By Michelle Knowles
Skin is a wonderfully versatile covering for a body. It is the largest organ and performs many functions. It helps retain heat, insulates against cold, and contains the nerve endings to navigate objects and pressure from our surroundings.
Skin also relays information about our environment to the brain.
When skin is healthy, it performs the function of protecting the inner body and creates oils to retain suppleness as well as producing pheromones to communicate intricate details about the state of the pets’ health to others. Pets live in a world of energy and smell and the pheromones that are produced by the skin transmit details about the state of health of one pet to another. These pheromones may also produce information about the state of mind of the animal as well.
The Beauty of Healthy Skin
Skin is often overlooked in the desire to turn out a beautiful trim. It is only when hair starts to thin or irritations underneath the coat are found that the skin becomes important to some. Think of going to a nail salon and your nails are done to perfection; perfect shape, perfect color but your cuticles are red, swollen and tender. If this issue is not addressed, there will be unhealthy growth of nail; it could grow in crooked or the nail may even fall off. Hair is a product of healthy skin so when we wash, everything we do should be with the health of skin in mind. Skin must be healthy and balanced so the hair coat grows in before a beautiful trim can happen.
Why It Is Necessary To Maintain The Skin?
The skin cell growth cycle is an average of 28 days from the basal layer to the event of the cell flaking off. This three–week cycle is the perfect interval for grooming. I advise my clients to schedule their appointment every four weeks so that gives them “a cycle and week”. There are many variations of the grooming cycle, and a lot depends on the type of coat you are maintaining and the products you enjoy. I prefer a four–week cycle as I feel that keeps them clean enough to sleep on the bed and the appointments are far enough apart to let the skin produce natural oils.
There are even some pets that get bathed weekly. This is subjective and my personal preference, but absolutely discuss this with your client and do what works best for the pet and the both of you, in terms of work necessary to do the job and the financial restrictions of the client.
Basic Skin Care
Basic skin care for pets should include a shampoo that cleanses well without stripping all the oils off of the coat and a conditioner that replaces the oil that was washed away. I will even be so bold as to say that a nice finishing spray should be used to polish the cuticles closed and some type of oil and mineral mixture rubbed into the feet, wrinkles and flews. Crusty noses are a sign that perhaps a dental should be recommended, as the bacteria from the mouth is constantly being licked up onto the nose and the deposit results in the nose crust.
Do’s and Dont’s
Do dampen the coat before any pre–brushing. This helps the hair strands become a little less brittle and can prevent breakage.
Do use conditioner or some type of light conditioning rinse. This helps coat the skin with an oil covering after the shock of being stripped by the shampoo. This will also allow the pet to smell cleaner for a longer period of time.
Don’t shave the sanitary area before the bath. This creates micro abrasions in the delicate skin which is then irritated by the surfactants in the shampoo resulting in “clipper burn”. Many cases of clipper burn are the result of surfactant irritation rather than a hot blade. (Make sure your blades aren’t hot—but don’t test them on your face! Different story for a different day…)
We Are Only Washing the Surface Dirt
Remember that we are only washing the surface dirt off the layer of sebum that is in place. Unless the pet has gotten into motor oil, vegetable shortening or has been on the streets for a while, there is no reason to de–grease deeply into the skin. A good quality shampoo should be perfectly fine.
Keep These Things On Hand
Here are some things to have on hand if you need to tweak your shampoo or conditioner to fit the needs of the pet you are working on:
- Oils like Avocado, Olive Oil, Emu Oil or Jojoba. A drop of oil in a harsh shampoo will make it gentler; a few drops of oil in your conditioner will make it richer for a dry coat or a short coat that needs more moisture. Oils that are ozonated until they become a gel are antibacterial, antifungal and are readily available and perfect for minor irritations or a base for nose and foot creams.
- Himalayan Salt. Himalayan salt has an average of 88 different minerals. A teeny pinch in warm water becomes a healing mineral soak for feet; a teeny pinch, melted in a small amount of water and mixed into the conditioner makes a mineral conditioning treatment.
- Rhassoul and Kaolin Clay. These clays, in powder form, are nice to have on hand to make a quick detoxifying mud for tired feet or to soothe irritated skin.
Bask In the Beauty of the Hair That Grows Out Of Healthy Skin
Well cared for skin is wonderful to wash and the hair it produces is beautiful to trim. I am passionate about good skin care for the pets of my clients and believe it is one of the most important things, we as groomers, can do to help maintain the health of the pet. Creating a health–based skin care routine for each pet that you work with helps maintain their health and well–being and keeps their owners bringing them back for their spa day.