Hot Rollers vs. Curling Wands vs. Curling Irons

| Last Updated: January 3, 2021

Hot rollers, curling wands and curling irons -  all these hair styling tools carry out the same functionality — curling. But they fulfill that need for different hair types, and with varying degrees of efficiency.

The curly era that ruled the mid-20th century is back, including the use of rollers. Francis Catanese, lead stylist at John Barrett Bond Street, says, “I love that hot rollers are making a comeback — it’s a great way for clients to re-create what I do in the salon at home.” The curling iron and its close sibling the curling wand were later developments history, but the three co-exist. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so let’s have a look at all three!

Advantages of Curling Wands

Curling Wands are long, heated electric “rods” that generate heat to create curls. You need to roll different sections of hair one at a time around the wand to achieve the desired look.

Kadori Professional - best curling wands for beach waves

Exciting Pros

To achieve different styles of curls, you need a differently shaped rod, commonly referred to as the barrel. For instance, a noodle look is best achieved with the use of corkscrew wand; diamond waves can be easily created with a bumpy spiral wand; and a faux blow dry with a waving wand. Thicker barrels create loose curls and thinner ones create tighter curls, adding more volume to your hair.

Most of the best curling wands in the market give you the option to change the barrel. This lets you create curls of different volume and shape. These barrels are made of ceramic, titanium or tourmaline. You may also hear about chrome-plated barrels that will save you bucks, although they’re not so great for your hair. You need to use expensive heat protectants and hair creams if you are using chrome barrels. Even then, there is no promise of keeping your hair healthy.

It is best to use a curling wand for easy-going, casual occasions or a weekend look. This gives a girl-next-door look by being able to create waves very easily. You can come up with beachy waves, soft curls, permed look and other natural curl types very effortlessly with a wand.

Wands have a tapered end which helps the waves stay better and longer. While choosing among different curling equipment, you must have in mind that, over the rest, wands are best for longer-lasting curls.

The other exciting part is that the barrels of different sizes and shapes allow you to create a new look every day.

Beware of Cons

Wands heat up very rapidly, so a heat-resistant glove is a great accessory and is part of many kits. Because of the high heating ability and lack of adjustable temperature, you should be careful while using it. They presents a danger of burning your hands if you don’t hold the hot equipment the right way. Also, since a wand’s temperature can be really high, fragile and weak hair is prone to further damage.

A curling wand achieves natural-looking waves, but you might be a tad disappointed if you expect your hair to look shiny and the curls to be polished. Unlike a curling iron, a wand does not have a clasp to hold your hair while curling. For newbies, this feature might make the process of curling slightly cumbersome.

Advantages of Curling Irons

Curling irons are very similar to wands and colloquially these terms are very often interchanged. However, the two terms represent distinct products. Curling irons have clasps to hold the hair. They are also kept closer to the face than wands while curling. They became popular because you can master the red-carpet, diva look with polished ringlets.  

Exciting Pros

Curling irons have adjustable temperature settings. This provides more versatility and care while styling your hair. Constant exposure of your hair to high heat can result in damaged hair. With an iron’s adjustable settings, you can play around to retain the quality and health of your hair.

Curling irons are available in materials like ceramic, tourmaline and other metals like gold, Teflon, aluminum and titanium. Tourmaline irons especially help in reducing the frizz. Some wands are made of marcel, which is preferred by professional stylists. Chrome irons, though, are just as disappointing as their wand counterparts.

Single-, double- and triple-barreled irons add different degrees of volume and curls. The sizes of iron barrels range from ⅜ inches to 2 inches. Larger diameters create bigger and loose curls, while smaller ones create a thicker look. Also, smaller diameters are meant for shorter hair and the larger ones for longer hair. This proportion helps you save time while curling.

The big selling point is that these are cheaper and safer than curling wands.

Beware of Cons

Heating speed with curling irons is slower than curling wands. Neither curling wands and irons cannot beat the safety of hot rollers. The heat generated, even though it’s adjustable, can lead to severe hair damage.

Curling irons don’t work well when you have extremely thick hair. Also you are stuck with only curling and cannot multitask when you are using a curling iron.

Advantages of Hot Rollers

Hot rollers have found there way back from the bygone days. After many years, styling geeks for personal hair care are choosing hot rollers, which are extremely delicate on hair. At the same time they don’t compromise on the curly look.

Exciting Pros

You don’t have to worry about burning your hair or fingers with hot rollers. They are extremely simple to handle. You don’t need a tutorial for using them safely. You can also focus on other chores while the rollers work at curling your hair.

Each kit of hot rollers’ contains different sized rollers with clips. The sizes range from 0.25 inches to 2 inches in diameters and are referred to as small, medium, large and jumbo based on the size. This lets you plan the hairstyle with a natural yet defined look. That way you can create long, wavy curls, tight, bouncy curls, or bigger, bombshell curls.

While flexible hot rollers offer some degree of versatility to styling depending upon the tension you have set, non-flexible hot rollers provide consistency. There will be no surprises in the case of the latter and you can achieve an assured look.

Beware of Cons

Though this is a relatively cheap option, you may not be able to keep your curls for as long as the other styling tools allow.

Because of the method of rolling, you may not see a picture-perfect look. Some strands will be left out here and there.

The best results are achieved for medium-length hair. With long hair, it takes longer to apply the rollers and after that, there is no guarantee that you will see the desired look. The other drawback is that while rolling, the heat may not reach the end of the long sections of hair. That compels you to repeat the curling process on the ends.

Is There a Winner?

Curls add volume, definition and style to any type of hair. That nudges you to the question ‘which styling tool works best for you?’.

Hot rollers almost vanished but are making something of a comeback. This is because unlike irons and wands that expose your hair to heavy heat, hot rollers preserve the health and look of your hair. They also allow you to attend to other chores while your hair is set. Hot rollers are safe and you can sleep with them on your head without the fear of burning down your hair.

Curling irons on the other hand are popular for the speed at which the barrel heats up and the curls are created. Unlike rollers, irons create an extremely professional outcome. The effort of rolling different sections is easier with irons.

Both hot rollers and curling irons work well with fragile and thin hair.

Curling wands are much more recent on the market and are a busy woman’s styling tool. You don’t want to look like a prim diva everyday, but may still want to style your hair just to feel better about yourself. A wand offers more versatility in styling than the other two tools. It is a favorite tool for thick and coarse hair that demands more heat.

Clearly, factors like your hair type, preferred look, degree of convenience and time at disposal determine your choice of purchase among the three styling tools.

Share to Pinterest


Love for a vintage look and being a multi-tasker, would push you to use hot rollers over the rest. If you are a perfectionist, then your preference would be a curling iron, as the clasp lets you rope in every strand of hair. A look that is next-to-perfect yet better than casual is what a curling wand can achieve.

Convenience of use with features like inclusion of a clasp, time spent in curling, the style you’re going for and more will all factor into making up mind. Pay attention to the core features each styling tool has before you purchase. Much depends on personal preference and the look you’re going for.

Share to Pinterest

Hi I'm Emilia! I like to think of myself as the "crash-test-dummy" of the hair world. Whether that means testing out the newest curling iron or going with fresh hair styles. I like to mix it up. I share my thoughts on Caffe Hair based on my first hand experience!