One of the most frequent questions I get as a seller of doll hair is- “I took my hair out of the original bag and now I don’t know what type of hair it is! How do I know what kind of hair I’m using???? Help!!”
Telling what type of hair you have is extremely important for a number of reasons:
- If you are selling left over hair (or trading with someone)- it’s important you know what you are selling because there are people out there that have allergies. One of my good friends, Lucky, has a bad reaction to polypropylene. So bad that if poly has even touched a bag of nylon, she will break out into hives. Scary right? I have artist friends who have the same reaction to mohair. They can break out into hives or even have their throat swell up. No one wants to put anyone in danger, so always make sure you know what type of product you have.
- Sometimes you will have a specific style in mind for your custom- to dye it, or boil perm it- there are certain hairs that won’t take regular dye, or won’t hold a curl well unless you really work at it. Some hair can even melt! Nothing more frustrating than working so hard on your custom and then having your hair not turn out the way you want, or even ruin the custom.
- Many many hair manufacturers will tell you what they are selling is nylon when it is actually not. This happened to my store and my UK counterpart back when I first started selling hair 7 years ago. They sold us polypropylene, saying it was nylon and there was a huge backlash about it. As soon as we found out that it was in fact poly, we immediately changed and properly labled the hair and found real nylon from a different supplier. I’m not sure why these companies do this, perhaps it is to meet some sort of quota and make the sale, but it’s extremely important to my company that we make sure we label our hair correctly.
So how do I know what I’m using??? There are several ways to tell what type of hair you have. I have a couple youtube videos that I’ll link below but I’ll give a quick rundown on the types of hairs out there and how to work with them.
Nylon– this hair is most commonly found in My Little Ponies. It is nylon 6, it can be easily dyed with rit or acid dyes. It will take and hold a boil perm on the first try- very very easy to curl. All nylon withstands up to 400 degrees heat. It feels silky and soft and is very easy to work with.
Kiwi Hair– This is a new type of hair that has come to the market in 2013. A lot of doll companies are switching over to it. It is more durable than nylon and saran, can be dyed easily as nylon and will take and hold a boil perm. This hair is silkier than nylon and monofiber. Very easy to work with
Saran– this hair is most commonly found on barbie dolls and other fashion dolls. It is heavier, and will pick up the oils on your skin very easily- so can become oily itself and will need to be washed after rooting. This hair is more difficult to curl- however if you stick it in boiling water, then immediately into a bowl of water with ice and repeat the process 3-4 times, let dry 24 hours, it will hold the curl. The ONLY dye that will work on saran is a product called idye poly (or Rit Dyemore). Regular Rit and Acid Dyes will not work on saran.
Monofiber– this is often found in BJD wigs, so so silky. Like nylon, it is high temperature hair and will withstand up to 400 degrees heat. This hair is more difficult to curl- however if you stick it in boiling water, then immediately into a bowl of water with ice and repeat the process 3-4 times, let dry 24 hours, it will hold the curl. You can also use a curling iron on this hair and a flat iron. It’s really awesome for straight hairstyles. The ONLY dye that will work on this is idye poly (or Rit Dyemore). Regular Rit and Acid Dyes will not work on monofiber. It is very light and wispy and works best to root while wet.
Polypropylene– Poly is easily confused for nylon, but it has a drier feel to it. It also has a harder time curling like saran and sometimes has a tendency to tangle a bit while working with it. The ONLY dye that will work on this is idye poly (or Rit Dyemore). Regular Rit and Acid dyes will not work. It also separates very easily into plugs.
Kanekalon– There are so many types of kanekalon. Doll Grade Japanese- the softest and nicest- it breaks easily and is recommended for using the needle knot method in rooting as the tool is too hard on it. Doll Grade Silky- this is stiffer and takes the same process at curling as saran- usually recommended for straight hairstyles. Last but not least is regular kanekalon- this is super kinky and floofy- awesome for styles like mermaid and crimped 80’s and also used for dreadlocks. The doll grade silky and regular will only withstand low temperature settings. The only type of dye that will work with these is idyepoly (or Rit Dyemore). Regular Rit and Acid dyes will not work.
Nylatex– this is a lower grade nylon and works much the same as doll grade silky kanekalon.
Acetate– this used to be used on dolls. It has a more “natural” feel to it, it’s made up of cellulose. I’m not sure about styling or dying for this as I do not carry it.
Synthetic– When a hair is labeled as “synthetic” this is usually because the manufacturer’s didn’t specify as to what type of hair this is, so it is basically a generic term- my guess is it’s probably closest to either yaki hair (very similar to kanekalon but not heat resistant- meaning it will melt in heat easily), or kanekalon. It’s a coarser type hair in comparison to nylon and other hairs but still fun to work with. When hair is labeled as synthetic- it is a good idea to test a small strand when you are wanting to work with boiling/hot water or curling products such as flat irons and curling irons.
*I’d suggest testing any type of hair you are unfamiliar with using out before any type of styling- just to make sure it will work for the project you have in mind.
Not only do I sell doll hair, I also customize dolls, toys, my little ponies (basically anything I can get my hand on). My advice is to try each type of hair at least once, because there are so many wonderful types and colors out there and why limit yourself to just one type? I use anything and everything- including yarn! This gives me even more ideas and creative things I can express myself with and who knows maybe you’ll fall in love with a whole new type of hair! I certainly have my favorites, but I enjoy working with them all. Once you really get to know the hair you are using and all the different types then the possibilities are endless! 🙂
Here are the links to my youtube videos discussing doll hair ( when they were made, I wasn’t aware that idye could dye nondyable hair)
About the Artist:
“I have fun restoring these dolls so that people today can enjoy a little bit of history at a reasonable price. I also do doll re roots and create one of a kind for you. I enjoy painting eyes to fit your needs.”
About The Artist:
“I live in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy art and design of all kinds. I design fabric, create costumes and clothing, sew bags and other accessories, make altered art dolls, design jewelry, paint, draw, do mixed-media encaustics, and carve linocut block prints.
You can also check out the following sites:
“I am a glutton for anything shiny, glitter and gaudy.. always have been. I was the little girl that other girls got tired of playing with because all I wanted to do was play Barbie dolls all the time. I’m a self taught artist and am one of those people that if I do not create, I get really blue. So Gilly Gals fills the craving on those issues for me.
I am also a face painter, which is something that I stumbled upon totally by accident. I love it and it is one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had!!!
I also crochet, sew, embroider and I LOVE to make rag quilts and rugs when I have time. Oh! And I’ve just recently taught myself to knit this year!
As far as my American Girl items… I’m an adult AG collector. The things that I make are stuff that you, yourself would really wear! We invite you to check us out! You’re gonna love what we’ve made for your dolls!!”