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What Is Doll Hair Made of?

Often artists are asked what is the doll’s hair made of. Today, let’s talk about hair used for our art dolls and how we can achieve their incredible lifelike qualities. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of what type of hair we use to root and why we use it for these beautiful dolls.

I know using animal products can be a sensitive subject for some. So before we begin let me reassure you. Like humans, some goats need grooming to keep them healthy and happy. Artists will then use the hair from the goats to root our dolls with. The hair from goats is not just limited to doll making but, is used in a wide array of textiles. These beautiful creatures are sheared typically (given a haircut) twice a year as they cannot shed their hair on their own. Specifically, Angora Goats and some other breeds. Not all animals require the same type of care. As an animal lover myself, I assure you these goats are not harmed when shearing their coats. Some of the benefits of shearing help prevent matting, skin infections, irritations, and a host of other issues.

One option and most often used in rooting dolls is called Mohair. Mohair is a type of hair produced by certain breeds of goats, typically Angora goats. As doll artists, we are not limited to using only mohair. We have several options to choose from. Often combining several types and or colors of hair to achieve the overall style we are trying to accomplish. Creating the most hyper-realistic dolls possible. An example, we may want the hair to appear baby fine and barely there around the face and thicker and more dense towards the back of the head. Using variations of hair will help us achieve that over all goal.

Factors taken into consideration when deciding on a rooting style, are the type of animal, their age, the type of cutting-such as the underbelly or back, when in the life cycle an animal is sheared, and the microns of the hair. Micron count is the diameter of the fiber in microns. A micron is 1,000th of a millimeter. The smaller the diameter or lower the micron count, the finer and softer the hair will be. This is typically the first characteristic I look at when choosing the hair I will be working with. I specifically aim to use only natural fibers when hand rooting Art Dolls. Totally, different from the mass-produced dolls made for children. Factory-made dolls are created most often times with a synthetic or man-made fiber. Making the hair appear fake almost plastic looking.

We use natural hair or fibers from several types of animals (and or humans). Some types of hair used are:

  • Alpaca- microns ranging between 12-29 microns

Huacaya is more dense and crimped whereas Suri produces more fine straight locks. Alpaca hair is graded into four categories.

  1. Super Fine Cria – Is from the Prime or top hind region of an Alpaca. Alpacas under one year old are considered superfine and the hair is very soft with a length of 2-4 inches.
  2. Prime (sometimes called blanket) – Comes from the back area of an Alpaca. Typically this is the finest fleece from an adult alpaca. Prime is a soft fiber with a longer length (3-7 inches).
  3. Seconds – Similar or slightly coarser to prime with a shorter length from the underbelly of the Alpaca (2-5 inches). 
  4. Thirds – Is the coarsest of all alpaca fiber with varying lengths (1 inch or longer). Often found on the butt and legs.

Merino Sheep- Provide fiber that is softer than cashmere and smoother than silk. Merino wool is generally less than 22 microns.

Angora Goats (mohair) range between 25-45 microns, increasing with the age of the goat. Goat hair is classified into three types of hair fiber.

  1. Kid mohair- Is from the youngest goats, 6 – 12 months old, and is softer and more curly. This fleece is the first shearing from a young Angora goat. It is very fine and soft. Ranging from 23 to 27 microns with an average length anywhere from 3 to 6 inches.
  2. Yearling mohair- Is a little more coarse and more wavy than curly. Typically from a “teenaged” goat 9 – 18 months, and is the second shearing from a goat. Also fine and soft ranging from 27-30 microns with an average length of 3-6 inches.
  3. Adult goats- Typically 24 months and up have the largest diameter and typically courser of the three. The fleece from the mature goat has 30 microns and the average length is also 3-6 inches.
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One quality of using good mohair is the ability to resist felting. When different types of fibers of lesser quality are washed at the wrong temperature, the fibers can fuse. Making the hair appear dry, frizzy, and a tangled mess. The protein called keratin, found in Angora mohair does not fully calcify. Meaning the fibers are resistant to felting. Making the hair much more soft, silky, and manageable. Another quality of Mohair is, that it absorbs dyes exceptionally well. Providing a ray of colors to choose from. 

Mohair has an elasticity stretch on average of 30% over its total length. So be mindful when rooting wet hair. It will bounce back as it drys making the hair appear shorter than possibly your anticipated length. This is the main reason I never soak the hair while in the rooting process or constantly comb and style the hair as I progress through the head. If you do, you will run the risk of the hair retracting further into the vinyl during the rooting process.

The Yolk or lanolin is the natural secretions or oil of the goat’s skin that clings to the fiber. With that in mind, most rooted dolls require some type of maintenance to keep the doll’s hair in pristine condition. Preventing the hair from drying out, getting brittle, and breaking over time. We suggest occasionally condition the hair using an approved mohair leave-in conditioning spray. This will help replenish the natural oils that are lost over time. I recommend not spraying directly on the head. Spray the mist on a soft baby brush or toothbrush to distribute through the hair.

When creating styles on toddlers and older children, we may even use human hair! The average micron count in human hair is around 70. So you can see why we wouldn’t use human hair to create that super fine just born hair style. To achieve that newborn look, we would opt to use hair with a considerably smaller micron count to give us the finest and softest look available.

In closing, it is possible to have good and bad-quality hair to use for your dolls. So if you too are a doll artist just getting started with rooting, do your research to decide what is right for you and your rooting style. We are able to create natural and realistic-looking hair. Styles ranging anywhere from preemie babies and up. Using the different variations of types, sizes, texture, and color of hair available. possibilities are limitless! 

Ginger Kelly

Ginger Kelly

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