You know how doll hair gets to be rather frizzy after a while? It starts out all smooth and shiny and then a few years down the road, the poor toy looks like it stuck its finger into a light socket.
And no amount of brushing fixes the problem. It just goes from tangly frizz to less tangly frizz.
The other day my nieces were over and we got down our bin of ponies, which contains two dolls too.
(I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when I was a kid, Megan and Molly dolls accompanied My Little Ponies.)
(This is her hair post-fix, in case that wasn’t obvious!)
At any rate, Megan’s hair was pretty trashed, as you can see from the first photo above.
So, my nieces and I watched some video tutorials about fixing doll hair. I’d read about fabric softener fixes, but since I don’t use fabric softener, I never have any in the house.
Luckily, we came across a tutorial that just called for boiling water and that seemed totally doable.
Two steps to fix frizzy hair
First, we combed all the knots out.
Second, we boiled water, poured it into a shallow bowl, dipped the doll’s hair in, and combed it.
I’m not sure exactly what the boiling water does to the doll hair, but it’s pretty amazing how well it works.
Once the hair was all smoothed out, we towel dried it, combed it so it was laying the way wanted, and then let it dry.
What if the ends are still straggly?
The boiling water was a magical fix for most of the hair, but it couldn’t fix the straggly ends. So, I gave the doll a little trim with my hair-cutting scissors.
And voila! Her hair is SO much more manageable than before. It’s smooth and even shiny again!
(Her hair is actually evenly cut…I just couldn’t get her to stand up straight for the photo!)
We’ve tried this on My Little Pony hair too, and it seems to work just as well.
See the small pony there in the middle, with a very frizzy light purple tail?
Here what she looks like now, after boiling water and a little trim.
So much better.
Does shampoo/conditioner help?
We also tried doing shampoo and conditioner on the hair, which seems to slightly enhance the effect of the boiling water. However, I think the boiling water is really the key.
You can also use a hair straightener on a very low heat setting if the doll’s hair still isn’t quite smooth enough for your taste. Just be careful not to melt the hair!
Does this method work on other toy hair?
I’m not sure if this works on all toy hair, as I’m sure there’s variation in hair material from toy to toy.
However, if the toy’s hair is in terrible shape, you haven’t got much to lose. If it goes badly or is ineffective, you still won’t be worse off than you were when you started.
And considering how effective this seems to be, I’d say it’s worth the risk.
Note: I have definitely heard that American Girl doll hair is sensitive, so I wouldn’t recommend trying this method with one of those dolls unless the hair is so bad that it couldn’t possibly get any worse!
Do let me know how it goes if you try it. I’d love to hear!
Lanya in Texas
Monday 6th of February 2023
I tried this on my daughter’s pony we bought at Walmart and it worked, I may have to do it a few times and the longer I left the hair in the water, the more relaxed it got. Thank you!
Monday 6th of February 2023
Yay!! Isn't it so rewarding?
Tuesday 6th of September 2022
I have been struggling getting something to work on my daughter's rapunzel barbie. It was getting this supper dry/matted texture on the bottom. I used conditioner which didn't work, then tried fabric softener which also didn't. This also didn't work. I might have to give up and just buy a new one.
Wednesday 7th of April 2021
You should always test a single strand as some sythetic hair will melt. Dolly Parton dolls are notorious for this. Also laundry soap or paintbrush soap is a much better shampoo then human shampoo or dishsoap which can break down the polymers in the hair.
Friday 2nd of April 2021
The washing and combing out with some fabric softener works SOMEWHAT on SOME dolls, depending on the age and condition. The hair on older dolls is a different vinyl than the newer ones (say, since the late 90s) -- the new stuff is called "hollow core Kankelon" (sp?) and it is very silky when new. The old stuff was coarser, but it didn't frizz as much (mostly). I have some 60s era Barbies that still have very nice hair. I have some new dolls whose hair is toast. Obviously if a child owns the doll and doesn't take care of it, it can get really bad.
Remember none of it is real hair, so regular shampoo or conditioner are not really the right things. I use Dawn liquid dish soap -- it's detergent, works great on all cleaning -- doll bodies too! -- even washable doll clothes! -- and fabric softener like Downy. Don't use too much product -- start with a little, then add more. You don't want super greasy hair that will get dusty and greasy and yuck.
Boiling water will help set curls, which is great for restyling, but I have not found it makes frizzy hair silky. It's free though, so try it. It can't do much harm. (Be careful to dunk just the hair and not the whole doll head! you don't want to affect paint or color!)
REMEMBER: (!!!!) -- dolls like American Girl have WIGS not rooted hair! hot water will dissolve the glue! this is not a good thing! These techniques only work on ROOTED doll hair!
Tuesday 9th of February 2021
I recently got some Sailor Moon dolls in an eBay auction, and two of the poor girls' hair is in horrible shape; stuck together, matted, just gross. I just got done applying conditioner to the hair so it can soak overnight, but I'm going to try this tomorrow no matter what! I will report back and let ya know how this worked with Irwin brand dolls from 1996 or so!