I’ve never been a doll person, but I do like restoring them. I’ve had a lot of people contact me inquiring how to salvage a doll that is in good shape other than having hair which has become nappy over time. You have several options…
Keep in mind, I usually work with Mattel Barbie and Kelly dolls. Option 1 may work with any doll – Option 2 depends on whether you can remove the doll’s head. I would never recommend using Option 2 for a doll intended for use by a young child – it’s better suited for creating one of a kind collectible dolls.
Option 1: Remove the tangles. Start at the ends and work your way up to the doll scalp. Trim ragged ends. Saturate hair with a protectant such as ArmorAll (keep it off the face and body of the doll) and allow it to sit for 30 minutes to several hours. Rinse well, and wash the hair with a gentle soap and comb. At this point you have several choices.
You can dry the hair and see if the results are suitable. You can heat water just to boiling and dip ONLY the hair into it for 30 seconds or so, comb, then quickly rinse under cold water, comb, dry and see where you stand. Or, you can proceed to attempt to completely restyle the hair.
If you decide to try for a new style: First you’ll need to give the hair a “permanent.” I strongly suggest using permanent end papers, or at least paper towels to make it easier to neaten the ends. If you plan to do multiple dolls, you may want to invest in tiny permanant rods from a beauty supply store, but if you’re experimenting, soda straws or any other round objects will do. Larger will give more body, smaller, more curl. With any of your “curlers”, once they are wrapped, secure them with long straight pins. Pins with large heads will be easier to work with.
Once the hair is rolled, heat water just to boiling. Submerge ONLY the hair/scalp of the doll into the water for about a minute. Remove and immediately run cold water over the head to “set” the curl. Blot dry and allow to dry – this could take some time. Once the hair is dry, gently remove the “rollers” and style.
Option 2: Reroot the hair. This is a time consuming process and I wouldn’t recommed it unless you want to create a one of a kind collectible. In my opinion, this process should not be used for a doll that will be played with as it probably can’t stand up to a lot of loving and hair brushing. It also involves some experimenting to prevent hair from being too think while not having bald spots.
You’ll need a long needle, tweezers, waxed thread – dental floss will work, hair or other material to simulate hair, and a lot of patience.
First, remove the doll’s head. Clip off the hair as close as you can to the “scalp.” Insert tweezers into the neckhole and pull out hair tufts until the head is bald. Secure a seed bead to the end of your thread. You can simply tie a large knot, but it won’t be as secure.
Keep in mind that each “hair” will be folded in half so cut it twice as long as you want the end result to be. If it’s too long you can trim it later, but if it’s too short, too bad.
Bring needle out through a hole. Pull until bead is against inside of doll’s head. Insert needed back into the same hole, pulling out of the neck until you have a loop about an inch tall above the scalp. Insert the hair into the loop, adjust until each end is of equal length. Pull the loop with the doll hair in it into the scalp – gently. You should feel it when it sets. Bring needle out another hold, make loop, insert hair, repeat.
Once the hair is rerooted, you have the option to style it as in Option 1, depending on what kind of material you used.
More of my project picture can be seen HERE