Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Curl Pony, Barbie and Doll Hair

So, I have to admit I'm a total dork and I love fixing doll's hair. Maybe it's because my kids hate having their hair fixed and I finally gave up and chopped their hair into short pixie cuts and now I have no hair to do. I don't know what the reason, but I love seeing a ratty looking doll or pony turn into a pretty toy again. I have very fond memories of doing "Pony Beauty Parlors" in the bathroom and making a huge mess, getting out every hair thing we owned, etc. I'm sure my mom loved it. 

Most anyone who has dolls and ponies around their house find that eventually the dolls get kinda grody and their hair becomes and tangled mess. I'm here to tell you there's hope for those poor dollies! By sprucing up an old toy you can extend it's life quite a bit. You might also be given dolls for free or get them cheaply from thrift stores and with a little TLC you can make them look lovely and ready for a new owner. Here is just a glimpse of what I'm talking about:

Here we have Princess Misty.
 Not looking real hopeful, eh? Ratty hair, filthy body...
 Ta DAH!
 Isn't she gorgeous now?
 Want to know how to do it? Well, you'll just have to wait until next week...


Here's what I've learned as I've goofed around with doll hair:

I began with this little dolly that is over 30 years old. She basically had dreads going on and it was pretty awful. THIS is what she once looked like.
 This shows what half of her hair looked like after I got it combed out.
 I started out using some kids' detangling spray and a comb.
Here's the doll with her hair all combed out using just detangling spray:
Next I heated up some water to boiling and dipped her hair in it. (Later I'll discuss how you can curl a doll's hair with boiling water.) The hot water softens the nylon.
 I combed it again while it was still hot to try to get more of the frizz out of it. I do think it helped, though this doll's hair was so far gone it still has frizz on the bottom as you can see.
 Next I trimmed up the uneven spots. After all that combing you'll find most dolls and ponies need a slight trim to even things up. (DON'T let you kids see you doing this if they are still young enough to experiment with scissors!!!)
 She's looking so much better!
 But, now what to do with it?
 Next I decided to try a doll "perm." This is where you use some sort of curlers and then dip the hair in boiling hot water and then in cold water. STRAWS and BOBBY PINS actually work pretty well on itty bitty dolls. Most people don't have curlers small enough for a doll so this is a great cheap option. I just cut the straw into little 1-2" pieces, wrapped the hair around it and used a bobby pin to secure it. I found it helped to hold the straw down at the end of the hair where you want to wrap it and slip a bobby pin over it and through the straw to hold the ends of the hair on the straw as you roll. Then use another pin to secure it at the top.
 Here's my pan of hot water and a bowl of cold ice water. (I've since decided just using cold running water at the sink works fine.
 I dipped the doll in the hot water and held it there for 10 seconds or so and then dunked it in the cold water. Then I dried it off and squeezed all the water I could out of it. Doll hair is generally nylon so it doesn't actually "get wet" like human hair. It should dry pretty quickly. You can wait for it to dry 100%, or use a fan, or just squeeze off all you can and then unwrap the curlers.
 Ta-DAH! Curls!
 Ok, so this doll still looks a little ridiculous because I was just trying it out. I did the curls the wrong way and wrapped them wrong. It's a start though!
 I finally decided to put her hair in a pigtail on each side and bangs in front and I curled the pigtails.
 And here she is all done!

Not bad for a first attempt! Compare that to the first picture and you can tell it's a serious improvement. I realize later I was still wrapping the hair wrong. I should have wrapped it in a strip around and around a straw to get "Shirley Temple" curls. 
Next I'll show some ponies. Here's my method for doing ponies:

Pony Beauty Parlor Checklist
  1. Wash the pony and all it's hair with plain old soap and water.
  2. If the body is really dirty use soft scrub or a similar type "scrubbing" yet gentle cleaner and scrub the body and rinse in water. Be careful not to rub off the "cutie mark" though. (That is the pony's symbol on it's backside.
  3. Work some conditioner through the pony's mane and tail really well. (I found conditioner works better than detangling spray.)
  4. Starting with a large tooth comb and working from the bottom up comb out the hair. Don't yank on it!
  5. Use a fine tooth comb and finish combing through the hair.
  6. Rinse out most of the conditioner (you can try to leave a little in for styling ease) and dry the pony and squeeze dry the hair. 
Now you'll have a lovely looking pony all ready for her hairstyle.

 I wanted to experiment more with the "perm" so I did the straws and pins again:
 Oops! I was still wrapping the hair from the bottom and going all the way up and with really long hair this can turn out kind of badly...
 Ack! A little TOO MUCH curl!
 I got it wet again and combed it out a little and got this:
That was about right. The curl still held really well even when I got it wet again.
 Here's Starsong and she needed a little somethin'.
 I decided I wanted to try doing it in a "wave" pattern so I put the hair over and under straws and hooked the straws together as I went down.

 After the boil "perm" she looked like this:
 Too CUTE!
 Sky Wishes here had a braid and a twist already so I tried dipping those in the boiling water.

 That turned out ok.

To get the effect you see here on Princess Misty's mane...
Just take about half a straw and first twist the stand of hair a little and then wrap the twist around the straw from the top of the straw to the bottom and pin it top and bottom. Apparently this even works on tinsel hair! Her bangs are made entirely out of tinsel and it curled well too. For her tail I used a small yellow "velcro" type curler. So lovely! I've also seen people just wrap the mane around the pony's neck and wrap the tail around one leg and it gives a really simple curl in the tail and the mane turns out just long and curved around in a crescent shape.

Lastly, I've seen other people recommend you buy a cheap clothes steamer- plastic NOT METAL. You can run that over the doll's hair and it will help take out some of the frizz. Try it on an American Girl type doll.

Well, there you have it. A fun frugal activity that will keep your ponies, dolls and other assorted toys looking their best! I think it would be fun to have a bunch of little girls over and do a pony beauty parlor. I even had fun doing this just this past week with my little sister who is 20 years younger than I am. A great way to overcome the generation gap!


  1. Wow! I like that idea! I'll have to try it. Did you come up with it on your own?

  2. Jessica, I read about how you could use straws and bobby pins and dip the hair in boiling water but I didn't have much more than that to go on. I just experimented to figure out the rest.

  3. Holly, this is incredible. I never thought you could fix them! I can not even tell you how many doll's hair Amber and I destroyed growing up. Now we can fix them! :) Holly. Thank you.

  4. Love this! I included you in my Friday Favorites! Feel free to grab a "featured" tag!

  5. Oh-my-heavenly-days! This is a wonderful thing to know how to do- I am going to Goodwill-right now- and find the rattiest looking doll/pony I can and perform a make-over worthy of Stacy and Clinton from "What Not to Wear"...

  6. Holly, you are absolutely hilarious!! Is there anything you HAVEN'T done or tried? You can make a pony or doll have better hair than I do on my girls! Should I send you my girls to "experiment" on? I know they'd love having something fun done with their hair;-)

  7. I am going to do this to Shayla's toys when she destroys them! I love the hair curling.

  8. Hi Holly, I just love the way u r!! U really made me laughed & giggled so much with yr posting!! I would really love to have a mum like you...or maybe be a mum just like u!! *wink-wink*

  9. Lovely, lovely, I dare say. I just got a McDonald's Pinkie Pie in the mail, and I was wondering how make her tail more curly. Thank you much!

  10. Heh, I'm going to try a similar concept for the mane & tail of a Pinkie Pie get-up I'm making for my freshman for band camp! Thanks!

  11. I may have skimmed over it but how do you remove the gunk from the outer part of the pony? I got a whole dozen ponies like this for my little girl for Christmas and I need all the help I can get!

  12. Yeah, I think you missed it. I said you could use something like "soft scrub" cleanser or an equivalent like baking soda and water to gently scrub the pony until clean. Just make sure you don't take off the cutie mark on the pony. Use a cloth or toothbrush or something. See the purple pony at the beginning- that's what I did and it worked great! Good luck.

    1. you rule holly. I looked up how to curl your dolls hair online. and I tried it and it did not work, but yours does!

  13. Just thought I would let you know that I used your post to fix Rapunzel's hair this morning. Thanks for being so creative!

  14. I wish you had an option to pin this to pinterest! Awesome.
    My daughter just brought a big My Little Pony home from the thrift store. It was in pretty good condition other than a little dirty and her hair was pretty good but could use some curl. Gonna try the boiling water.
    I cleaned it before I read this and wanted to add that a magic eraser worked wonders for cleaning off the grime.

  15. I haven't ever taken the time to add the Pinterest button to my blog. But you certainly CAN pin something from the post. I have and many other people have. I used the little PIN IT button from Pinterest and I just click on that. I'm not computer savvy enough to explain it very well, but I just know you don't need there to be a button on a person's blog for you to pin something.

  16. Do you know if this will on a Cabbage Patch dolls hair?

  17. This post is really about plastic hair, not yarn hair. But, you could try wetting the yarn hair, putting it around straws or curlers and letting it dry. Maybe even use a little mousse or something.

  18. !!! Off to try this on my sister's Madame Alexander doll!! I tried something similar today but did not dip the hair in cold water as advised here. Can't wait to show my little Sisters and Mom your post!

  19. I've been collecting my little ponies for the grandchildren and now they can look good as new, THANKS

  20. Thanks!!! It really helps.


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