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7 best heatless curlers for bouncy locks without the damage

From beachy waves to Hollywood glamour, achieve knock-out curls with these hair saviours

Eleanor Magill
Monday 03 May 2021 08:25 BST
<p>Many of our top picks can be worn at night, meaning you can wake up to a perfectly curled hairdo</p>

Many of our top picks can be worn at night, meaning you can wake up to a perfectly curled hairdo

Bleaching, straightening, blow-drying, curling, yanking it up into tight ponytails – we really do put our hair through the wringer.

It is well-known that the constant use of heat styling can be really damaging to your locks, and worst case scenario, can fry them beyond repair.

During lockdown, many of us had the rare opportunity to give our hair a well-needed break, and surrendered our heat tools until we could venture out the house again.

But now we can finally go out and about once more, how can you best stick to the “no heat” lifestyle without compromising on style and volume?

Whether you are looking for beachy waves, a bouncy blowout or Julia Roberts-esque hair in Pretty Woman, these heatless curling methods have got you covered.

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We scoured the internet, and TikTok (of course), for the best “no heat” curling methods. Many of the products featured on this list stated that they are “sleep in” – meaning easy-breezy bedtime application with the promise of bouncy curls come morning. We put this theory to the test by trialling how comfortable the curlers were to sleep in. After all, a good hair day is not worth a sleepless night…

In this round-up you will find the best heatless curling methods; from repurposed household objects to ingenious, luxe products. We tested all our products thoroughly, comparing ease of use, the integrity of your waves, the longevity of the do, and how much curl you got for your buck.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism acrossThe Independent.

This Is Silk silk hair curlers

The dressing gown tie method has been doing the rounds all over TikTok, and essentially involves you wrapping your hair around the tie, sleeping with it in and waking up to natural, bouncy curls. This brand has tapped into the trend by creating a slightly less DIY version with this silk rod. Our reviewer was dubious at first, but very pleasantly surprised with the results.

This silk rod is placed on top of the head and can be secured using a clip, then simply wrap your hair around the rod away from the face and use the silk scrunchies provided to hold in place. Unlike your fluffy dressing gown, the rod itself is made from pure mulberry silk, which conditions your hair with its own amino acids as you sleep. This method can be used on all hair lengths, only took 10 minutes to put in and resulted in silky soft hair, with the most voluminous, enviable curls. The rod itself was fairly comfortable to sleep in and well-worth the amazing hair day you are guaranteed the morning after. A big yes from us!

Hair Flair curlformers, spiral curls

Now, this was a look! Our normally pin-straight hair was transformed into Penny Lane Almost Famous-esque curly locks. The kit features 40 spiral “curlformers”, which are essentially plastic tubes that when pulled on, are straight but when released coil back into their spiral mould – with your hair encased in the tube. These come in two colours – one for clockwise curls, the other for counter-clockwise curls, and the set also includes two styling hooks and a cute satin holdall to house them in. 

Our reviewer’s first attempt to put these in was not a success, as the rod method is a little bit awkward and time-consuming. But a few Youtube explainer videos later and we were away. Simply take around 1in long sections of lightly damp hair, hook on to the rod and pull through the curlformer. The whole process took around 45 minutes, and we used all of the 40 curlformers, so this method is definitely not for somebody in a rush. Our reviewer has used them again since and has found that, with practice, the process is a little less time-consuming.

You have two options with this curly method; you can sit around waiting for your hair to dry in the curls, or you can use the brand’s soft-hood (£14.95, – a hair dryer attachment that will speed up the hair-drying process. The product is cleverly designed as a hood that will slip over your hair and the curlformers, which you can then secure with its drawstrings. Simply switch on the hairdryer and keep it on a low setting, as its ventilation holes allow for faster and even heat distribution – so less damage. The hood looks a bit strange on, we got some laughs from her housemates, but found this method had the best results. Word to the wise, it does get a bit sweaty under there, so perhaps leave your make-up application till after.

While these were a little fiddly, and if done wrong could result in a really uncomfortable pull on the scalp, the results were well worth the hassle, as the curls stayed in all the way up until wash day which is no mean feat. The hair is initially a little frizzy but can be smoothed away with the right products. This method also promises to work on all hair textures and curl patterns, so those with curly hair can have fun playing with a different curl styles too.

Hair Flair waveformers, beach flair

Hair Flair’s products are just so good we had to feature them twice. This one is for those looking for more of a relaxed wave than a ringlet curl. The beach flair kit comes with 20 waveformers and a hair rod to pull the hair through using the same technique as the spiral curlformers. Because this was more of a loose wave, the application time was cut in half but was still a bit fiddly. There is definitely a knack to getting these in.

As before, use damp hair with a little bit of holding product to secure the curls, and let your hair air dry or use their softhood hair dryer attachment (£14.95, Due to the rigidity of the formers, this are not a “sleep-in” method, as they would be really uncomfortable and tug at your scalp, and perhaps cause breakage as well as a sleepless night.

The removal process is very straightforward, just pull on the formers to release your beachy mermaid waves. Our reviewer has used these four times since first trying them out, enthralled by the frizz-less, silky curls; definitely a new hair styling favourite.

Cordina Hair satin flower curl

This was a new method for us, and is unlike anything else you can buy. The hair doughnut in the centre has four rings attached to it which are coated in a silky material that is gentle on the hair. You put your locks through the main doughnut, like you would with a hair bobble when putting your hair in a pony tail, before sectioning your hair and wrapping strands around the four rings surrounding it.

This option is definitely one for longer hair – past armpit length – our reviewer’s hair is only just long enough, but it would work beautifully on slightly longer locks. If you are worried your hair texture might be a little thin for this method – don’t be, you can easily detach the silk rings from the hair doughnut to fit your hair thickness or your desired curl pattern.

This product is, by far, the most comfortable to sleep in – the hair is away from the face and in a tug free hairstyle so there was no pulling on the scalp. This is actually a protective hairstyle too, so would reduce damage and breakage from tossing around in your sleep. Our reviewer woke up with voluminous, natural-looking, “un-done” curls after a great nights sleep – a win win.

IDealhere foam rollers

These are a tried and true classic that most of us will have stolen from our mum’s drawer at some stage. We tried out these no-frills foam rollers from Amazon, and they do exactly what they say on the tin. Our reviewer used these rollers on freshly washed hair. First, we used a round brush while blow-drying the hair to around 80-90 per cent dry. Next, we sectioned the hair and put the rollers in, curling up from the ends. When all the hair is in the roller, our reviewer used a silk bonnet to keep the foam rollers in place, but the click in mechanism on the rollers really keeps them secure.

While that first technique is not strictly heat-free, if used with some styling and hold products, foam rollers can be used on dry hair to add extra volume and curl. Our reviewer even tried sleeping with the rollers in, equipped with the aforementioned silk bonnet to hold in place, and while a little uncomfortable, the rollers created a lovely bouncy hairdo. All in all, it’s easy to see why these foam rollers are such a classic, they added great volume and body and are great for those “Hollywood curls”.

Anself Velcro rollers

Another tried and tested classic, you may associate Velcro rollers with the likes of Coleen Rooney, who was often spotted out and about wearing them doing her shopping circa 2008. That said, Velcro rollers have long held their place in the hair hall of fame, and our grandmothers (and great grandmothers) were using something not so different back when they were young. 

Our reviewer has quite slippy hair, so found these ones a bit of a struggle to get in, but once secured in place with a clip or bobby pin, they fared well. The curls were a bit frizzy after the rollers were first removed, but they soon smoothed out with a bit of serum and TLC. They would, however, be unbearable to sleep in, so are definitely more for use before a big Saturday night out – put them in for a couple of hours while getting ready to ensure the big bouncy blow-dry look, or if you are feeling bold, venture to the shops with them, Colleen-style. Beware, the curls don’t last as long as sleep-in methods, so be generous with the hairspray. 

Marks and Spencer pure cotton towelling dressing gown

Okay, we know what you are thinking but hear us out. This one was certainly an unexpected find, our reviewer really didn’t think the dressing gown tie method would work quite as well as TikTok had made it out to. We used our favourite M&S classic towel dressing gown, a staple cosy item, to complete the look. The method is as follows; take your dressing gown tie and place it over your head with much the same technique as you used with the This is Silk hair curling rod – twist the hair around the tie and secure the ends in place with a bobble. Or if you are feeling adventurous, start with the tie at the back of your head, wrap the hair around and secure in a knot at your forehead.

After a restful night’s sleep with no hair tugging and no itchy scalp, we were surprised to wake up with beautiful bouncy curls that lasted the whole day. The towel cotton can be a little drying on your hair and can soak up any products, but overall, this is an unconventional but easy technique for heatless curls, turning a fairly useless everyday object into something multipurpose. 

The verdict: Heatless curls

This is Silk’s hair curler snags top place for its time vs reward trade-off; a 10 minute application time for a voluminous, glamorous look that looks like it took much more effort than it did. It’s also a comfy, friction-free, sleep-in method which is perfect for those who like to just get up and go. An honorary mention must go out to Hair Flair’s curlformers spiral curls, which made our usually poker-straight hair do things we didn’t know were possible. 

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