The Truth About Pony/Doll Hair Restoration

Are you like me, getting frustrated when studying tutorials for restoring doll hair, seeing factory-perfect results, and getting significantly poorer quality when trying the methods yourself? Then read on. You are not alone!

After years of attempting different methods and giving up in disgust, I’ve come to the following conclusions. What is rarely pointed out in other tutorials is:

Lubricants (like fabric softener, oil, etc.) make hair easier to comb, but do NOT remove frizz (all the little bends and kinks in individual strands). Similarly, HEAT does not remove frizz from all synthetic hair types.

Ultimately, heavily worn hair CANNOT be completely smoothed.

And that’s okay! Stop beating yourself up for not achieving perfect results. The tutorials apparently show toys that are in restorable condition. But if you’re like me, you frequently handle ponies and dolls that are going to have frizz no matter what you do.

Before shooting my mouth off on this post, I did set up an experiment of sorts that combined various hair smoothing techniques. Methods basically boil down (hah hah) to applying heat (like boiling water, a steam cleaner, or hair straightener) and/or something to lubricate the strands (like oil, glycerin, fabric softener, or hair conditioner). Was there some combination of these that works better than the others, or are they all pretty much the same and it’s up to personal preference?

The subjects are shown below in BEFORE pictures, after a thorough COMBING ONLY, no treatments; and AFTER, taken after the lubricant was applied, the heat treatment was done, washed out with dish soap, and drying:

Before After
Fabric Softener/Hair Straightener
Fabric Softener/Boiling Water
Fabric Softener/Steam Cleaner
Glycerin/Hair Straightener
Glycerin/Boiling Water
Glycerin/Steam Cleaner
Hair Conditioner/Hair Straightener
Hair Conditioner/Boiling Water
Hair Conditioner/Steam Cleaner

They’re not absolutely perfect comparisons, because some were frizzier than others and different colors can behave differently even from the same manufacturer. But, taking that into consideration, I wouldn’t say that any one treatment out-performed the other; I think it’s personal preference of what you’re comfortable working with. It’s true that most of them appear less “bushy” than before, but they would have flattened out on their own over time. The treatments got rid of the air space caused by the recent in-depth combing, but didn’t fix the underlying frizz. Overall, heat seems to push frizziness out of the top section but then it just settles down at the bottom. For me, the results aren’t worth the work that went into the straightening attempts. The texture after heat treatments is just dry and nasty and I don’t want to try it any more. I prefer to live with the frizz after a basic fabric softener comb-out.

Even though I detailed my process today on lower-quality “fakie” product, I have done combinations of these methods in the past on a wide variety of toys from Hasbro, Mattel, MGA etc., (see here) and whatever the product, they all turn out about the same.

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