Mastering Grooming In the Real World

By Dave Campanella,

By now, you have come to realize shedding and matting are the top reasons pet owners seek professional grooming help. Unfortunately, prepping usually requires long hours of brushing, de-matting, detangling and de-shedding well before any trimming and styling can occur. All this repetitive physical motion produces a lot of muscle and mental fatigue which increases the likelihood of injury for both groomer and pet. Injury in the grooming profession is not a matter of if but when, how often and how severe. There’s got to be a better way; right?

Unfortunately, there’s a barrage of de-matting and detangling claims out there, and far too many tools and gimmicks. All this clutter stems from the basic marketing challenge every grooming supply company faces: Take an essentially simple product or concept and make it appear magical, as if you can’t live without it. Some brands offer one or two products that claim to do everything, while others offer every possible thing under the sun for your convenience. It’s confusing, misleading at times and it really needs to stop. But don’t hold your breath in anticipation of that happening any time in our lifetime.

I’m going to attempt clear things up. No hype, no sales gimmicks, no marketing—just the facts.

 There is a definite balance that threads together the key elements required for managing a successful and effective grooming business. Knowledge of basic coat and skin physiology, together with a simple understanding of how grooming liquids work is critical for today’s professionals. Not understanding these two elements makes for an uphill struggle of trial and error, not to mention unnecessary physical and mental anguish often leading to burn out. In fact, mastering these two elements leads to effectively mastering other key elements such as tools/equipment, methods/technique and health/safety protocol. After all, professional grooming is a process.

When you understand how to effectively manipulate the coat by smoothing over lifted cuticles, you can safely begin to master de-matting, detangling and de-shedding, without creating further hair damage and with far less effort. Let me explain.

To begin with, consider what we know about hair and coat types. The skin’s sebaceous glands produce sebum, a naturally oily substance that coats and protects the hairs cuticles, sealing in moisture. However, sebum is a virtual dirt magnet, attracting unwanted debris and oils. Washing hair removes sebum and debris from the hair, yet exposes cuticles regardless of how mild or harsh the detergency is. Washing can potentially strip away all of the hairs protective sebum along with any other added deposits, including conditioners.

Hair and skin are anionic or (-) negatively charged by nature. As rough adjacent hairs rub against each other, there is a transfer of electrons produced by the negative hairs repelling from each other. This explains how fly-away static hair occurs. Conversely the positive (+) cationic surfactants in the conditioners you use are attracted to the anionic hair and skin, offering among other things a multitude of desirable effects necessary for safely de-shedding, de-matting and detangling.

Hair Porosity

Try taking into account the hair’s porosity and pH levels of the liquid products to be used before ever lifting a brush to an animal. Breed coat types have low, medium or high porosity characteristics. Damaged hair has more open, ragged cuticles, while healthy hair has more closed cuticles. Damaged coats trap shedding undercoat or snag hair, leading to tangles and mats. The imagery shown below provides a sense of how open cuticles snag and hook like Velcro®, fighting the groomer while brushing.



Shampoo and conditioner do not feed, resuscitate, enliven or revive hair because hair is not alive. It is nothing more than dead protein, mainly keratin. However, shampoo and conditioner with pH levels from 5.0 to 6.5 can close lifted cuticles to some extent, while shampoo with pH levels of 8.0 to 9.0 further open lifted cuticles. Most groomers don’t realize simply washing and rinsing with warmer water temporarily lifts cuticles, while rinsing with cooler water tends to smooth the cuticle. Cuticle scales don’t exactly open and shut like a hinged door, but they most definitely can be treated during the bathing process to achieve this result.

Now bear in mind that the No. 1 cause for hair damage is combing and brushing. This begs the question as to why anyone would risk further damaging the coat by pre-brushing, without pre-treating the coat first with products designed to repair damaged areas and smooth over lifted cuticle scales.

When engineered with advanced silicones and cationic surfactants, shampoo and conditioners can achieve the following desirable effects:


● Replace the protective sebum stripped away by detergency with a silicone

● Smoothen hair cuticles, keeping them closed for long periods

● Protect hair from further damage caused by brushing and combing

● Facilitate detangling, de-shedding, de-matting brush out by adding slip and reducing static

● Enable HV drying to virtually replace one's brushing, avoiding further damage from grooming tools

● Decrease the drying time of any coat type (conserve electricity, save time)


Bathe Before Brushing Method

These scientific facts explain why it is easier to de-mat and detangle clean treated hair versus dry, filthy hair. Volatile lightweight amino silicones together with hydrolyzed proteins (+) found in today’s professional pet shampoos and conditioners have virtually no build-up and will smooth the hair much better than heavy-pack conditioners made with fatty lipids. Bathing with these newer products eliminates the need for most pre-bushing, saving you a ton of time and aggravation.


Three-Step Bathing Method

Animals now can go straight into the washtub. This method incorporates separate shampoo, conditioner and finishing spray steps, using amino silicones, proteins and pH levels between 5.0 and 6.5. Each step repairs and further closes cuticles until finally sealing the hair with a finishing spray. You will quickly notice how the many coat types safely release shedding hair in the tub as they are bathed. This means less stress for all, which is great news.

The electron-microscopy images pictured illustrate how overall effective this practice is once the hair is treated and dried. Slides 1 and 2 show filthy damaged Newfoundland hair neglected for months. Notice the open cuticles and heavy grime build-up. Slide 3 shows how (Step 1) bathing and (Step 2) conditioning with amino silicones and hydrolyzed proteins repairs much of the damage, leaving the hair smooth and shiny. Slide 4 shows what a difference (Step 3) treating with an amino silicone spray now has, fully closing the cuticles, sealing and protecting the coat as the sebum was intended to do. Groomers who practice this comment on how coats appear full-bodied, brush easily and stay more manageable for weeks.

However, some groomers rely solely on their conditioner or cream rinse for de-matting, while still others rely totally on a detangling spray. The problem here is that the cuticle damage may be so severely lifted that it would take repeated treatments to smooth over and repair them. Therefore the secret to the three-step method lies in that it efficiently treats the coat repeatedly, once in each phase.


Brushless Drying Method

After treating the coat following the above method, you will find that it now enables an HV dryer to release more shedding undercoat than ever before. You can preferably use the dryer in place of a brush, leaving many coats virtually tangle and mat free. Once completely dried, any lingering mats and tangles work out with significantly less effort and minimal damage to the coat.

Note: Severely pelted coats are the result of serious neglect over time and have typically reached such a point that they can’t be effectively treated or saved. Festering sores and skin conditions are commonly found lingering underneath the accumulation of felted matting which requires shearing down the coat entirely.

However, now many groomers find they can save more of the coat by adhering to the recommended products and methods discussed above. Take for example a thick abundant coat Cocker Spaniel whose underbelly is severely pelted. You now have the option of only removing the matted underbelly, while saving the skirt and legs using these methods. The client is now thrilled and the dog keeps its dignity; a win-win for sure.

Look for a combination of hydrolyzed proteins, amino silicones or silicone quats (quaternary compounds) in the products you plan on using with these methods. If the ingredients are not listed on the bottle, most manufacturers will gladly assist you in determining which of their products will work best.

Here’s one final thought. Why is it that many groomers still reserve their best products for their biggest challenges and use lesser products for their routine clients? If these wonder products are that good, imagine what miracles they could do if put to use daily. Ponder how much time and effort would be saved, not to mention the increase in revenue potential each day.

Look beyond any advertising hype or farfetched product claims. Apply your understanding of canine physiology with today’s modern cosmetology chemistry so you can choose the best product mix and methods. Soon you’ll be making masterpieces out of nightmares in record time.

Dave Campanella has been with Best Shot Pet Products for more than 10 years and is director of sales & marketing. He has a total 25 years’ experience in the pet services industry, including co-owning and operating a successful full-service grooming salon, pet boutique and self-wash with his wife Tracy. Dave ‘s professional experience spans three decades specializing in consumer goods, new product development, direct response marketing and advertising.

 ©Best Shot Pet Products Intl., LLC June 2014

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