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What are Steam Hair Rollers?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Steam hair rollers are part of an electric hair styling device called a hairsetter. Rollers steamed in the hairsetter are used to set hair in order to create curls. An electric steam hairsetter features a water reservoir and a section in which to place the hair rollers sold with it. Each model or brand of hairsetter is different, and steam hair rollers are not interchangeable between models. While curly hairstyles can be created through non-steam roller types, steam rollers make the styles last longer and tend to work better for people with difficult to curl hair.

When the hairsetter is plugged into an electrical outlet, following the manufacturer's instructions, steam is created as the water in the reservoir boils. The steam hair rollers are then inserted into the section of the electric hairsetter made for them. Once steamed, each roller, or curler, is placed at the ends of a section of hair and ready to be rolled up in a way that is similar to non-electric rollers.

Hot rollers will heat hair, but they do not steam hair properly.
Hot rollers will heat hair, but they do not steam hair properly.

The steam makes hair supple and bendable, which causes it to curl more easily than it would with hot or plain rollers. Steam leaves moisture when it evaporates, which usually results in a firmly set hairstyle that is also very shiny. Plain hair rollers are the traditional foam or plastic types that are sold alone and are not heated or steamed. Hot roller hairsetters heat the hair rollers, but don't create steam.

The hairsetter device that steams the hair rollers is usually made of plastic. The steam hair rollers sold with it are usually in at least three or four different diameters. A hair roller is cylindrical in shape; the larger the diameter, the bigger the curl. Typically, hairstyles are set with the smaller hair rollers near the front of the face; the larger curlers tend to be used on the lower sections of the head to create soft curls. Larger sections of hair used in each roller also result in softer, looser curls.

Since steam hot roller hairsetters are electrical, they can't be immersed in water and shouldn't be used near water-filled sinks or bathtubs for safety reasons. Some of these hairsetters have a temperature selector so that the user can choose whether to lightly or heavily steam the rollers. Older steam roller hairsetter models usually required that salt be added to the water reservoir, but these have since largely been replaced by salt-free hot steam hair rollers.

Discussion Comments


One of my favorite Christmas presents was a set of steam conair rollers. I remember pouring the water in the reservoir and waiting about 10 minutes until I saw the steam. You could almost hear that water heating up as the unit began warming up and became hot.

I used every one of the four different sizes and always tried to keep all the clips right there with the curlers so I would not lose the clips to hold the rollers in place.


I just loved my first set of steam hair curlers, and used them almost everyday. You would always need to give yourself enough time to let the curlers heat up after pouring the water in, but the wait was worth it.

You knew they were nice and hot when you saw a little steam rising from the unit. You could also tell just by placing your hand on the rollers. Sometimes they were hot enough they could almost burn your fingers.

I still love the look you can get with steam rollers, and the curl will last a long time - even for people whose hair does not hold curl very good.

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    • Hot rollers will heat hair, but they do not steam hair properly.
      By: MAXFX
      Hot rollers will heat hair, but they do not steam hair properly.