The Vatican's official daily newspaper has appealed to the makers of the Barbie doll to put a bald version of the doll on toy shop shelves for children who have lost their hair through chemotherapy or illness.

Mattel has already launched a bald Barbie shorn of her cascading blonde locks, but plans to donate it directly to hospitals, instead of putting it on sale.

The new version of the doll was developed following a Facebook campaign launched by the mother of a girl who underwent chemotherapy in the US, which drew 150,000 supporters this year.

Over the weekend, L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See's daily, urged Mattel to go one step further. "Why not sell the bald Barbie?" it said.

While praising the new model, the author of the article, the historian Giulia Galeotti, took the US toy-maker to task on its track record, calling Barbie "one of the most criticised and stigmatised [dolls], and rightly so".

With her "perfect and unreal" figure, Barbie remains a symbol of "plastic beauty and vacuous blondeness", the article argued, adding that "plastic surgery was part of her DNA, before plastic surgery became routine."

Galeotti gives credit to Mattel for introducing diverse Barbies over the years, not to mention Becky, Barbie's friend who uses a wheelchair. This is even though the original version of Becky could not fit through the front door of Barbie's Dream House and had hair so long it would get caught in the wheels of her wheelchair.

The new, bald Barbie – officially a "friend" of Barbie's – who will come with wigs, hats and head scarves, was further proof that the all-American blonde was evolving, the Vatican paper stated.

"But a doubt remains," it stated. "How many of us have ever really found these Barbies on shop shelves? Why is there no trace in the real world of this lineup of politically and educationally correct dolls?" © Guardian News and Media 2012