How I Fixed Our American Girl Doll’s Hair

Years ago, when I was maybe 9 or 10, my grandma gave me an American Girl Samantha doll for Christmas.  It got passed down to my sister, and then to my niece, and returned to my home last year.  Let’s just say she – especially her hair – was a little worse for wear…

Apparently dolls aren’t supposed to have their hair straightened with a flat iron and then re-curled with a curling iron.  (I can hardly blame my curly-haired sister and niece for trying – a lot of us with curly hair struggle with it for our entire lives, so I’m sure they were only trying to help Samantha out.)

My girls have played with Samantha some, but she was kind of painful to look at it and definitely was kind of a second-class doll at our house.

The other day I was making a list of gift suggestions for the girls and thought to look to see how much it would cost to get Samantha looking good again at the American Girl hospital.  Forty-four dollars for a new head… Uh, no thanks.  So, I thought I’d see if maybe there was a way that I could fix her hair, and found a few tutorials that suggested using steam, hair conditioner, baby oil, and brushes/combs.

Once we finally found Samantha (I think I already mentioned that she isn’t a favorite doll), I got to work:

I tried steaming her over a pan of water, but that didn’t create enough steam to do much.  It might be effective if you have a garment steamer, though.  I then put some (human) hair conditioner on a small spot on her hair and just started combing.  Thank goodness this was a doll and not my daughter or you would have been able to hear the shrieks across the ocean!

The hair conditioner and comb was definitely making some progress, but I decided to dip the comb in the hot water to see if that would do anything.  It worked a little better for about one stroke, but I decided I really didn’t have anything to lose by dipping the hair in the hot water, so I did and that worked much better.

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t get the head wet – something to do with making it rust – but I was careful and just dipped the hair, not the whole head.  Again, I didn’t have a whole lot to lose.

So, after about half-an-hour of work, this is what Samantha looked like:

Not “like new”, but her hair was smooth and comb-able and she wasn’t painful to look at anymore.  She looked quite pretty, if I do say so myself!  She’s become the favorite doll that she was intended to be (or at least that her price tag intended her to be) and is actually getting played with now.

So, while I wouldn’t recommend my technique for dolls with minor problems, if you don’t have anything to lose and don’t want to pay for a new head for your American Girl doll, you might want to try some hair conditioner and a comb and maybe some hot water!



  1. Laura at TenThingsFarm says:

    Great job! We received a hand-me-down Josefina, whose hair was just a little scruffy. I used hair conditioner and a comb, and it took forever, but we got her hair smooth and then I put it into braids, to save on future comb-outs. :)

  2. Another thing to try is a solution of some fabric softener and water. I found it on this website.

    • Kelley G. says:

      I was going to mention this one. We have the same Rapunzel doll and it worked fairly well……

  3. I used (if you don’t have liquid fabric softener) the fabric softener sheets. I slightly wet my doll, (Mia, 2008 girl of the year)’s hair with a spray bottle, as well as the sheet and wiped it over her hair,brushed it and so forth, and it worked beautifully!

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