollers but can handle more hair on (or in) them. Because rollers are normally the same length, you typically won’t find a roller that is the length of a flexi rod or wave roller. Because of this, those with longer (or even thicker) hair might have trouble fitting their hair on the rollers.

For example, say you have long hair and are doing the first method of wrapping. That means you are wrapping your strand or section of hair over itself again and again until you get to the root of the section. Depending on the length of the roller, which on average is about 3-5 inches long, your hair will become thick on the roller since it’s stacked on top of itself. This becomes an issue when you go to close and secure the roller, as the closure may not fit securely and come undone. This will cause your roller to become loose, making the hair loose and unable to form the curl onto the roller. This will result in puffy, undefined curls. 

If you are doing the second method of wrapping, the issue becomes greater because of the lack of space you have. The longer your hair, the more space you need in order to spiral the hair on. If your section of hair is too long to wrap along the length of the roller, you’ll have to resort to the first method where you wrap whatever hair you have left around itself.

Difference In Wrapping Methods


Like mentioned before, the size of the roller will dictate how big your curls are. Bigger rollers will result in large curls. Smaller rollers will give you smaller ringlets. When it comes to the wrapping methods, the method dictates how tight your curls will be. If you are wrapping the hair on top of itself, once taken down, the section of hair will be one big loop. Imagine the section in the shape of the roller. From there, you’ll have to separate the hair so you have individual curls. These curls will be tightly wound and shrunken down. On the other hand, the second method will result in an elongated curl that is clearly spiraled. Instead of being in one uniform, circular shape, it will be similar to a curl you get from a twist out. That section can then be separated into smaller spiraled sections.

Prepping the Hair for Wrapping

Before we get into the steps on how to do it, it will be useful to explain what each section of hair should look like before you do the actual wrapping…

When it comes to heatless roller sets, the key is to make the hair as straight and sleek as possible. Not only does this allow the result to look similar to the result of a heat-applied roller set, it also will ensure your curls are as defined as possible. Just like a twist out or braid out, you want the hair to be as detangled and smooth as possible to avoid knots, frizz, and improper drying. Similarly with a roller set, you want the hair to be detangled, smooth, and kink free. 

Smoothing the hair and making sure it’s flat and straight comes down to the products you use for styling. When it comes to the sections being kink-free, this just means being able to run your fingers through it without catching any knots or snags. 

Firstly, make sure you’re working on freshly cleansed hair. This will ensure that your hair is able to take the form of the roller. Using a sulfate free, non stripping shampoo will help ensure your hair is not dried out after the washing process. Conditioning shampoos are a great option for those who tend to have dry hair that is easily stripped of its natural oils. Our Low Poo Miracle Cleanser is a cleanser that doubles as a conditioner. Not only is it non-stripping, but it also is well suited for low porosity naturals who have trouble getting moisture into their hair. 

After your hair is cleansed, you’ll then want to work in sections. You can choose to work in cleanly parted sections or grab sections as you go. Parted sections will lay your curls in a more organized pattern. Grabbing sections as you go will make for a more natural layout of your curls when you take them down. Either way, fluffing your hair and separating your curls enough will allow your takedown to look as natural as possible. If you have hair that easily becomes frizzy, you’ll want to separate the curls as little as possible. Because of this, random sections may be a better option for you!

For each section, you want to make sure it is properly hydrated with water first. Then you want to go in with a base of a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer. After that, go in with a product that will smooth your hair; this can be a custard, foam, or gel. When working the products into your sections, you want to make sure you are smoothing the hair down and detangling it as you go. When you pull the section straight out away from your scalp, it should be smooth and flat.

When it comes to the styler you’re going to use, most have better results when using a custard or foam. They allow the hair to take shape freely without the hold a gel provides. This leaves for more light, natural looking, bouncy curls. Our Hydrating Moisturizer actually serves as a styler as well, making it a good option for those who are looking to use as little product as possible. Our Hydrating Custard is a light-weight formula which will soften the hair, allowing you to smooth the sections and prepare it for curling around the rollers. 

Installing the Rollers


Now that we’ve covered the prep, let’s get into how to roll the hair!

First Method of wrapping

This method involved wrapping the section of hair over itself…

  1. Pull the section straight away from your scalp. It may help you to pull the hair out at an angle as opposed to straight down.
  2. Place the roller at the ends of the section so that the hair is laying on top of the roller; the hair should be centered on the roller so there isn’t any hanging off the ends of the roller. 
  3. From there, take the very ends of the section and tuck them under the roller so the ends of the hair is now wrapped around the roller. The ends of your hair should be under the roller while the rest of the strand is on top of the roller. You then want to make sure the ends of your hair are tucked up under the strand of hair, lying flat and smooth. This will secure the roller and allow you to continue to roll it up the hair.
  4. Then, you’ll roll the roller up your strand as you pull the hair taught so it lays flat on the roller and the sections of hair underneath it. 
  5. Keep rolling the roller up the section of hair until you get to your roots. You want to make sure the roller is against your scalp; not too tight that it’s pulling on your scalp, but not too loose to wear the roller is flimsily hanging.
  6. You’ll then repeat these steps all over your head, working section by section.

Second Method of wrapping

This method involves taking your hair section and wrapping it around the roller itself (as opposed to rolling the roller up the section).

  1. Just like the first step for the first method, you’ll want to pull the section straight away from your scalp. Again, it may help you to pull the hair out at an angle as opposed to straight down.
  2. Now you want to hold the roller close to your scalp so that the root of the section is against one of the ends of the roller.
  3. From there, you want to wrap the section around the roller. With each wrap, you’ll be moving down the length of the roller. Make sure to keep the hair as taught as possible while doing so.
  4. If you get to the end of the roller and still have hair to wrap, you’ll then take that hair and wrap it on top of the hair at the end of the roller.
  5. When it comes to securing the ends, you want to make sure you flatten the ends down with a little product before putting the closure on the roller. Some rollers have caged closures that cover the entire surface of the roller while others have a rubber band piece starting at the bottom that can be secured at the top. The latter kind of closure is less secure in terms of holding the ends of your hair down, so you may need a little more product to make sure your ends don’t end up frizzy and uncurled!
  6. You’ll then repeat this step throughout the hair while working in sections.

Now that we’ve discussed how to install a roller set, let’s get into some general tips that will help the takedown process…

  • The number one thing you must do is make sure your hair is completely dry! Taking out the roller set before your hair is completely dry will essentially ruin the style. You can use a hooded dryer, a blowdryer, or just let it air dry. Most rollers have holes on their surface to aid in the drying process; if you come across ones that are completely solid, keep in mind this may increase the dry time.
  • If you’re comfortable, sleeping in your rollers and allowing them to dry overnight is the best way to ensure your takedown will be successful. You want to make sure you’re either covering your head with a satin scarf or bonnet, or laying on a satin pillowcase. Using a scarf or bonnet will help to keep your rollers tight and in place!
  • If during your takedown you see flakes, use a light oil while separating your curls in order to break up the flakes. Make sure you use a sparing amount, as using too much can cause frizz and dryness. However, if your hair is properly moisturized, you should have no issues with this step.
  • To preserve your roller set, pin curling is a method that’s a little less time consuming than applying rollers and can help maintain your curls. The only tool you’ll need are bobby pins. To pin curl, simply take a section of hair and curl it in a spiral formation flat against your scalp. From there you’ll want to use a bobby pin to secure the pin curl in place.

We hope this reading makes you feel more confident with the idea of trying a roller set. Let us know down below if you have any other favorite heatless styles!

Mikayla Jones

Mikayla Jones

As an intern NaturAll as a Customer Experience Rep, I began writing blogs in addition to my work in Customer Service. I luckily am still a part of NaturAll's team and enjoy sharing the information I find with you all!

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