By Dr. Cliff Faver
Most of the time we think of drying as just a routine part of the grooming process, but should we be thinking about the dryer’s use more in depth? Do we know how it truly affects the skin and hair?
The following offers some insight for anyone using a dryer on an animal.
There are many types of amazing dryers out there which include stand, handheld and force dryers. Force dryers have really allowed groomers to improve drying time, as well as use them in other ways such as volumizing, deshedding, dematting and flattening a wavy coat, to name a few.
Something to consider when using a force dryer is how we are affecting the skin and hair. Using a force dryer on a dirty dog can push debris into the follicle itself leading to potential problems. This is often seen in breeds favoring a coarse, finished coat. Some groomers will also blow out a dirty coat in a deshedding process, especially in medium coats like Huskies.
There are products and techniques available that will help you achieve a beautiful finish and deshed these coarse coats in a much healthier way. This is accomplished by using correct coat–specific mineral shampoos, mineral rich/humectant conditioners and mineral rinses for coarseness, as well as product and technique for a safer way of doing a deshed.
Be mindful when blowing high velocity dryers so close to the skin in all coat types, but especially in short and medium coats. Take note of the coat type that you are working with and adjust the technique accordingly. The variations of nozzles out there make it very simple to do the right thing for specific coats with a much healthier and safer outcome.
The drying process should not be taken for granted because you can cause unintentional issues on a compromised animal. After all, you are at times using forced air as well as warm air, and if you are dealing with skin, coat or ear issues, you could potentially cause a major problem. The drying process could be a positive experience or a potential negative one, if performed incorrectly.
Any negative consequence of the dryer is dependent on the condition of the hair and skin. If the hair and skin have not been prepped correctly with high–quality products, drying could lead to a new host of problems. For instance, if the skin is left dry or irritated, a warm or hot dryer will increase the blood flow to the area which will stimulate a greater inflammatory reaction. And, if the dry skin has not been conditioned correctly, then the drying action will exacerbate the problem. This is also true if you have an open cuticle on the hair which allows for further dehydration, leading to dry, brittle hair that is prone to breakage and matting.
Correct conditioning plays a huge role in protecting skin and hair from damage. If an emollient type of conditioner is used, the substance sits on the surface of the hair and skin. Emollients are made of fats and oils, and when you bathe, the water does not mix with it. This is similar to trying to dry your hands after applying cheaper–quality hand lotion. The only way to dry it efficiently is to remove the emollient completely. Counterproductively, this increases the drying time, which dehydrates the skin and hair even more. The best conditioners work as a humectant, which hydrates the hair without leaving the greasy, oily residue. In turn, it dries very quickly without the extended drying time. Good conditioning is the key to a successful drying session and a beautiful groom.
After the hair and skin are hydrated correctly during the bath, the drying process can be a wonderful time to bond with your four–legged client, as well as a great time for a health check. Often, when you are using a dryer, you will find sores, cuts, lumps, bumps, and changes in the skin and hair that clients and vets will most likely never see. This is a huge advantage to using a dryer in a grooming setting.
Due to some of these health issues, a proper air filtration system is a must–have in your grooming facility or mobile van as drying will deposit bacteria, fungus, dead cells and hair into the air you breathe. Ear, eye and nose protection will also help you avoid long–term health issues. Discuss this with some of the veteran groomers and they will tell you that they wished that they were smarter about managing air quality in their early days of grooming. Don’t forget that the pet is also in the midst of this bacteria/dead cell/hair cocktail!
In closing, this article is meant to bring attention to the drying process. It is a great reminder of how important proper drying techniques are to both the pets as well as the groomers in the profession. We need to always think about the consequences of our actions—both good and bad—and not take for granted the importance of every step of the grooming process. ✂️
Dr. Cliff Faver graduated with a BS in Biology/BA in Chemistry before getting a Veterinary degree in 1987. He is the past owner of Animal Health Services in Cave Creek, Arizona and now the US distributor for Iv San Bernard products, teaches the ISB Pet Aesthetician Certification program, and speaks internationally on hair and skin. His passion is to merge groomers and veterinarians to aid in helping and healing pets. He is also a member of AVMA, AAHA, AZVMA, Board member with Burbank Kennel Club, and has served on Novartis Lead Committee, Hill’s International Global Veterinary Board, and a Veterinary Management Group.