Not perfect, but much better. The secret? Dryer sheets and those soft white bristle baby brushes. Doll hair isn't human hair and hates shampoo and conditioners. But smoothes out nicely with fabric softener. If you have to wash a Barbie's hair then mild dish soap is better than shampoo and then use liquid fabric softener as a conditioner. I didn't wash this hair, just rubbed it with the fabric softener sheet and used a stiff bristled brush for some of the knots. I didn't pull yank hard or pull it all the way through to try to spare the hair, but gently separated the hair with the regular brush. Then I let my girl go to town brushing it with the soft baby brush.
This method takes out curls, so if the dolls hair is styled you might want to work around curls that are still nice. Sometimes the Barbie's hair sort of remembers curls too, so all it takes is wrapping it around a straw or something small and it will curl nicely. If you really want to change a look you can give your dolls a perm with hot or boiling water (depending on the type of hair). I've done this before and it was fun, but it was ten years ago and that doll looks sort of like a horror movie victim now so I won't be sharing any pictures.
Why do I bother to do this? Because I learned through my practice daughter (my niece) that kids grow up almost instantly. Saying 'later' is really the same as saying 'never', no matter how good intentions are. The few times that I spent playing dolls with my niece are some of my favorite memories. At the time it felt silly and I wasn't great at living in the moment always antsy to get back to 'important' things. Ha! Nothing like seeing that child turn into an adult to make me realize how unimportant dishes or laundry or whatever is compared to capturing a few moments of childhood.
Now that my daughter is the same age, I am trying hard not use the word 'later' too often. Sure, I still do but I recognize this tiny moment in time when she delights in me sharing her world.
So today I showed her the fabric softener sheet trick and we fixed the hair on endless Barbies. Yes, the dishes are still in the sink, but not bothering anyone one bit. In exchange for a bit of homestead negligence, I became something like a hero, warrior, goddess in my daughter's eyes for awhile. And that rocked.