lab rat

This Automated Hair-Curler Made Me Feel Old

When the Home Shopping Network first introduced the Infiniti PRO by Conair Curl Secret, 5,000 units sold out in twenty minutes. The product was as mysterious as it was magical — a club-shaped device that, when clamped onto a lock of hair, would suck the hair into a whirring tourmaline chamber controlled by motorized magnets and heated from all sides. After a series of beeps, a perfectly curled spiral of hair would drop out. How was this possible? If the Curl Secret malfunctioned, would it scalp you? As the $99 device begins to appear on store shelves, the Cut grabbed a unit and tested it out.

After a frustrating hour of Curl Secret tangles and snarls, I emerged with a head of coiled doll hair and a sense of personal inadequacy. Victory?

The device has two heat and three timer settings. I chose high heat (400 degrees Fahrenheit) and the longest timer (twelve seconds) because when it comes to novelty hair devices I like to go hard. After brushing and sectioning my dry hair, I started at the bottom, reasoning that bald spots would be easier to hide down there. Once clamped, Curl Secret spun its three-quarter-inch barrel until the loose end of my hair disappeared completely into the curl chamber. When I released my grip a shiny ringlet tumbled out and bounced, just like in an ad. I moved to the next section, clamped down, listened to the whir of the motor — and then crunch. It was jammed. The machine bleated a series of panic beeps. It didn’t hurt; the machine had sensed the malfunction and stopped. To free my hair, I yanked Curl Secret down the length of it, leaving it kinked in the middle and bizarrely straightened through the end.

My next six attempts also yielded errors.

The first secret of Curl Secret, I discovered, is that the device can handle only a limited amount of hair. I needed 28 sections to get through my head of chest-length hair. I averaged three errors for every successful curl. Though frustrating, the process was nevertheless entertaining, like watching a Roomba crash around your living-room floor. I experimented with section sizes, angles, and how far I held the device from my head. I had the best luck when I started curling halfway down the strand. Maybe my naturally wavy hair had too much texture for the machine? I wondered.

Or maybe I’m just incompetent?

Probably the latter, I concluded after consulting the greatest DIY hair resource of our time: teen girls on YouTube. In video after video, blasé teen girls released flawless ringlets from their Curl Secret machines, with minimal complications. Brooke, age 16, found Curl Secret to be faster and easier than a traditional iron:

The second secret of Curl Secret, I concluded, is that I am too old for Curl Secret. Just as the only way to learn a five-strand French braid is to watch a teen girl do it, the only way to master trendy technology is to hand the devices to children, then get out of their way.

This Automated Hair-Curler Made Me Feel Old