In this post I will describe how I fixed my second-hand Animators’ Merida’s hair. I will say up front that the process could probably be improved upon, but since the results were satisfactory I think it’s worth sharing.

I apologise – the photos in this section aren’t exactly art. Dolls in dimly lit bathtubs and other such situations.

If you remember, the doll arrived in a pretty rough shape hair-wise:

First, I washed the doll’s hair. I don’t think the kind of shampoo matters too much. I used a simple shampoo to make sure. I did not bother to brush her hair beforehand – it’s easier later on.

Next, I applied hair conditioner. I can’t tell if it changes anything in the long run, but it nonetheless serves a role – it makes the hair more slippery and easier to brush. The conditioner was left on for 15 minutes. The one I used was a glycerin-based one, but again, I don’t think it matters a lot.

I left the conditioner in and laid the doll flat on a surface. Then, I began to brush away the tangles. While it can be messy, it makes brushing a lot easier. I used a Barbie brush and it worked OK. It’s always advisable to start at the very ends and work up your way towards the roots – otherwise you the mess bunches up in one place in a gross, hairy Gordian knot. The tangle in this case was so bad that I had to separate the hair into small strands. I only worked with one lock at a stretch. It is best to keep track of the strands that have been brushed and to continue working from one side to another. It’s best to hold the strand you’re brushing firmly with the other hand so that the pulling won’t rip the hair out of the doll’s head.

After washing, conditioning and brushing, I arrived at this result:

At this point the hair didn’t look very neat, but I swear that the brush was passing through it smoothly  I am impressed with how well the curls endured all the water, product and harsh brushing. It would normally be reassuring to know that the original hairstyles on the Animators’ dolls are made to last, but in this case it was a problem. I wanted the hair straight so that the old curls wouldn’t interfere with the new ones.

My next step was to dip the doll’s hair in hot water. It makes it smoother and straightens. I boiled the water in an electric kettle, poured it into a bowl and dipped the doll’s hair in it for about 10 seconds. At first I waited for the water to cool slightly, but seeing that it’s not working as well as I expected I repeated the process a few more times, now dipping the hair right after the water boiled. I can definitely say that my doll did not suffer from such treatment in any way, but excessive heat may be dangerous to dolls, so try at your own risk. Some dolls shouldn’t be allowed to get wet, such as American Girl dolls.

Sorry, but this is the best photo I have of ‘dipping in hot water’ – handling a bowl of hot water, and a doll, and a camera with only two hands proved too fiddly. However, unlike the photo, I actually did dip the hair in all the way.

The hair looked better after several rounds but it was not perfect. Hmm. It worked better for people who used the Internet. But doesn’t it always?

At this point, if I had had a flat iron, I would have used it, despite it being plain risky on plastic hair. I tried something new because I don’t have any of these contraptions. I wrapped my hair in a tight-fitting cloth and dipped it again. I believed that the cloth would flatten the curls and that the hot water would keep them that way.

It wasn’t a full success, but still an improvement. I decided it probably wasn’t getting much better from then on, rinsed the hair thoroughly to make sure all the conditioner was all gone and dried Merida with a towel.

Wet Animators’ dolls in towels are cute, so here is a photo

And here is the result of all the dipping and straightening:

I was surprised how long her hair is when it’s straight. It is nice, even if it’s not Merida-like. My mind immediately thinks of Lady Godiva.

When her hair was damp, I began to recreate the curls with drinking straws and hairpins. I used straws that were wider than the usual. I took small hair strands, brushed them, and then twisted them tightly around the straw. Both ends were secured with hairpins.

The ends were still a little curly and scruffy and wouldn’t lay as flat as the remaining length. I think I should’ve trimmed the ends.

Apart from keeping the hair damp I also used lightweight styling mousse. I don’t think it’s necessary, but I really wanted to make sure that my hard work would not fall apart two days later (I intended to use hairspray but I read online that i wasn’t the best of ideas). To test the mousse on my hair, I tried it. I’d say not hard at all, which is nice, but on the flip-side, I am not sure if it did anything to preserve the curls either. At least her hair smells fruity to this day

I had about 70 hairpins and I thought I was well-prepared, but I ran out and had to start using string. I would not advise using those cheap little rubber bands, many will break from the hot water used in the next step (and with them your heart over the lost time and effort). Much later…

After the straw curlers were all on and secured I dipped the hair in hot water again for about 20 seconds. The purpose of this is to make the curls more or less permanent.

I let the hair dry for three days. One would have supposedly been OK, but I wasn’t in a hurry and I figured it can’t hurt to wait longer.

The hairpins had rusted when I took the straws off. The hairpins left a rusty residue, but it was gone when I removed them. This is probably in part due to Merida’s already rusty hair colour. On dolls with darker hair, however, rust marks caused by hairpins may be an issue.

And this is what she looked like at that point:

Definitely curly, but still not quite Merida style.

Each hair was taken and split into two to three strands. It wasn’t was as easy as I expected. Even though I had brushed carefully, there were interlocking hairs which didn’t let me separate the strands. At this point it’s too late to brush again – brushing would turn the hair into one big fluffy ball. In fact, from now on Merida’s hair care consists solely of making sure that no hairs get pulled out of their designated strands   Brushes, hook and loop fasteners and children are the greatest threats.

Was it worth it? Since it’s all done and over, I’d say yes. However, if I had known in advance, I might have been tempted after all to go straight.

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