By Jonathan David
In the thirty years that I’ve been in the grooming industry, I’ve seen so many styling products hit the market. Basic shampoos and conditioners have given way to specialty shampoos and skin and coat treatments, and basic grooming sprays have evolved into styling and volumizing sprays, and products to help smooth, tame and lift coats have been introduced, giving pet groomers the opportunity to impress customers and execute some of the best grooming we’ve seen to date.
But why should we try something new, and what do they all really do?
I’ve heard stories from some of the OG’s of the grooming world—the groomers who were pioneers in transforming the pet grooming industry from an obscure job to a respected and necessary profession. When they started, the products were limited, to say the least, and sometimes pet groomers had to resort to using products made for humans or other animals—or products not intended as a skin and coat cleanser at all—because there just weren’t many products made specifically for pet grooming.
Fortunately, for groomers today, there have been so many advances made in the products available to pet professionals. At one time, as the need became apparent, there were basic all–purpose shampoos and conditioners; a one–size–fits–all product, and the only specialty shampoos and conditioners were oatmeal and flea products. This was a great advancement for the industry, but it was limited. And with so many different coat types and skin issues, and so many different styling methods, there was a need for more specific specialty products to help groomers manage skin and coat, and help groomers achieve the best possible finished grooms.
Let’s take a look at some of the grooming and styling products available to pet groomers today and how to use them.
Every great grooming starts with the prep, and that includes what shampoos and conditioners you choose. In today’s market, there are many different brands of shampoos and conditioners that make various claims about what they will do. The research that the manufacturers have done to develop each product plays an important role in the performance of the product. The ingredients used also play a significant role in the performance of the product, but those results can be altered by simple things like the water you use.
For example, a groomer operating in an area with hard water may see a different result than a groomer using the same product in an area with soft water. Sometimes the recommended dilution ratio may need to be adjusted to work with your water. Always be sure to start with the recommended dilution and, if necessary, make adjustments to work well with your water.
Often times, some specialty shampoos are intended to be used at full strength to achieve the desired results, so diluting the product may make it less effective. Typically, any products made for medicinal use, such as those prescribed by a veterinarian to treat skin issues, are intended to be used at full strength, so be sure to read directions carefully and allow the product to make contact with the skin for the recommended amount of time to be most effective.
If you’re using an over-the-counter product that is formulated to help treat skin issues, remember, these are not veterinary products and they are formulated to help in the treatment of skin issues, but should not be used in place of needed medical attention.
Some of the specialty shampoos that have emerged through the years are those that soothe irritated skin caused by the environment, such as allergies, yeast issues or flea bites. These types of shampoos are meant to soothe and calm irritated skin and provide temporary relief, but not necessarily to cure a medical issue. There are many different active ingredients that are used, but consideration of which one to use is crucial in getting a positive effect.
For example, oatmeal shampoo can be very beneficial to dogs suffering from various triggers that cause itching. However, if the dog has a sensitivity to grains, the oatmeal shampoo would be counterproductive because oat is a grain. Therefore, you would essentially be putting the allergen all over the dog, so it wouldn’t be the right choice as a treatment for itching. In this case, it would be beneficial to ask the client if they’ve done any allergy testing on their pet, and if so, ask for a copy of the results so you can avoid using anything that would trigger a response.
The same goes for styling products and shampoos created to help with styling, such as volumizing shampoos or shampoos to help tame cottony or frizzy coats. These products can have many different ingredients to achieve the desired effect, but not all coat types respond the same way to each product. Sometimes these types of specialty products combined with various water types will end up making the coat difficult to brush and comb through, or some will weigh the coat down and give it a greasy or oily appearance.
Whenever trying new products, I like to experiment with a few different dilutions and try it on different coat types to see what the results will be like. A little extra effort trying the products out ahead of time can save you time and frustration later when you’re using these products throughout the day.
Some other types of styling products that have come a long way are leave–in conditioners, foams, mousses and styling sprays. These products can help give volume and body to limp or thin coats, or add moisture to dry and difficult coats, aiding in achieving a smooth and slick coat that you can run a comb through with ease. These products also help to prevent the pets’ coats from matting in between visits to the groomer—and they help pet owners be more diligent in maintaining a mat–free coat at home.
When any of my clients want to keep any significant amount of hair on their pets, I recommend they use a brushing and combing spray. These are usually a very light conditioning spray that tackles static electricity in the hair and helps to keep the coat from becoming matted.
As with all products, be aware that some dogs can be sensitive to leave–in products, and some may be sensitive to fragrances added to the products.
The pet grooming industry is an ever–evolving industry that is always improving and developing products to meet the changing needs of pet stylists around the globe. As new research emerges, so do new products to help pet groomers provide the best possible care for their furry clients.
I encourage you to experiment with new things and see what works for you and your clients. You just might find that life–changing product that you didn’t know you couldn’t live without! ✂️