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Vinyl Head Shrinking Guide

Please read or listen to the Introduction to Head Shrinking material, because this is a chemical process and various elements have different reactions with one another. Some are completely unpredictable, but in the introduction I'll talk about the possibilities, what we know for sure and what process would be best for you. 

You can either watch the video below,

or read the written version below that. 

Links to tutorials for each method will be at the bottom of the page, so please read all the warnings!

I ended up getting into customizing commercial dolls after spending some time and a LOT of money on gorgeous Asian ball joint dolls. Both realistic and somewhat anime-ish ones from companies like Iplehouse and Soom. Mass produced dolls are far more affordable, but also much more limited. I vastly preferred the original Monster High dolls and Ever After High dolls, but their heads were more disproportionately large than I would like, so when I learned about head shrinking it became regular procedure for me! 

Now, let's talk turkey!

Fast Shrinking vs. Slow Shrinking

Hopefully this will help you decide which method is better for you. What is probably the most important consideration for many is that with fast shrinking, you cannot keep the face paint. That includes the stripes in hair like on Toralei, Meowledy and Purrsephone from Monster High. If you don't want to repaint, you HAVE to slow shrink. As you might expect, slow shrinking is safer in many ways (why else would anyone want to take longer if it wasn't?). In my old tutorials I theorized about different elements that made heads shrink more or faster. But now, after having shrunk well over a hundred heads, I can say that without access to a laboratory and a lot of expensive chemistry equipment, there is really no telling how much a head will shrink or how long it will take to try. Even two heads that seem identical can have slightly different material structure that will alter how it behaves during the process. 

WARNING: Whichever process you choose, be aware that acetone melts most kinds of hard plastics that dolls' bodies are made of. Many dolls have hard vinyl forearms, hands, feet and shins so that they don't break easy at such a small size, but the torso, upper arms and thighs are almost always some kind of hard plastic that will melt if exposed to acetone. So make sure to keep your doll's body away from where you're shrinking the head! Also make sure you have enough ventilation and you're not inhaling acetone fumes for an extended period of time. 

About Slow Shrinking


The suggested method, thus it's going first! Things to know:

1 - You can keep the factory faceup: It seems that the factory makeup has some elasticity that allows it to expand and contract through the shrinking process without breaking. Most of the time the colors will even stay the same, but on occasion you can get some discoloration with certain pigments and usually you'll lose the glossy finish over eyes and lips. You can also maintain the pearliness or metallic effect in vinyl skin like Lagoona and Jinafire. 100% acetone seems to leech the pearl effect right out. You can't shrink after repainting, unless you want to repaint all over again. Sealants are not compatible with acetone, even in diluted proportions.  

2 - Little to no shape change: For the most part anyway. Sometimes you'll encounter an anomaly, but as long as the head is left to dry in the open air it is should shrink uniformly. Rainbow High can be an exception because they have extremely thin walls which means they have weaker structural integrity than most dolls. If you leave them to dry face up, the fact that the vinyl is so thin may mean that the face will sink inward some and dry pug-faced. 

3 - The only method for dolls with closely rooted hair plugs. Any doll that has hair plugs that are very close together will crack if fast shrunk, as the thin vinyl between the plugs will erode and run together. If there are too many spots like that, the scalp will just completely break off and separate from the rest of the head. Or a closely rooted part can crack open. 

4 - Only method for dolls with thick hard glue in their heads If you have a head that cannot be squished because the glue is too thick and hard inside, then that will cause problems with fast shrinking. Acetone DOES soften the glue, but vinyl absorbs the acetone and expands much faster than the glue does, so it can cause the head to crack in various places or warp. If thick glue is the only issue, it is possible to do a 24-48 hour soak in 70% acetone/30% water which softens the glue enough to break it up a little with some tool and then fast shrink since the glue won't go back to being as hard as it was.

5 - Safer overall especially if there is any structural damage. There are sometimes unknown factors inside your doll's head that you cannot see. Like perhaps there is already a scratch or crack inside the head from a rough reroot. If fast shrunk, that can result in the crack opening up as the head expands in the 100% acetone. There's all kinds of factors that are far less risky using the slow method. If you really want to minimize any chance of things going wrong, slow shrinking is the way to go.

6 - More time to reroot if you want to do it in soft vinyl You CAN reroot once the head is fully shrunk and hardened, but some may prefer rerooting while the vinyl is still soft. This totally varies. Sometimes the head can harden as fast as 3 days, while some are still soft after 2 weeks.

About Fast Shrinking


In the above image, the left one is the fast shrunk one, center slow shrunk, right one unmodified:

1 - It's faster obviously: If you only want to shrink it a little, or if you happen upon an unusually fast shrinking head, you only have to do one session. Soak the head in 100% acetone for 2 hours, then let it dry for about 22 hours. At that point it will have done most of it's shrinking and a good amount of hardening and you can determine if you want to do more soaks. I have not gone past 3 myself, so I don't know if there reaches a point where the vinyl will deteriorate from the process. At 3 sessions, from start to finish it can be done in 4-5 days. The first day you need to wash the head to get rid of excess oils or contaminants and make sure it is fully dry because even a small amount of water will weaken the acetone.

2 - Accentuates sculpt features: Some head sculpts will shrink more where the vinyl is thin and this accentuates and sharpens the facial features. But since you can't exactly measure the thickness, we can't predict with certainty how this will turn out.

Known Issues:

- Kanekalon hair is not compatible with acetone. I don't know if they use this anymore or not, but acetone will either turn it brittle or make it permanently frizz. In the past I have encountered this with Monster High dolls, Abbey's colored streaks, some Spectras, some Ghoulias and some Draculauras' pink strands. You should pull a few hairs from your doll and soak them in 100% acetone in a small jar for at least 12 hours. If it's not frizzed up, then straighten the hairs and tug them a few times. If they snap or stretch apart, the head needs to be dehaired before shrinking. 


- Flocking: Depending on what kind of glue was used, and possibly how much, it can get into the hair, damaging it, and you can't rinse it out. That's what happened to a Venus McFlytrap doll I had shrunken. However, I also shrank an Ever After High Hunter Huntsman and while his flocking did slough off, the rest of his hair was just fine. So it's up to you if you want to take the chance or not. 

Now for the main event! Hope you paid attention: 


Extra: About Rerooting in Shrunken Heads

It's pretty much the same as rerooting any other regular doll, just possibly more time consuming. I get asked about it a lot so made a little video and am posting a few words here about it. Even the head has fully hardened back up, it still retains enough flexibility that you can use an awl or some such tool to pry and wiggle the holes open a little wider again. They shrink back up fairly quickly, so you can only do so many at once. If you're rooting while it's still a little soft then there is nothing out of the norm to speak of. 

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