You've gone through the steps of detangling and
brushing out your doll's hair from Hair Care 101
but you're still not happy with how her hair looks.
looking pretty good after basic brushing and detangling, but her hair is
still a bit dry and frizzy
Even dolls who don't get played with much can get dirty or
damaged hair; in fact, even more so if they aren't behind glass and they
never get the dust brushed out. If you have a doll who is going to be
standing on a shelf a lot, periodically shake her hair out, brush it gently
and even use compressed air (available in spray cans from office supply
stores) to blow off dust. Also, don't leave dolls in a sunny place, like in
front of your bedroom window. The ultraviolet rays are going to make the
hair dry and brittle and can even change the color. I once owned an American
Girl Kirsten with very pink hair -- she had spent too much time
modeling dresses in a storefront window. (Those ultraviolet rays are going
to fade her clothing too.)
For shampooing and conditioning, you might want to protect
your cloth-body doll by tying her body in a plastic grocery bag so you don't get her
body wet. This will also keep her neck strings (if she has neck strings) out
of the way. You can also take her head off which is an easy operation if
it doesn't weird you out! (See the detailed pictures in the
Restringing article.) If your
doll has sleep eyes, you can tape cotton balls over her eyes with non-marking
masking tape (like you use when painting). You don't need to do this
-- just be very careful to keep the water away from your doll's body and
especially sleep eyes. If you ever do get water in her eye sockets, leave her lying
face down for a few days in a well ventilated place to let them drain and dry out. You don't want the
sleep mechanism to rust or her eyes will stick. Try not to get your doll's
"scalp" too wet -- if your doll is wigged it might loosen the glue holding
the wig cap on, and if it is rooted you might get the inside of the head
Note: the instructions below assume your doll has
synthetic hair. If your doll has human hair, mohair or other natural fibers,
these techniques may not be appropriate.
How to Shampoo a Doll's Hair
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of the
||Fill a large bowl with cool
water and put it
in your sink. Don't use warm water, because If your doll's hair is wigged, warm water could loosen the
glue on the wig cap and make your doll's wig come off. Warm water will
also relax curls.
|Add a capful of synthetic wig shampoo and blend in.
You can buy people wig shampoo (like Revlon brand) at large beauty supply stores
Or you can buy special doll wig shampoo from
There's not much difference between people wigs and quality doll
wigs, so it's up to you. If you don't have wig shampoo, you can use
a very mild shampoo like baby shampoo, a mild dish soap like Dawn or
even Woolite. If the wig has any odors, add a teaspoon
or two of baking soda to
your bowl, and blend it in.
|Gently swish the hair in the water for about 30
seconds to a minute until the hair is saturated. Tilt her around and use
your hand to get the water all the way to her hair roots.
||Leave as much of the hair as possible in the bowl and
let it soak for about 15 minutes
||Empty the bowl and rinse the hair with cool
water. A kitchen sink with a pull-out spray nozzle makes this easier. Be
careful of those eyes!
||Gently squeeze excess water out of wig
with your hands. Do not rub or twist.
||If all you're going to do is shampoo, then
spread the hair out on a thirsty towel and leave in a ventilated area
to dry. Otherwise, go on to the conditioning step.
||You can brush the hair out gently while
it's damp. (In fact, you should always make the hair damp when you
brush it.) Don't try to brush it if it's super wet -- it'll be
harder to get the brush through -- wait until it dries a little.
Make sure you brush the hair correctly.
If you're going to Downy Dunk anyway (see the next section), you
might as well wait since the fabric softener will make it much
easier to brush.
After you've washed the hair, try conditioning it by soaking
it in fabric softener: this is known as "the Downy dunk".
How to Condition a Doll's Hair with a "Downy Dunk"
Click on a thumbnail to get a larger picture.
If your doll's hair is very damaged, the biggest benefit
you're going to see is from steaming.
How to Steam a Doll's Hair to Tame the Frizzies
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||It's very important to obtain a steamer that
is all plastic. Do a Google search for "Steam Quick" for a good
one. "Wonder Steamer" is another. They retail for $20 or so but you
can often find it for under $10. (Have you seen those silly
infomercials on T.V.?) Never use a steamer with metal parts! You'll
end up making the frizzies worse, not better.
The directions say to add salt to the water. You'll
need to do this or your steamer won't produce enough steam. I
haven't noticed any salt deposits on the hair as a result.
|Put the steamer right up close and run it
along the hair. You can use a wig brush to pull the strands
tight as you steam them if you want.
|Lay the doll on her front and brush all her hair
up straight over her head so you can steam the underside too.
|Pay special attention to the ends of the
hair which are often the frizziest.
Felicity looking lovely after her treatment
Note that the benefits of a Downy dunk and steaming seem
to be fairly temporary. Be prepared to repeat the process every once in a
while. You can add even more shine now if your doll needs it with a dab of baby oil or
a spritz of Son of a Gun brushed through the hair. This Felicity obviously
doesn't need it!
Doll's Hair Styling Tips
Now that your doll's hair is as nice as it is going to get
(without rewigging), you can have fun styling it.
Here are a few tips:
|If you have an American
Girl doll and you would like to return her hair to it's original style, JuliaAM and Emily have scanned and posted the
from Pleasant Company showing how to accomplish this.|
washing and conditioning, and particularly the steaming may have relaxed
the curl in your doll's hair. You can use the curlers that come
with many doll hair curling kits (like American Girl's) if you want
small curls or people-sized ones if you want big curls or waves. Dampen
the hair before rolling it into curlers. If you want loose curls just
let the hair dry on the curlers. If you want tight curls, pour hot water
over the curlers and let it air dry. (You can get the right temperature
if you bring the water to a boil and then let it sit for five minutes.)
This is known as a hot water perm. You can use the steamer on the curled
hair if you an intermediate amount of curl.|
|Similarly, you can straighten your doll's curly hair
by dipping it in hot water. Blot the water out until it's just damp and
then brush it out. You can repeat with the hot water until it is as
straight as you'd like. This method can also be used to tame a doll's
bangs if they don't lay down nicely: pour very hot water over them and
then put a nylon stocking (or something similar) over her head to
flatten them out. Let them dry for a few days before taking the stocking
curls (like AG Felicity's and Elizabeth's) can be restored if you're
patient. Use a toothpick to tease out the short hairs of the pin curls.
De-frizz them if you need to with steam or hot water. While they're
damp, use a soda straw or pencil as a curler to curl the hair, slip it
off the curler and then secure it with a bobby pin. |
|After you're all done brushing, cleaning,
conditioning and styling the hair, don't be hesitant about using sharp
scissors to trim it. If you've gone to an American Girl Place and
watched the professional stylists, you've seen them doing this. Hair
gets pulled down during brushing and the ends will start to look ragged
and uneven. And if a Downey dunk and steaming didn't cure your doll's
split ends, a little trim might make her look much better. Don't cut
your doll's hair with kids around! You never want to send them the
message that it's an OK thing to do. Note that you don't need to
lop off the ends of braids so they're completely blunt, like the
manufacturer does. (How many real little girls have you seen with ends
of braids that look like tassels?) You can carefully modify your
doll's hair as much as you like, she's your doll! Are her bangs in her
eyes? Trim them! Do you think she'd look better with a shoulder-length
do? Cut it! Just think long and hard about whether you will like her
better that way because it's not going to grow back. (Of course, there's
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