(Hair)

I’ve Finally Mastered Fluffy Hair Thanks To This $14 ‘90s-Inspired Styling Tool

It's surprisingly easy.

My introduction to the ‘90s-inspired “fluffy hair” trend that’s sweeping across Instagram and Tik Tok predates both platforms. It was, well, in the ‘90s. There were many icons I could have looked to for inspiration (Cindy Crawford, Denise Richards, and Alicia Silverstone among them), but my younger self was completely caught up with Topanga Lawrence’s long and voluminous locks in Boy Meets World. Minus a brief interlude with the ‘00s popular slick, straight look, my obsession with the movement, body, and volume of the ‘90s blowout is now back. Only this time, I have a secret weapon — hair rollers. These old-school hairstyling accessories are (apparently) the easiest way to achieve the fluffy hair of ‘90s dreams.

Take it from celebrity hairstylist Laura Polko. “Rollers are one of the oldest forms of hairstyling out there,” she says. “We’ve seen rollers progress into many different types of products, from pin curls to tying towels or socks into the hair — it’s constantly been a staple in the hairstyling world. It also demonstrates that people have always been searching for more volume. Nowadays with curling irons and blowdryers, most people don’t reach for the rollers, but if you’re looking for max volume, it is my number one recommendation!”

As Polko says, hair rollers go way back — well beyond the ‘90s. “Originating in ancient times, the Egyptians and Greeks utilized natural resources like fire and the heat of the sun to warm the rollers,” explains editorial and celebrity hairdresser Jasmine Burnside. “These techniques allowed them to mold and shape the hair just like we do now using modern curling irons.”

She adds that the rise of extravagant hair looks in the 15th century added to the popularity of rollers. “Wigs with big intricate curls stacked to the heavens were very popular amongst the rich, she tells TZR. “Fast forward to 1930, Solomon Harper, engineer, and inventor, created the first electric hair rollers. The design evolved over time and gained major popularity in the ‘60s — think Valley of the Dolls, and Jackie O. Today, the technology hasn’t really changed, but the branding and packaging definitely have.”

Kaitlyn McLintock

Why Use Hair Rollers Instead of a Curling Iron?

While it’s true that both tools can give your hair shape and volume, hair rollers are the go-to for professional stylists when it comes to creating a ‘90s-inspired look. “Think of each hair device as another tool in your arsenal to create whatever look you like,” says celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan. Rollers will result in a more fluffy, voluminous finish, whereas “traditional curling wands and irons can compress the hair for more structured results. You would want to use these tools for more polished curls and waves.”

Celebrity hairstylist Ro Morgan agrees. “I would recommend using hair rollers when you want to achieve natural volume that lasts. Hair rollers are great to boost volume and add texture to thin, lifeless hair. They are time-saving for some because you can do other tasks while your hair is being set by the rollers.”

What Are The Different Kinds of Hair Rollers?

For the purpose of the fluffy hair trend, there are two main categories of rollers — velcro rollers and hot rollers. “Hot rollers are hair rollers that require heat while the other hair rollers do not,” Morgan explains. “Velcro rollers stay in place by adhering themselves to the hair without the use of pins or clips.”

According to hair stylist and Leonor Greyl Educator Kat Savano, “hot rollers are made of a hard plastic and are sometimes covered with a material to help protect hair and help it glide around the roller. They are used on dry hair and you must let them cool 100% for the set to hold prior to removing them from the hair. Velcro rollers are also used on dry hair, but because they are a softer plastic, it is possible to sleep in them.”

While you can use both to achieve a ‘90s-inspired voluminous look, the end result of the curls will vary based on which kind you reach for. “The results will be very different as hot rollers will give more defined curls and velcro rollers will give a softer, fluffier finish,” Marjan tells TZR.

My hair before using hair rollersKaitlyn McLintock

How To Use Velcro Rollers To Get Fluffy Hair

Marjan is a fan of velcro rollers rather than a hot roller option to achieve the fluffy look. To start, she preps damp hair with a volumizing mousse or spray, and after blowdrying each section with a hairdryer and a ceramic round brush (she recommends the ghd Helios Dryer), she rolls the hair up (place the roller on top of the hair section so you can get it all the way to the base of your hair, next to the scalp), then lets the hair cool and set. This is when she mists the hair with hairspray to keep the style intact. Once that’s finished, she removes the rollers and breaks up the hair with her fingers for that big, fluffy effect.

If she can’t start with damp hair, she will mist dry hair with hairspray to give it some hold before brushing through and curling it with the ghd Soft Curl Iron — this allows her to get some heat and shape into the hair so it molds and sets to the velcro rollers. After wrapping the hair in the rollers, she’ll let them cool before removing them and misting with hair spray. Then she uses a smoothing brush, rather than ringers, to break up the curls. This is because “if I end up using a curling iron before the velcro rollers, the curl is more defined, so I will go in with a smoothing brush after with more hairspray,” she explains. This gives the hair the desired fluffy finish.

Choosing The Right Size Velcro Rollers For Your Hair

It’s worth noting that the size of each roller matters, as well as the placement. “Choose the velcro roller size appropriate for the style you’re trying to achieve,” Morgan says. “Smaller rollers for shorter hairstyles and larger rollers for longer hairstyles.” Using smaller rollers on long hair can result in tight, defined curls that will lack that signature ‘90s-esque fluff. Alternatively, using larger rollers on short hair can have the opposite result; the curls could be too loose and lack the desired shape.

Once you’ve chosen the right size, it’s time to place them by rolling them all the way up the hair to rest at the root. “The key to the fluff is to be sure to place your rollers on base [the rectangular section of hair that you pick up to wrap on the roller] — you don’t want any drag in the root area if you are trying to achieve maximum volume and curl,” Savano says, meaning that you should section the hair so it is the same size as the roller. “Also choose a roller that your hair will wind around 2 ½ times for the best hold. The more rotations the more curl, so you don’t want too many but just enough to make it sexy,” she adds.

How To Use Hot Rollers To Get Fluffy Hair

I chose to use hot rollers to create my version of the fluffy hair trend, and while I was initially intimidated by the T3 Volumizing Hot Rollers, the whole process was way easier than I thought it would be — probably because I heeded Polko’s advice before attempting it on my own. “This is going to be all about how you section,” she says. “You’re going to start at the top of the head and apply rollers in a mohawk fashion from the crown of your head to the front. At the crown, start with the bigger roller and as you move towards the front use the smaller rollers. I also suggest you direct hair away from the face on all of these rollers except the very front one. This will help frame the face nicely.”

I did as Polko said, and began at the crown of my head. I grabbed the first section of hair, rolled it over the roller until it rested securely at the root. That’s when I secured it with one of the accompanying hair clips. Since these were hot rollers I was dealing with, I started on totally dry hair with no product prep. “Heat protectant is always great, but it’s not as necessary to use with hot rollers as if you are using a curling iron,” Polko says. The T3 Hot Rollers have velvet flocking on each roller which imparts shine but is also like a built-in heat protectant. If anything else, I would recommend some volumizing mousse and a rough dry before using the rollers to add to the voluminous finished look.” (If you aren’t using velvet flocked hot rollers, a heat protectant is necessary to support hair health.)

On the sides of the head, Polko recommends splitting your hair in half. “Use a larger size roller on the bottom and a smaller size on the top.” So that’s what I did. Once the hair has set and the rollers have cooled (which only took about 15 minutes) Polko promises you’ll “have the ‘90s fluffiness and volume with a curl pattern that doesn’t look too intentional.”

Since I have fine hair that usually does everything in its power to reject a curl, I was impressed with the volume I got from the rollers. And this was without using any finishing products (including hairspray if you can believe it). I ended up using all eight of the rollers simultaneously to achieve this look — although I probably could have gotten away with just using six, because my hair isn’t that thick.

Since they come with clips to secure them in the hair, the whole process is hands-free. Only one of the rollers fell out over the course of the 15 minutes I waited, but it was easy enough to re-roll it and clip it in place again. Once I removed them — which took all of 30 seconds — my hair looked instantly fluffy and voluminous.

My hair after using hot rollers@kaitlyn_mclintock

I’ll certainly be styling my hair with rollers again. This time though, I’ll be sure to incorporate the right finishing products into the process to maintain the look (in fact, I pulled a can of hairspray and my favorite Sachajuan Shine Serum out of the depths of my bathroom cabinet for this exact purpose). I will go without my volumizing products, though. I simply don’t need them after using hot rollers. From here on out, consider me Topanga Lawrence.

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