Hair Care 101 ~ Basic Brushing


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Felicity is having a bad hair day. She's at the spa for a basic hair brushing. Felicity is owned by my daughter and she does not play with her heavily, but even a few clothing changes or make-believe sessions will result in her hair looking a bit wild. But any little girl will tell you, playing with hair is one of the best parts of owning a doll. Here are the step-by-step instructions to maintaining your doll's hair by careful brushing.

Before you Begin

Does your doll have curly hair? One note, before you begin, is that some dolls with lots of curls, like Stardust Classics Kat and Laurel, should not be brushed using these methods if you want to preserve the curls. The care instructions for these dolls even recommended not doing so. The new dark, curly-haired American Girl of Today/Just Like You doll is another one whose hair may be ruined if you brush it through with a wig brush. If you are very careful, you can brush one ringlet at a time and then re-twist the curl into shape around your finger but you are usually better off "finger styling" their hair.

Is your doll's hair really, really tangled? If it is, you may want to wash and "Downy dunk" it before brushing it out. Spray-in detanglers might not be enough.

Step 1 ~ Gather Your Materials

Obviously, you need a brush and not just any brush will do! The best choice for brushing dolls' hair is a wig brush with metal teeth set into a rubber base. Like this one:

The brush sold by American Girl is fine, except it is small and overpriced. (Sally's Beauty sells wig brushes for a few dollars.)

The only other things you need are a misting bottle and some hair clips. Optionally, you may want some spray detangler. Some people swear by Son of a Gun as a detangler/conditioner; yes, the car vinyl protector from STP. You can buy this inexpensively from department stores (like Target). Other's use people spray detangler or a mixture of fabric softener and water. For hair that is really tangled, you might also want to invest in a metal tined comb like the one on the right below. You can find these in the dog grooming section of a pet store. A metal hair pick is better for curly or highly textured hair, but see the note above about treating the curls gently. You can get a tiny one from American Girl or buy a people-sized one at Sally's.


A few notes on what NOT to use:

Don't use a comb or brush that's been used for people -- the oils from human hair will get on your doll's hair and attract dirt.


Don't use a bristle brush -- it will make your doll's hair frizzy.


Don't use plastic -- it will generate static and make the hair harder to brush. Metal glides through hair.


Don't buy a dog grooming brush that looks like a wig brush but has plastic balls on the tines -- you won't hurt your doll with the points of the regular wig brush and the plastic balls will make the brush less effective.


Don't try Armor All as a detangler/conditioner. Even though Son of a Gun seems like it's the same thing, Armor All is much greasier and heavier.

Step 2 ~ Section the Hair

When I want to do a really good job on my doll's hair, I like to do it on my kitchen counter since it's a good height. I put the doll in a doll stand with a extra large base so that I can use both hands.

Separate a section of hair and pin or tie up the rest.

Step 3 ~ Mist and Brush Each Section

Mist the hair with plain water and spray a little detangler on too if you'd like. I like to lift the hair and spray a bit on the underside to get more of the hair damp. The hair dressers at American Girl Place insist that misting the hair when you brush and using the right kind of brush are the most important things to do to keep your doll's hair looking nice.

Start at the ends of the hair and brush the tangles out of the bottom 2" or so. Work your way up the section until you can draw the brush down the hair without resistance. Brush carefully, holding the top of the hair with one hand. I had to splice together two pictures below so that one could hold the camera, but it gives the idea. Holding the head keeps hair from being pulled out and also protects the neck from becoming loosened. Brush gently so you do not pull out much hair -- pretend you are brushing a real girl's hair ("Sorry, Felicity, didn't mean to pull.") After you finish one section, pin it up and take out the next. Work your way around, section by section.

Step 4 ~ Condition if Needed

If your doll's hair is still dull, pour a nickel-sized spot of baby oil onto your hand, rub your hands together and then massage into her hair. Son of a Gun is also another choice for a conditioner. Remember, we're just brushing and detangling here. See the end of the article if your doll's hair needs deep conditioning.



Step 5 ~ Style

Now you can put your doll's hair in whatever style you like. The hair styling book from American Girl is fun and has some good ideas! Another trick learned from the doll hair stylists at American Girl Place is using a toothbrush to smooth the hair around the face when you're putting it in tails or braids. It really helps to get those fly-away hairs to lie down nicely.

Keeping a doll's hair in braids or a ponytail is the best defense against damage, especially around little girls with brushes and around hair-eating Velcro. The best bands to use are more plastic than rubber and are available at just about anywhere that (human) hair care products are sold. (Blax is one good brand.)

Here is Felicity after her beauty treatment showing you her improved hair and demonstrating that these bands can also be used to hold props in the dolls' hands. This hairdryer is the only type that is appropriate for dolls' hair: a pretend one.

The final tip for basic hair care is to do it often. Don't let your doll's hair get really tangled and you won't have to damage it getting it untangled. Have fun.

Is your doll's hair soft and manageable now?
bulletClick the Yes button if you came here from the Doll Restoration Wizard and you want to go on to the next step.
bulletClick No if your doll's hair is dry or frizzy and you want to try some "Advanced Hair Care".
bulletClick ACK! if your doll's hair is hopeless and you need to rewig her.






Copyright 2004 Maria Greene All Rights Reserved

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This page was last updated 08/09/06