Vintage TLC: Detangled

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Buying vintage Barbie dolls is especially fun when I get the chance to fix up what would otherwise be a disaster of a doll. Recently, I got my hands on a Ponytail #6/7 with a number of problems. If something can go wrong with a doll, it’s happening to this poor girl! Matted hair, a split neck and hairline, hot pink dye stains, dirt, worn face makeup, etc. I’ve got my work cut out for me!

pontyail-6-face-neck-splitIt’s hard to know where to start with a doll in need of so much TLC! So, I decided to just start at the top and work my way down. Fixing the hair on this doll will at least make her displayable, (with the right outfit that covers her problem areas).

On the up side, this doll’s bangs are perfect. The curls are soft and styled correctly. The rest of her hair, however, is a total matted mess. To make things worse, someone along the way put baby powder in her hair which created a paste-like substance on her scalp. A kind word of advice: Don’t put baby powder in vintage hair to dry out the oily buildup that sometimes occurs. It doesn’t work!

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The first goal is combing out this rat’s nest! Detangling comes down to just a few steps:

  1. Remove all rubber bands. Sometimes the rubber dries out and is stuck in the hair. Try to remove as many of the pieces as possible.
  2. Divide the hair into small sections and work one section at a time.
  3. Use a small plastic comb or Barbie brush to gently work through the tangles. Start at the bottom of the hair, not at the roots! Work your way up to the scalp.
  4. Don’t pull too hard. It might take longer to slowly pick through tangles, but it’s better than pulling out a clump of hair. Re-rooting is a much more difficult repair!

Once I got the tangles out, it was time for a shampoo. The baby powder “paste” had broken apart during the de-tangling process, but the residue was still clumping near the scalp and it left the hair looking very dull.

Vintage Barbie hair can be fragile and has been known to react to shampoos, conditioners, and soaps in various unpleasant ways (most notably hair color can change). For this doll, I used 7th Generation Free and Clear dish soap. A little bit goes a long way and its a gentle cleanser.

Then, let the hair air dry. DO NOT use a hairdryer. Barbie hair is essentially made of plastic, acrylic, or saran. It’ll frizz or melt under heat.

I ran a comb through her hair once more and ended up with what looked like a giant ball of frizz. No worries, though. I expected it. As a ponytail doll, she originally had set curls. They don’t just go away, so when they are combed out, they poof out.

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It’s not a good look! However, it is easy to fix. All she needs is a simple reset. Using a fine-toothed plastic comb, I smoothed out the hair from root to tip the best I could. Then, I put her ponytail back into place. I’m not going to lie – this part took forever! Through multiple trial and error attempts, I finally got the height and placement of the ponytail just right. I secured it in place using small, clear plastic rubber bands I found in the hair care aisle at Target.

With the ponytail in place, it was all about resetting the curls. I used a spray bottle to soak the ends with water and then I wrapped five separate curls around small pipe cleaners. I folded up the pipe cleaner ends and let the set air dry for a few days.

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The end result was far better than I expected. The frizz factor is non-existent and there’s even a bit of shine back in her hair. Once again, a little TLC goes a long way!

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Work continues on this doll as I research techniques for repairing splits, removing dye stains, and touching up face paint (I’m still deciding if I want to do this).

For now, she’s looking good with the rest of my vintage girls!

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c.b.w. 2017