Dolly Day Spa Hints and Tips Part Two

When you are faced with a doll with thick tangled hair whether it is a Barbie or a larger doll the main ingredient you need for your restyling job is patience. Lots of patience.

Tidying tangled hair is one of the main jobs I do with our Op Shop dolls as well as the occasional Tip Shop rescue for my own collection. Remember The Barbie Diaries Courtney? I got her at the Tip Shop for two dollars. She was a bit of a mess. I wasn’t even sure who she was at first. Here you can see how she was supposed to look, how she looked when I got her and the final result.

These tips are for dolls with Saran type rooted hair, other materials may need to be treated more gently.

The first thing I like to do before I even attempt to wash it is to comb as many of the tangles out as possible. I start from the tips and work my way up to the roots. I find this is quite a good job to do when you are watching television. For the first combing I’ll use a wide tooth comb if the hair is badly matted. At this point I may have to cut off bits that can’t be untangled but I don’t usually want to do any drastic cutting yet. Remember not to yank the hair. It won’t grow back if you pull it out. Take your time. Imagine the doll is going to say “Ow” if you go too hard. Don’t feel bad if you have to hold her upside down to do the underneath parts though. If you want to section hair off while you work on it that may make the job easier.

There are several products that I use for restyling hair and it often depends on what I have on hand. If I don’t intend to wash the doll’s hair I may use de-tangler or a dry conditioner for a second combing with a fine tooth comb. These usually have the added bonus of making the dolls hair smell nice and the smell seems to linger.

If the doll’s hair is being washed I will either use dish washing liquid or human shampoo. Several articles I’ve read swear by the US Dawn dish washing liquid. I’m not sure what the equivalent is in Australia or even if we have one but I use what I have at home at the time. Remember doll hair is synthetic, it won’t hurt not to use real shampoo. If I do use shampoo I might use up any old bottles I have a bit in the bottom of but I do have a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in my doll clean up box.  After washing and thoroughly rinsing the hair I’ll use either left over conditioner or sometimes fabric softener to condition the hair. I apply it and comb it through. I have several old combs I keep for these jobs. Finally I rinse it out and towel the hair dry.

The little Simba girl had hair that was so long and matted that I did give her a drastic hair cut. It is still long but now soft and silky.


For larger dolls with rooted hair the method is much the same. It just may take longer. Some people say that combing out tangles in dolls hair is therapeutic.

This is one I’m still working on. She was here to get ink marks off her face and a new dress. The ink marks are done but has she’s still waiting on clothes I haven’t hurried to finish her hair.

Boil Perms

I’m usually content to either comb out the hair and leave it loose or put it in a simple pony tail or whatever. If the ends are frizzy I will trim them off.  This is about where more ambitious restylers will get out the rollers and start creating new styles, restoring old ones, do boil perms etc.

I can’t claim to be an expert on these techniques. I have tried a boil perm once or twice but have not perfected it yet.

Here are some links for those that would like to try or are looking for some new techniques. Some types of Saran will hold a perm better than others I believe so if you have never done it before read a few tutorials and pick one that suits the type of doll you have.

I haven’t covered American Girls in this post as I know nothing about them. There are a whole raft of tutorials just for them so I’m assuming their care is a bit different to Barbie, Bratz, Monster High etc.





  1. Great post, thank you! So many of Mattel’s new dolls have horrendous hair so this is really helpful. It is particularly bad on black dolls that they are trying to give a more “natural” hair style. They end up as a frizzy, horrible mess, even more expensive “Look” dolls. The Lammily photographer doll has beautiful natural hair, so it is possible to get it right. And it’s great that the little Simba Evi Love dolls come with such long hair – there’s plenty to cut!


  2. Very Tressy dolls don’t trouble me, if they have uneven ends I trim them with pinking sheers to have a more still growing/non- blunt look. If the hair is longer than the doll, I give her mermaid status and whip up a tail for her and put her by the tub.(or give her to a friend/family who likes mermaids). I usually also braid the hair unless its curly, to manage easier. A lot of Barbie dolls have very thick hair I try not to agitate it when I wash it, and I pat or gently squeeze it damp with micro fiber cloths or bandanas. When I was still doing perms I used the paper wraps for the ends and the tiniest (red) perm rods to roll the hair. I liked L.A. brand gel or Depp or whatever generic brand was available in the beauty supply. A rats tail comb or pick was useful for separating curls. This worked when adding hair extentions as well. Next adventure resetting doll wigs.


    • Turning super long hair dolls into mermaids is not a bad idea. I sometimes braid the hair of bigger dolls but Barbie does have thick hair so her plaits often look out of scale to me. Helpful tips about the perm rods thanks.


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