We’ve all seen some good grooming in our lives—and if you’re really paying attention—you’ve seen some great grooming. Whenever I see an amazing grooming, I try to figure out what makes me drawn to that particular grooming; what exactly is grabbing my eye?
Sometimes it’s a pretty profile with eye–pleasing balance, while other times it’s the impressive technical work. But one thing that always gets my attention is an amazing finish; that kind of finish that is smooth and crisp, free from scissor or clipper marks and has a plush and velvety surface that you just want to run your hand over; and so well–trimmed that even after several passes with a comb the hair just snaps right back in line with the others to keep an even and smooth surface that takes your breath away.
Yeah, you know the finish I’m talking about; it’s the envy of all groomers that strive to do their best work but wonder how to achieve it. Well, one of the secrets to a great finish is choosing the right products to help you achieve it.
But why are finishing products something we should use?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every great groom starts with the prep, but there’s also a big factor of a great grooming ending with a beautiful finish. The finish is the final result; the extra attention to the details such as smooth scissoring, using thinners to blend out any visible scissor or clipper marks, and using your favorite grooming sprays to tame static and add moisture or shine to the coat, or even a hairspray with a touch of sparkle.
If you’re grooming a Westie, for example, using products to add volume to the head to give the appearance of a teased–out show look can tip the scale of your grooming from good to great and a customer from happy to completely impressed. That same customer will brag about the dog to anyone who will listen, giving you free advertising—a win–win for everyone.
Let’s go over some techniques and products you can use to add a fabulous finish to your grooming that will go a long way in giving you a competitive edge.
The most basic of ways to improve your finish is in the technical work itself. Smooth scissoring and blending with thinners is the most obvious and easiest way to step up your finish. Working on improving your scissoring skills is not only a way to improve your finish, but it’s also a valuable improvement in your skillset alone.
When you use snap–on combs or a clipper, there are always a few visible lines left in the coat. Take a few minutes to try to “top–scissor” those spots to even out the hair. If you’re still developing your skills, try using a thinning shear to do this task as thinners are much more forgiving. And, if you haven’t developed a steady scissoring skill yet, a thinning shear can be an excellent tool to help in this area. Use the thinners to top–scissor over the area that has scissor or clipper marks. What this means is you won’t cut into the coat but rather use the thinners to trim just the top bits of hair, making several passes with the thinners as you cut and watch the marks just blend away. This technique is not to take length off but just to take the uneven tips off, leaving a smooth finish free from the visible marks left by the clipper or scissor. This is especially useful when working with soft or difficult coats that seem to show every mark.
The type of thinner you use matters as well. The rule of thumb is when the thinning shear teeth are smaller and closer together, you will get less hair removal and a finer finish. Whereas when the teeth are wider with more spacing between them, you will have more bulk removal, resulting in too much coat being taken off. And this can actually have the opposite effect, leaving you with small lines in the coat from the thinning shear. I recommend having a variety of thinners and experiment on different coat types to see the results and learn which type of thinner works best with each coat type.
Choosing Your Products
The next step is choosing products that assist in achieving a perfectly–scissored, eye–catching finish.
Scissor or Finishing Sprays
Scissor sprays are a very important part of achieving that picture–perfect finish we all strive for. These sprays can have varying claims to the resulting effects, from anti–static properties and adding moisture to even adding weight to the coat and taming thin fly–away hair. Some are light, almost like water, and evaporate quickly leaving no residue or weight to the coat but still tackle those static–stricken coats. Others have heavy conditioners added that restore moisture to damaged or frizzy coats, but too much can give an oily or even dirty look to the coat and not a fabulous finish.
When I’m using a spray for scissoring on curly coats such as a Poodle or a Bichon, my preference is a light spray that adds moisture and tames static but doesn’t leave a buildup on the hair so the coat is smooth but bouncy and light. When I am grooming a drop–coat like a Shih Tzu, a Maltese or a Havanese, I prefer a spray that has a little bit more conditioner in it to help weigh down the coat a bit and give it nice movement and body.
One of the factors that may affect the results of grooming sprays is the water in your area. Hard and soft water have different effects on coats, so my recommendation is to try small bottles of sprays that interest you and see what the results are in conjunction with the water and shampoos and conditioners you use in your grooming business.
Some finishing sprays also add a bit of shine to the coat. I love the healthy and polished look of a well–groomed dog that has a coat that picks up the light and has a slight shine to it. A spray with a glossy finish looks especially beautiful on short– or smooth–coated breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Boxers and drop–coats with beautiful long hair like a Shih Tzu in full coat. A light spritz of a spray with a shine in it and a pass of your comb can give your grooming that little something that just adds the perfect finish.
I also love to use a flat iron on those fluffy or cottony drop–coats. Using a grooming spray applied to dry coat and passing a flat iron over the coat to pull it down and straighten the coat can give a dog with a dry, frizzy or damaged coat the appearance of a silky coat that flows as they move about. This is definitely a game–changer for your full–coated clients.
There are also products that can help to add texture to the hair for grooming breeds with harsh coats such as terriers. Whenever I groom a terrier that has a soft coat with the result of trimming the hair rather than hand–stripping the coat, I like to use a product that adds a little bit of texture. There are chalks and powders that can be brushed in to add texture and leave–in mousses or gels that, once dry, add an element of harshness that adds volume and texture.
One of my favorite things to do when I groom West Highland Terriers is to give the appearance of a teased–out head which gives the full effect of the breed esthetic. I call it the “faux tease.” After I layer the head perfectly round, I use a small amount of grooming cholesterol on my hands and run it through the whole head. Then I add a little bit of grooming chalk and gently brush it into the cholesterol so it gives a light coating; just enough to add some texture, but not enough to be a powdery mess. I allow the dog to shake its head which fans the hair out in a ball shape and shakes out any excess chalk. I then then finish with a light coat of hairspray for dogs.
What this does is gives an amazing finish with the appearance of a teased–out head, but in fact it’s just a little chalk and hairspray. The dog goes out looking like a show dog, but since the product is just lightly applied, in a few days of normal activity the hairspray breaks down without matting the hair, and the texture and volume stay in. The customers are always delighted to see their dog looking show–ring–ready.
Add Some Glam!
Aside from finishing products that tame, texturize and shine the coat, there are also some finishing products that are just plain fun! There are coat sprays and hairsprays that add a touch of sparkle to the coat for those over–the–top customers that just love glam. There are lines of makeup for people that add sparkle to the skin, so of course there’s also sparkle for those fabulous furry friends in our lives. Some of these sprays are just hairspray with glitter, while others claim to add moisture and conditioners to the coat along with the sparkle. This is another fun way to add a finishing touch to your grooms that help to put a big smile on your clients’ faces…and a happy client is a loyal client!
In simple terms, trying new products and techniques can help bring your end game to the next level. Experiment with grooming sprays and the effects they have on various coats and see how you can improve your technical work and add that special something to your grooms. I think you’ll see an improvement in your work and a lot of happy customers! ✂️