Natural Hair Remedies for Your Barbie Love Blues

In many communities, playing with dolls is a tricky game of self perception and beauty. Here's a cute and fun new way to alter the rules.

By Jamilah King Aug 08, 2011

It’s no secret that in communities of color, the politics of playing with dolls has a long, sordid history. In the late 1930’s, African American researchers Kenneth and Mamie Clark published what would become hugely influential findings: a disturbing number of black children, long told that they were undesirable, preferred playing with white dolls because they were considered more beautiful. Ever since, many parents of color have struggled to find dolls that in some way tell their kids that they’re beautiful. Barbies have popped in up all different colors and cultures. But creating dolls remains an imperfect science; they’re often too thin, too white. But even as dolls have changed, their hair — for the most part — hasn’t. Until now.

The blog Beads, Braids, Beyond recently published Kristl Smith Tyler’s (of How to Play With Barbies fame) helpful guide on how to give your doll a natural hairstyle: Natural Hair for Dolls Tutorial. It’s an ideal look that seems especially useful for black folks — big or small — who want to give their dolls a look that’s more similar to their own. For instance, ever heard of a boil perm for dolls? Neither had I, until now. Turns out all you need is some hot water and fuzzy sticks:

You will section off the hair, twirl it and then do a zig-zag pattern onto the pipe-cleaners. The size of the section will dictate the tightness of the final curl pattern. The more patience you are able to marshall during the pipe-cleaner wrapping process, the better the style will come out.

It is important to keep the twirl of the hair tight all the way from the roots to the ends. So after beginning the zig-zag of each section, pause to twirl the hair as many times as needed to keep the twirl tight.

There’s also a guide for a combed out look, and some pointers on how to make afro puffs. They’re all  fairly inexpensive, do-it-yourself methods that at least seem worth giving a try if you’ve got some time on your hands.

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