Okay, I'm bummed, because I spent ages meticulously documenting this for WFMW, only to realize it's backwards day. Meaning I'm supposed to ask you for help. ARGH! Oh well, no problem. Because you see, this tutorial didn't exactly work for me. It improved the doll hair a lot, but not enough. I think it will work for many people, just not for people whose daughters have dolls with completely destroyed hair. So, read on, and if you have methods that you think are better than this one, please share in my comment section. (There, does that count? Because after this long post, my brain is fried! *sigh*)
My youngest daughter became suddenly obsessed with baby dolls a few months ago. One particular doll really caught her fancy: a second-hand dark-skinned baby doll that had been given to us by a friend. Almost all our dolls were bought or given second hand, so all show some wear, but this baby had the ugliest, most matted hair I'd ever seen. It was a strange color, too, as if the baby had gone out and gotten a bad dye job! But my daughter loved it. She has carried it everywhere ever since. The doll itself is cute, with a very sweet face. But oh, that hair!
After investigating having the hair re-rooted by a professional or shaving the existing hair and gluing on a doll's wig myself, both options were too costly for me. So I looked for tutorials online as to how one goes about detangling matted doll hair. I came up with several ideas, and this is how I chose to do it:
1. Wash doll's hair with a mild shampoo or soap. I chose an all natural, mild liquid soap. Don't wash it as you would a child's hair, because that could cause worse matting. Work the shampoo or soap through the hair by squeezing it from the roots to the tip. Rinse thoroughly. If the hair was very dirty, you could repeat this step.
This picture is from after the washing. I forgot a real "before" picture. It was a little worse than this.
2. You can try combing it at this stage, but it's likely you'll need to use conditioner or creme rinse. Work the conditioner through the doll's hair in the same manner as the soap, but do not rinse it out. Use a good amount of it, and lightly squeeze out the excess if it is dripping. Use your fingers and a fork to start separating the clumped sections of hair.
Here I am separating the clumps, alternating between my fingers and a fork.
3. Comb out the hair a little at a time, starting at the tips and working slowly up to the roots. This will take a long time if it's bad. You might want a radio show to listen to as you work, lol. You could start with a hair pick, large-tooth comb, or a fork (as I did). Then move on to a stiff-bristled brush or smaller-toothed comb. A hard plastic doll brush could work good, though for a doll with a lot of hair, you'll have to divide it into many small sections for the little bristled to penetrate the hair.
4. When it is all combed through (I never thought I'd actually get it combed through, it seemed like a miracle) you need to decide what the style of hair should be. If you purchased it new or in nearly original condition, you probably remember what it looked like. If not, you'll need to play around, brushing it one way or another and checking out what the roots of the hair look like. If you brush it the wrong way, you'll likely have giant bald spots. Comb the hair flat in the direction or directions that you think it was meant to be.
5. If necessary, trim the ends of the hair. It is likely with all the combing that some strands got stretched, and the hairstyle will look unkempt if it isn't even.
6. Using cut segments of a straw, roll up sections of the hair, starting at the bottom, working your way around the head, then upwards, a layer at a time, and section by section. Secure each straw "curler" with a hair pin. Don't make the sections too big or thick, or it will take too long to dry. Keep in mind as you go what the ending hair style should be, and curl it accordingly--either rolling over or rolling under, and whether the curler should lay horizontally or vertically. It all depends on the end result you want. Be sure no hair escapes, especially the ends, or those bits of hair will remain uncurled.
7. When you have all the hair done up in "curlers", get some boiling water (mine was almost boiling) and some ice water ready. Pour the boiled water over the doll's head, being sure to soak all of it. This makes the hair softer and more pliable, and ready to curl. Be careful not to let any hair get too hot. Immediately pour the ice water over all of the doll's hair to set the curls. (Note: In the picture, you see me dunking the doll in hot water, rather than pouring. This was a mistake, I realized, because more water got inside the doll than I would like, because of all the holes in the head where the hair is rooted in.)
8. Let all the excess water drip off the head, then gently and carefully lay a towel over the doll's head, and with both hands, squeeze the towel all around the head to gently to soak up any extra water.
9. Let the doll sit until the hair is completely dry. I recommend hanging the doll upside down to make sure any water than got inside the head is drained completely out. I clipped my doll's leg to a child's hanger, then hung it upside down to dry. If your daughter loves her doll, I would do all this at night while she sleeps, and hang it where she won't see it, so you can have the most drying time available. If she finds it hanging in such an "undignified" position, she'll grab it down, and there goes the hairdo! I gave my daughter a substitute doll to sleep with, and fortunately she didn't mind it.
Part 2 and the results.
Extreme Barbie Makeover This is the article I found most helpful. Although I don't use Barbies in my home [I want my children to play with baby dolls to practice being a mommy, not play with full grown overly-endowed women dolls to practice being obsessed with various careers and the latest fashion! -sorry Barbie lovers ;-) ] , I did find the tips very useful. Warning: If you aren't comfortable with your children looking at creepy unclothed Barbie dolls, don't let them view this linked site with you.
Doll Customizing Tips Tips for fixing thrift store Barbie doll's hair
Doll Care and Restoration Tips General care and restoration of various types of dolls