Vogue February 11, 2024



The Best Heatless Curlers for Long-Lasting Curls, According to Hair Stylists


As it turns out, the best heatless curlers are a hot commodity—and not just because they’re eminently sharable on TikTok. Whether it’s a headband with octopus-style tentacles, a curling set that’s plush enough to sleep in, or a wave former that imparts mermaid-style ripples on any hair type, heatless curlers provide all the shine, bounce, and convenience of at-home styling—without the thermal damage typically associated with hot hair tools. Below, 10 heatless curlers for every hair type, approved by stylists and Vogue editors alike.

What are heatless curlers?

“Heatless curlers are an alternative method to using hot tools to achieve curls and waves,” explains Raven Hurtado, stylist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. Compared to hot tools, “heatless curlers are less damaging to the hair, and help maintain its health,” she says.

When it comes to getting curls—which typically require heat to hold them—there are several alternatives to try. One method is using a heatless curling headband; one may also opt for a heatless curling set, heatless curlers, or wave formers.

How to do heatless curls

Each type of heatless curler comes with its own set of instructions. While some are best used in the morning—or while one is getting glammed up for an event—many deliver heatless curls overnight.

“Heatless curlers can be simple to use,” says celebrity hairstylist Joseph Maine. “Typically you just wrap your damp hair around them, secure it, and let it sit until the hair dries completely, ideally using a hold product as well. Your hair is pliable when wet—therefore it dries in the shape it was formed in while damp.” However, he warns: “The way they are wrapped and applied can require a learning curve.” As such, here are some general tips for using various types of heatless curlers:

If you’re using a headband: “Place it on top of the head, then clip it in place so it doesn’t move around,” Hurtado says. (Many curling headbands come with a hair clip for this very purpose.) Next, you’ll wrap your hair around the rod on each side of the head, then use silk scrunchies to hold the hair in place. “You can use a heatless curling headband during the day for a couple of hours, or leave one overnight,” Hurtado says.
If you’re using rods: While you could use a single silk or satin rod, most opt to curl their hair with multiple flexible rods. However many you use, wrap the hair around the rod, roll it up toward the scalp, then clamp the rod in place and let the curls set.
If you’re using rollers: Sponge, foam, or velcro rollers can also provide heat-free curls. Simply wrap sections of the hair around the curlers, clip them in—and prepare to wait. “You see the best results when you leave rollers in for seven to 10 hours,” Hurtado says. “They’re good for overnight use.”
If you’re using wave formers: You’ll need a hair hook to thread the hair into wavy, crocheted styling tools. Once the hair has been inserted, the wave formers snap into place and the curls can set.

Which hair types are heatless curlers best for?

Medium and long hair both take well to curling headbands or rollers, Maine says, specifying that medium hairs works best with medium rollers, while jumbo rollers befit a lengthier mane.Long hair and curly hair are good candidates for wave formers, Maine says. 

For thick hair, he advises using large curling rods or wave formers, explaining that having multiple curling devices will help divide the hair so that it can dry properly as the curls set. He says that fine hair agrees with satin rods that provide “gentle curling”—particularly when used with a mousse. Curly hair also takes well to silk or satin rods, which can enhance natural curls without adding frizz. Short hair, on the other hand, “has the most difficulty with heatless options,” Maine says, recommending small rollers or miniature rods to create tight curls in shorter styles.

What kind of curls can you get from heatless curlers?

According to Maine, curling rods are “great for tight, spiral curls.” Headbands, he adds, “create loose, beachy waves,” while rollers—depending on their size— can create curls that range from tight to big and bouncy. Meanwhile, wave formers, “give you a more defined wave pattern, and work wonders on most hair types,” he says.

Do you need to apply products with heatless curlers?

For all types of heatless curlers and hair types, Maine says: “A little bit of hairspray after removing the curlers can work wonders. If the results are a little fluffy or frizzy, I’d recommend following with a serum, like Color Wow’s Pop and Lock Shine Serum, which will add moisture, definition, and reduce frizz.” He also suggests that those with fine hair apply a lightweight mousse, such as Color Wow’s Xtra Large Bombshell Volumizer, to help create body in the curls.

Meet the Experts

Raven Hurtado is a stylist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon.

Joseph Maine is a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles and New York City whose clients include Chloe Fineman and Alex Cooper.


Best Overall: Rosewood Satin Flexi Rods

Why we love it: Wrapped in vegan satin that provides a friction-free grip, Kitsch’s set miniature rods won’t tug on thick or textured hair. Instead, they glide through it like shine-inducing butter, leaving voluminous waves in their wake. The rods also add definition to naturally curly or wavy hair.

Who it’s for: Short, wavy, curly, or thick hair
Material: 100% vegan satin

Best Foam Rollers: Conair Soft Curls Foam Rollers

Why we love it: Filled with foam rollers of various sizes, Conair’s heat-free set can create tight, defined curls or big, bouncy waves. The self-gripping curlers have clips to keep them fastened in place—they’ll even stay put overnight, minimal prep work required. “You can use these with wet or dry hair, no product necessary,” says Hurtado.

Who it’s for: With rollers of various sizes, the set is suited to all hair types.
Material: Foam

Best for Long Hair: Mermade Heatless Curls Kit

Why we love it: Mermade’s petal-pink set graces hair with loose, romantic curls. It comes with a flexible rod that’s swathed in 100% mulberry silk, a clip to hold the rod in place, and two silky scrunchies to keep the hair wrapped around it on either side. As you slip the rod out after several hours, smooth, shiny curls will tumble down.

Who it’s for: Medium to long hair, fine hair
Material: 100% mulberry silk

Best for Fine Hair: Drybar High Tops Self-Grip Rollers

Why we love it: Thin or fine hair will benefit from the secure grip of these velcro rollers, which stay in place without assistance from clips. What’s more, they’re easy to use on any hair length. Simply roll damp hair up toward the scalp, leave the rollers in place, and unleash voluminous curls after the hair has dried.

Who it’s for: Thin or fine hair
Material: Velcro

Best for Defined Curls: Willbond Heatless Waves Hair Curler

Why we love it: These candy-hued curlers are gentle enough to use on damaged hair; they can also add beachy waves to wigs or extensions. Applying them takes some getting used to—you’ll need to thread your hair through the devices with hooks—but the shiny, perfectly waved results speak for themselves.

Who it’s for: Curly, wavy, or thick hair
Material: Silicone

Best for Short Hair: Octocurl Heatless Curls Headband

Why we love it: While many heatless curlers cater to longer styles, this headband is expressly designed for those with short hair. With 16 curlers attached to a band that wraps around the forehead, the tool can be used to create spiral or loose curls, beach waves, or crown volume.

Who it’s for: Short hair
Material: Microfiber

Best for Ringlets: The Vintage Cosmetics Company Pink Bendy Hair Curlers

Why we love it: Made of soft sponge, these peppy pink rollers feel refreshingly lightweight in the hair. (They’re even soft enough to sleep on.) To use them, twist the hair around a rod, then roll it up toward the scalp and bend the curler into place. Then, go about your business while shiny, vintage-style ringlets take shape.

Who it’s for: Short, medium, or long hair
Material: Sponge

Best for Curly Hair: Silke London Heatless Curler

Why we love it: Silke London provides all the fixings for curls on the go, packing a cushy curling rod, two hair ties, and a floral-patterned clip into a sleek cosmetics case. Best used on damp hair, the curler provides big, bouncy curls in four to eight hours—and its silky material keeps hair hydrated all the while.

Who it’s for: According to Maine, silk curlers work well with curly hair, enhancing curls with frizz-free definition.
Material: Silk

Best for Shoulder-Length Hair: Xracephol Heatless Curling Rod Headband

Why we love it: Made of ultra-soft velour, this 60-inch curling headband has less bulk than a typical curling rod. The set comes with two hair ties, a clip to keep it in place, and a spray bottle to dampen the hair. That—plus some wrapping skills— will give you everything you need for heatless, blowout-style curls.

Who it’s for: Medium to long hair
Material: Velour

Best Heatless Curling Headband: Robecurls Curling Headband

Why we love it: This simple-to-use styling tool specializes in ringlets. (Take your pick from one or one-and-a-half inch curls.) It takes about two minutes to wrap your locks around the charmeuse curling band, which contains patent-pending technology that keeps the hair moisturized. But if you need some guidance, take heed: The brand offers free, one-on-one “curl talk” tutorials to teach users how to use the headband.

Who it’s for: All hair types
Material: Satin charmeuse