IN THE LAB 03.02.2024
Behind the Design: Curl Definer
Behind the Design: Curl Definer

Behind the Design: Curl Definer

Our inspiration and goals, design process, user testing, and what’s coming next

Our baby, Curl Definer, is one month old! In its first month, Curl Definer traveled to almost the entire United States (and most of Canada, too), bringing fresh curls and making wash day fun. But like all good babies, there was a loooonnngggg gestation period bringing her to life. Today we’re taking you behind the design of Curl Definer (its birth story?), sharing more about our inspiration and goals for Curl Definer, the design and testing process, and giving  a sneak peek at what’s coming next. Because our baby’s just in its infancy - there’s so much growth ahead!

Inspiration Behind Curl Definer (and, Helix Hair Labs)

During the pandemic, many of us were on a hair journey, including our co-founders. Both were dealing with hair loss (Rebecca’s post-partum, Carly’s stress & illness induced). Rebecca was also in the final stages of growing out a chemical relaxer and really learning to style her curls. And we found that MANY other people were in similar boats. They couldn’t get to the salon for treatments or styling and were figuring it out at home. Folks of all ages and hair types were learning to style and love their natural curls, in many cases, for the first time. 

So, we got into the bathroom (via Zoom, hello pandemic) with dozens of people to learn all about their curls. What tools and products they used (and what tools and products lived in their “hair graveyards''). What their wash cycles looked like. What they loved about their hair, and what they didn’t love. What they felt about their hair in terms of broader culture/societal pressures, and what their biggest pain points were.

We also spent time on hairtok. We all did, right? And we saw hack upon hack upon hack of people using brushes, combs, fingers, etc, to style their curls. 

It was clear. One of the biggest challenges when embracing curls was knowing how to achieve salon level curls at home. Consistently. We knew we wanted to develop a tool expressly designed to do what people were hacking their way into. And we wanted it to look like nothing you’d ever seen before. 

Designing Curl Definer

While we had a very clear vision of what we needed our tool to do, we knew we wanted design experts to help explore all the different ways this tool could take shape. So we enlisted Speck Design, a California-based product design firm that’s developed everything from the Pop Socket to medical devices that take up an entire room. 

From the jump, we suspected that a clamp style tool would most effectively deliver the tension needed for curl definition, but wanted to test every option to be sure. We began by testing a broad selection of tools already on the market with a group of people with hair types from 4C-2B. 


We then took our learnings and developed a handful of concepts and created 3D prints so we could test on real hair (and ourselves). Once we identified our winning concept (a clamp! As suspected!), we then refined the design to fit our brand’s design language - scroll-stopping organic futurism. We engaged an outside firm to conduct multiple rounds of user testing on all curl patterns from 4C-2A. Through those rounds, we iterated on design, colorways, heft of the tool, tension of the clamp, etc.

We developed many different “tread patterns” for the teeth of Curl Definer and again tested across textures and curl patterns.

We brought forward the most universally beloved teeth for the debut of Curl Definer (WC1, pictured above) and we are so delighted to hear from everyone who has tried it so far! The reception so far is beyond our wildest dreams, and the feedback and suggestions are invaluable.

What’s Next

More teeth! Did you know you can actually pop the teeth off Curl Definer? We did this for two reasons - 1, easy cleaning, and 2, interchangeability. We know that your curls are personal, and what works really well for one person may not work as well for another (even with the same hair type). And some days you may want tighter curls, and other days you may prefer stretched curls. 

We are actively developing and testing additional teeth so that in the (not too distant) future you’ll be able to select your teeth at purchase, and be able to buy a pack of ancillary teeth to customize your curls day-by-day.

Send Us Your Thoughts

This was our first production run of Curl Definer, and while the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, we’ll continue to tweak and perfect with your help and feedback! Have notes? Send us an email at - we love ALL constructive feedback.