What Materials Are Barbies Made of?

By Ginger Yapp
Barbie Dolls are composed primarily out of soft vinyl.

Barbie Dolls are a popular line of fashion dolls and manufactured by Mattel, Inc., and sold all over the world. Though the materials Barbies are made of has changed since the first Barbie was made in 1959, today, the recognizable dolls are composed primarily of soft vinyl, synthetic vinyls and elastomer, allowing modern Barbies more flexibility than Barbies of the past.

Polyvinyl Chloride (Vinyl)

Barbie Dolls are composed of polyvinyl chloride (vinyl or PVC), a thermoplastic polymer that is mixed with a plasticizer to make the dolls more flexible and less brittle than PVC alone.

Synthetic Fiber

Barbie Dolls' hair are made of rooted synthetic fibers that are dyed in lots to fit the specific dolls.

Elastomer

Around 2000, when Mattel decided that Barbie's stomach needed to be more elastic and flexible, the company decided to incorporate elastomer into the mix. Elastomer allows Barbie a more realistic range of motions. Finding the correct formula for Barbie's elastomer was difficult, because Barbies need to withstand bending, posing and even biting, since they are often playthings for young kids, according to article "Engineering Barbie" in the December 2000 issue of "Design News." Mattel now uses an "ultra-soft" elastomer with the same softness as foam.

PBT (Engineering Thermoplastic)

Mattel also manufactures more expensive, collector's edition Barbies that were typically made of porcelain in the past. In the early 2000s, however, Mattel switched over the PBT, an engineering thermoplastic often found in bath-ware items. Mattel's custom formula is called "Silkstone," and it gives Barbies a more even and lifelike complexion. Through a series of testing, engineers made a strong, durable Barbie that can undergo serious abuse, according to the "Design News" article.

Water-Based Paint

Today, Mattel crafts Barbie's eyes with a water-based paint. Past Barbies used solvent-based paints that were not as environmentally friendly. This water-based paint is highly adhesive to most materials and takes far less time to dry than previous materials used by the company.

About the Author

Ginger Yapp has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and film topics. Her work has appeared in such publications as "USA Today" and online at Hotels.com. Yapp also has experience writing and editing for a small California newspaper. She earned her B.A. in film and media studies and has worked as an ESL teacher at an international school.