Restyling Doll Hair

Porcelain doll with blonde hair
Image: Pavel Gulea/Shutterstock
Once you’ve managed to get your doll’s hair cleaned, you may find that the hair needs to be restyled. Sometimes this means a little restyling, and sometimes it means a lot of restyling. And typically, the restyling refers to restoring the curl to the doll’s hair.
Depending on the material of the hair, the age of the hair, and its overall condition, there are some things that can be done to help restore the look of the doll's hairstyle.
Caracul, Wool and Yarn Hair:
These types of doll hair are generally not able to be re-styled. Caracul and wool hair pieces are typically short and loosely curled to give a wavy, curly-haired look for the doll. Since the "style" is a function of the texture of the material, restyling is generally not possible.
The same principle applies to yarn hair. The yarn hair is generally sewn down in various arrangements to mimic different hairstyles, so re-styling generally requires reworking or even completely replacing the yarn hair.
Human Hair and Mohair:
The biggest factor in working with these fibers is the age and condition of the hair. Since they are not attached to a live head, these hair types do not grow and are not renewed the way a living person's hair would be. In some cases, the fibers are so fragile that you MUST use extreme care and caution when handling them. But generally, both mohair and human hair are styled in the same way.
In cases where the hair is in very fragile condition, you should use a wet-set approach to restyling/recurling the hair. Moisten the hair using a light spray of a leave-in conditioner, and wind the hair around an appropriately sized tool. Depending on the size of the curl you need to make, you can use small rollers or perm rods. You can even cut and use drinking straws to size.
Antique dolls with different hairstyles
Image: Sviatlana Lazarenka/Canva
If you have trouble manipulating the hair on such small tools, try using end papers like those used for wrapping a perm.Allow the wrapped hair to air dry and then remove the tools and papers. This should give you clean, crisp curls and restore the doll's style.
Of course, if the doll’s hair is in good condition, you can always use heat styling – albeit carefully. You can find curling irons with very slim barrels that may be ideal for the curl you want to create. Otherwise, stick with the wet-set approach, but feel free to use a diffused blow-dryer or a hooded dryer to speed up the setting process.
Synthetic Hair:
As in the cleansing step, synthetic hair must be handled differently when it comes to styling as well. You CANNOT use heat styling tools to restyle synthetic doll hair. The simple fact that the synthetic hair is so finely spun means that it would melt at any of the standard heat settings.
In order to "restyle" or "recurl" the synthetic hair, you need to simply use rollers or makeshift tools of sufficient size to form the curls. You should then leave the rolled hair to sit for a day or so to allow the shape to settle. The synthetic hair will have been initially set with the curl pattern you want to reclaim, and your goal is to get the hair back into this configuration.
Place the rolled hair in a warm, dry place for a day or two and check the progress of the reset afterward. If needed, let it sit a little longer until you feel it has reshaped as much as it is going to. You can, if you wish, use a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment on a LOW heat setting to gently warm the hair while it is rolled up. Then allow the hair to cool again and test the curl by carefully removing the rollers. This should be sufficient to get the hair looking refreshed again.
See also:
Types of Doll Hair
How To Clean Doll Hair