My hair is curling-iron resistant. Its laid-back, lightly waved California constitution simply doesn't jibe with heat tools designed to make it flip, curl, and twist. Thus, I was curious to try the InStyler Tulip Auto Curler, which purports to bestow luscious curls on even the most inexperienced curling iron novices. Having tried my hand at hot rollers, curling irons, and all manner of other curling devices with mixed results, I went once more into the beauty trenches, Tulip Auto Curler in hand.
I'll preface my experience by noting that, even on the best of hair days, my locks remain slightly bent at the tips or mid-shaft, and stubbornly do what they will. My routine typically involves a dollop of hair serum, a mixed-bristle brush, and a high-powered hair dryer which leaves me with nearly-straight strands, a somewhat natural look which is both relatively low maintenance and appears relatively professional. Over the years, curling irons and rollers have left me with limp, halfhearted coils, sore arms after hours of meticulously winding small sections, and in one painful scenario, a severe burn on my forehead from accidentally touching the scalding metal to my scalp. The scar is still there as a reminder that sudden movements while curling are ill-advised.
My hair, on the left, doin' that bendy thing.
Therefore, I was cautious to try this potentially miracle-working contraption. A similar product took over The Ellen Show on November 8, when a giddy Degeneres called an audience member to the stage to try another auto curler, facetiously encouraging the young woman to sign a legal document waving all rights to sue should she be burned, lose hair, or suffer any other related health issues from utilizing the tool. Naturally, I was hesitant to begin my Tulip Auto Curler trial.
The Tulip offers a range of settings and safety measures to customize your curl and keep burnt locks at bay, which proved to be quite helpful during the curling process. I first selected a time setting from three to twelve seconds, a rotation direction for the curl from options left, right, or alternating, and a heat setting from options up to 430 degrees. My choices of a median temperature and 8 seconds on the iron were meant to produce soft yet defined curls, a happy medium between a perm and imperceptible waves.
After giving the Tulip several moments to heat up, I fed a small section of hair through an opening in the tool's convenient Cool Touch Safety Guard, which serves as an outer layer surrounding the heated barrel. Two grey dots on the narrow channel serve as markers to show how much hair you may thread through and curl; if you attempt to pack half of your hair into the iron all at once or throw in a knotted strand, the wand beeps impatiently and immediately halts until you get your hair situation under control. After placing a section of my hair in the correct position, I pushed the curl button and let the Tulip do its work.
The Tulip takes practice to master, and is perhaps best to try first before a night of Netflix in your apartment, rather than a college reunion or work function. My first handful of curls were quite frail and limp, and I overfed the machine several times, resulting in a temporary full-stop to untangle my hair, as well as a sad strand which succumbed to the unsnarling effort. However, after playing with the settings and learning the ideal amount of hair to submit for each curl, I stumbled on the best combination for my hair: eight seconds of curl time, medium heat, alternating-direction curls, and a half-inch section per curl.
With no burns to speak of, no muscle fatigue whatsoever, and only fifteen minutes of effort, I was left with delightfully glossy curls. The true testament of course came when I debuted them in public, garnering the incredibly satisfying comment, "They're real curls! I can see actual spirals in your hair!" Clumsy curl-coveters, the Tulip Auto Curler may be your saving grace—as long as you take the time to properly learn how to wield it.
Images: Tyler Atwood