Roller (or curlers) are one of the best tools for styling hair or wigs but getting started with them can be a little overwhelming. There are so many sizes and styles, how do you know which ones to use and how to use them? This three part series will explain the physics of rollers so you can use them to style your hair and wigs. Part 2 is here
What Size Roller Should I Use?
Picking the correct size of roller for the style is essential. If the rollers are too big or too small, the shape of the curls and waves will be wrong and the style won’t turn out well.
As you can see in the above comparison photo, the largest roller makes the widest, softest pattern, more of a wave than a curl. The smallest roller makes a shorter, tighter curl. Although you’ll be combing and manipulating the hair once it comes out of the roller, it’s important to put the right size “bend” or shape into the hair. Many common hair styles will actually require a combination of sizes -perhaps the style needs a lot of volume at the roots but tighter curls towards the bottom.
So the size is pretty important, what else do I need to consider when using rollers?
Once you have some idea what size rollers need to go into the hair style, figure out whether you need a lot of roller or just a few. Generally, the more rollers you use in a single area of hair, the greater the number of curls produced.
In this side by side comparison, we used the same amount of hair but twice as many rollers in the right side. Note, the rollers are the same size, we just used different colors to make it easier to see the two examples.
A larger number of curls in the same amount of hair means more volume or “poof”. This is really useful in an 18th century style like the Hedgehog where the desired outcome is a dense, fluffy mound of tightly waved hair. By contrast, a smaller number of larger rollers would yield a smoother, fuller style better suited for a different 18th century style.
The wigs above illustrate the difference between a smaller number of larger rollers, left, and a larger number of smaller rollers, right. The two wigs also illustrate nicely the difference in the shape and size of the waves and curls when different size rollers are used.
There’s one more really important factor to consider with rollers – the direction the hair is rolled onto them
Why does it matter if the hair is rolled up or down? Because the up or down direction will greatly influence how the hair behaves. The majority of hairstyles will utilize the “down” (also called “under”) direction but knowing when to use “up” is important. As you can see in the photo above, the “up” hair is higher than the down. If your hairstyle requires a lot of volume or for the end of the hair to be very full and shelf like, your style needs to finish with at least one row of “up” rollers. Conversely, if your style needs to come to a graceful finish with turned under ends, you need to roll the hair “down”
For many 1930’s styles, especially towards the end of the decade, rolling “up through the lower part of the hair is essential. “Down” is the way to go for most later 1940’s and 50’s styles, or when length is key to the style.
This little tip is key to getting a smooth ringlet that hangs nicely. You want to wrap the strand of hair around the length of the roller – tape rollers together to get a roller that is close to the desired length of your ringlet.
Wrapping the strand of hair around the roller for the full length of the spiral curl yields a smoother, longer and prettier curl. If you wrap the same strand of hair around a single roller, the strand of hair will want to “spring up” and be too short. It won’t want to make a long, graceful lovelock or sleek ringlet. Use a separate roller for each curl you want. The same technique of wrapping the hair around in a spiral will also work with a curling iron.
This visual guide to some of the physics of rollers will help you understand the way rollers shape hair and how to choose the best roller for your style. In part two, we’ll show how to take these basic building blocks and put them together to achieve styles. We’ll also cover the best ways to roll the hair, products to use, and what to do once it’s time to take the rollers out. Part three will focus on the nuts and bolts of styling the hair you’ve so carefully rolled.