Back to Basics: The Value of Good Skin Care

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Many new products have come out on the market and many treatments, masks, techniques and methods have been touted as the new “spa”. Proper breed trims are obsessed over; what scissors we are using, what combs, brushes, widgets and the sprays; lotions and bows that are applied as the finishing touches to our masterpieces.

There are so many details that go into finishing the perfect groom that oftentimes, good, basic skin care is overlooked. Maintaining the health of the skin by using correct cleansing methods, increasing circulation, relaxing the nerves, and stimulating the skin glands is necessary to create the balance that the skin needs to metabolize properly.


Basics of skin care

If the skin is healthy, there will be hair to scissor. If the skin is not healthy, the coat suffers and must be treated with several “lotions and potions” to give it luster, manageability and shine, and the skin might still be itchy and uncomfortable. Through the advanced technology of our time, there are topical cosmetics and products that can address nearly every skin irritation and provide relief. Basic skin care can be divided into a few different sections. Let’s explore each. Some are unaware that the skin care routine for ourselves is nearly the same as when we apply it to our clients’ pets; examination, detoxification, cleansing, conditioning and finish.

1) Examination

The first step is always to examine the individual pet to see if there is anything unusual happening on the surface of the skin. This exam will determine what types of products are used and if a mask is necessary. Most of the time, the exam simply lets us know that the skin is doing fine and we can move on to the cleansing stage. But occasionally we find things like crusts (scabs), scale (dandruff) or other nonspecific rashes or red spots. Anything that is found to be questionable should always be seen by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis.

2) Detoxification

A mask is a general term for a concoction that works topically on the skin to soften crusty skin, and draw out toxins. The rule of thumb when choosing a base for a mask is if there are crusts (scabs) or not. When crusts are present, a mask with a softening agent, such as collagen, an oil additive or even a small portion of conditioner, is needed because we cannot address the issue with the skin until we can reach it with topical cleansers.

If the skin does not have crusts, then we can choose a mask with a pulling agent like clay to pull or remove the toxins and pollutants, bacteria or fungus that may be plaguing the skin. A good tip to remember is that the lighter color the clay is, the softer it will pull. The darker the clay the harder the drawing action. If we find that a mask or detoxifying step is needed, then we need to identify what kind of mask should be applied. The base of the mask can be collagen to soften or clay to pull toxins. Both types can be used together in differing amounts depending on the needs of the skin.

Oils that are beneficial to the masking process are ginkgo oil to reduce inflammation, ginseng to stimulate vascular circulation, avocado oil to nourish and heal, and Emu oil for nourishing depleted skin among many of the other benefits it gives. A liquid mineral supplement can also be used in your mask to boost the immune system and replace critical minerals that the skin is lacking. There are also commercially prepared masks on the market today and it may be a matter of trying them out until you find the one that does the best job for your circumstances.

3) Cleansers

There is an enormous amount of choices when it comes to cleansers for pets. Each pet should be treated as an individual as each skin might have different needs. When there are no issues present, a gentle cleanser that does not attack the lipid layer is always a good choice. When issues are found, the previous diagnosis from the vet comes in handy. When you know what the problem is (seborrhea, infection, fungus or parasites) you can easily choose a cleanser with certain properties to address these particular issues.

4) Conditioners

One of the most important aspects of the skin care process is replacing the oils that were washed away by bathing. The pets we care for come in a spectrum of mineral and oil needs. The shorter the coat (or even hairless) need the most oil to maintain a proper barrier against the hazards of the environment and to help maintain body temperature. Double coated dogs such as Huskies, Chows, Golden Retrievers and even cats need minerals and protein to maintain the large amount of coat that is much of their protection from the environment. Long coated dogs require a light coating of oil on the outside of their hair to keep the hair hydrated to the ends and combat static.

It is important to recognize that the final conditioning phase is the application of the protective coating that will act as sebum to fortify the skin’s ability to do its job. The natural flora and fauna that live on the surface of the skin require this sebum-like material to maintain balance and keep the skin supple and healthy.

4) Finishing Products

There are so many finishing products available today, it is fairly easy to find one that works for each specific need. It is a logical assumption that when the skin is healthy there would be no need for more than just one finish spray to achieve the texture and feel of the coat that the groomer is looking for. It is when the needs of the skin are ignored and the coat is sparse, frazzled and unhappy that several products or combination of products are needed to create a better texture. Some finishing sprays are water based and are better used while the pet is wet and being fluffed or dried, while some are silicone based and are better when used on dry to damp hair and are used as detanglers, static guards and scissoring sprays.

My rule of thumb is to always choose products that have ingredients that contribute something to the health of the skin instead of “empty” ingredients that don’t give any type of nourishment at all. This would be the difference between an anti-static spray that is silicone based but still has minerals and vitamins as opposed to one that only contains silicone and plastic.

Here are a few little things you can do to incorporate new techniques of skin care to improve your healthy skin game:

• Many of us these days are savvy and are in the know about the different types of topical treatments that are available today. For those of us not yet using a good conditioner, this might be the time to start testing some of them out and seeing which ones provide better nourishment.

• Clays and masks might also provide a more complete skin care experience.

• Think about incorporating a treatment menu so that your clients know all the extra services you offer.

Following this basic skin care routine for every pet and improving your ability to choose products that fit the needs of the individual pet will improve the quality of skin care that you and your shop can provide. The proof will be evident in the beautiful coats of your pet friends and the satisfaction of your clientele. ✂


Michelle Knowles is the owner of All Things Paw and Minikin Pet Boarding. She lives in Arizona with her husband Don and her dogs Bunny Foo Foo and Tessa Bean. www.allthingspaw.com