Last summer, a friend of mine went on what she called "The great Barbie Hunt." She scoured thrift stores and garage and yard sales for as many Barbies and clothes as she could find. Every time she picked up a bedraggled Barbie, I thought to myself "What the heck she is going to do with that? She is fifty years old, she's going to play with Barbies now?"
Well, the summer passed and she had collected about 25 Barbies. About two weeks ago, she called me up and asked me to come by so I could see what she had done with her poor neglected and abused Barbies. There they were all sitting on her table and you would not believe how beautiful they were. She was going to throw a Barbie birthday party for her granddaughter and wanted each girl to have a special Barbie to remember the party with and to also use as decorations. Barbies can be very expensive, as anyone with a little girl well knows. So this is why she had so diligently collected Barbies all summer. I just had to figure out how she had done it. She was very gracious and gave me all the directions on how to do a Barbie Extreme Makeover and I thought I would share her instructions with you.
In this article, I will try and give you instructions with pictures for giving an old Barbie that you have bought at a thrift store a new makeover. Believe it or not it is not as hard as you would think. There are many people out there that take old Barbie's and remake them into beautiful dolls that Mattel has yet to think of. Think of yourself as a designer. You can cut uneven hair and style it anyway you want. The tools you will need are things you probably have around your house.
I am going to tell you how to fix up the most abused Barbie that you can find, but when I went to the thrift store yesterday to buy Barbies for this article I, believe it or not, could not find one that was totally messed up. So I bought some that the hair needed re- curling and some that needed their hair trimmed to make them beautiful once again. Since I have no little girls, I plan on donating the dolls to a local charity that will find them new Christmas homes.
*You will need the thick straws like you get with a fountain drink from the 7-11, small drinking straws you can buy at the grocery or perm rods (the smallest that they make).
Time to Complete: 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on condition of Barbie
With your shampoo, clean your doll's hair. Put the shampoo on your hand and, working from the top of the head to the bottom, push the shampoo gently through the hair. You CANNOT shampoo like you would your little girl as this will add more mats to the hair. Repeat as necessary. Some hair may need two washings to come clean. Be sure to rinse very well. You should now have a shining head of hair. Apply conditioner to the doll's head. For extremely matted hair, you may have to soak the hair in fabric softener for a little while. With your small comb starting at the bottom, work your way up the dolls head, detangling as you go. Be patient. The slower you go, the better. A rat tail comb (comb with a long handle) or a teasing comb can really help break up those stubborn mats.
Now you are ready to style Miss Barbie. The easiest style is a curled ponytail. I found clear hair pony tail bands at Walgreen's very inexpensively. Smooth Barbie's hair into a ponytail. Now roll small sections of the hair onto the straws keeping hair smooth around the straw. Secure with a bobby pin. Continue until all hair is on straws. Now comes the fun part. Holding Barbie firmly by her body, pour the boiling water over the curlers, making sure you get them very wet. Follow immediately with the cold water. Because Barbie's hair is made of nylon, you are heating up the nylon and then cooling it to set the curl. Personally, I found out that my tap water from my sink was hot enough to do the job. Taking a towel, pat the hair gently. You don't want to move the curlers, just pat enough to remove excess water. I used a vase that was long enough to stick Barbie in to let her hair dry. Depending on the hair, it can take up to twelve hours to dry. Just keep checking it. When it is almost completely dry, you can blow dry it for a couple of seconds with a blow dryer. This seems to help set the curls also. Not too close and not too long as you don't want to melt the hair.
When the hair is completely dry, take out the curlers and fluff the curls. If you like how tight the curls are, leave them as is. A few of the Barbies that I bought had fancy bangs that were in good shape so I protected these by covering them with Saran wrap and a bobby pin and then just curled the back. One had fancy waves on the front pulled back into a pony tail. I just pulled it forward out of the way and curled the back and then pulled the pony tail forward to curl it and was very careful not to get any of the hot water on the fancy waves near her face. You can fix weird bangs using a pipe cleaner wrapped around the head to hold them down in place after you have washed the hair and before you roll the hair on straw curlers. Just make sure they get hit with the hot and cold water too. Other hair styles can be done by pin curling all of her hair with bobby pins. This method makes for some s-shaped waves or, if you have the patience, you can braid tiny sections and hold the ends with bobby pins and you will get a kinky effect. For a spiral hair do, set the hair on rollers held vertically. Just remember that you will still need to do the hot- cold treatment to make this set. Now you are all set to decorate your Barbie. You can add ribbons to her hair and, if the doll is going to an older child, you can even do up-do's held in place with T-pins. Small wired flowers can be added by winding the wire tightly around her hair or can be tucked into the elastic bands. The idea here is to have fun. If you mess up the first time, oh well, just try again. Hot water will release the curl so you can do it again.
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My vintage Barbie is in pretty good shape. However, her legs turned from the cream color to brown. For quite a while she has worn an outfit with pants. Could this have something to do with it? The brown color didn't come off when I washed her. Why did Barbie's legs turn brown?
This discoloration you describe just happens even to dolls that have no clothing. I have never found any way to get rid of it, but then I am not adventurous when it comes to restoring old dolls. For example, there are people that swear by Benzyol Peroxide to bleach the color back to normal, but I am too sensitive to chemicals to ever try it.
I can clean hair (a drop of baby shampoo, a wig brush and warm water) and most of the time get pen off (a drop of non-aerosol hairspray on a qtip) but that is my limit.
Maybe one of the other doll gurus on this site has a tried and true method!
The plastic oxidizes with age. Extremes in storage temperatures can cause it also.
this is because the Barbie leg material probalby oxidizes as said but also it is very porous so it absorbs impurities and dirt and discolours from the environment.
Your question is why do Barbie doll legs turn brown..
But are you interested in how to fix them or just why they turned brown?
Of course, some sort of chemical reaction causes this to happen just as the green ears, and yellowing skin happens. Air, humidity, age, storing conditions, exposure can all cause different degrees of change to plastic.
If you are interested in trying to reverse the damage then it may be possible with this process:
Take a weak (10%) solution of hydrogen peroxide, add a dash of Oxy (not Oxy 10) (just a small amount), apply (you can paint it on) and leave in the sun for an afternoon.
This may take more than one time but clean it up between sessions to see if it is working.
This discovery was made by a chemist and later tested and it worked (for the doll collectors who tested it).
You can read about it on this link but please read or go all the way to the bottom for the final results. You will see that several say it works and others not so much.
Be very careful and make your own decision as any type of solution could cause unrepairable damage.
I have never tested this method so I have no idea as to what effect it will have.
If you soak the oxidized doll in an Effordent (yes, the denture tablets) bath the brown color will dissolve. It won't remove the original paint on the doll either. I did this to an early 70's Malibu Barbie I had ad a child and it worked beautifully.