Between regular exposure to water, shampoos, and the warm air from dryers, groomers’ hands have a rough time. If you live in a place with a cold season, the problem multiplies as outside temperatures drop. Many groomers experience irritating dermatitis, a medical term for inflamed skin.
Our skin has natural surface oils called lipids that help keep moisture inside the body. Every time we wash a pet, we wash those lipids away with water and shampoo. Shampoo is designed to remove dirt and oil from pets; those ingredients also work on our hands and arms. Also, some groomers develop a sensitivity to the dyes, perfumes, or even preservatives in pet grooming products. Even hair can abrade and irritate the skin when we are grooming. Then there are scrapes and nicks from claws and tools to add to the problem, leaving us open to infections.
We can’t groom and avoid the things that cause skin irritations, but there are some things we can do to help care for our skin.
- Before and after work, wash your hands with warm water and mild glycerin soap. Dry them with a soft cloth, paying particular attention to the areas between your fingers, fingertips, and wrists. Apply a high-quality moisturizer and allow it to air dry on your skin.
- Re-apply moisturizers after every bath.
- Discuss moisturizer choice with your pharmacist. Not all skincare products are created equally.
- Read labels. Lotions are thin, have a high water content, and offer only temporary relief from dryness. Creams are thicker and provide more protection than lotion. Ointments feel thick and greasy and are generally best used at bedtime. Apply ointment to freshly washed and dried hands and cover your hands with cotton gloves (or socks in a pinch.) In many cases, your skin will feel remarkably better in the morning.
- If you have skin problems, avoid wearing jewelry like rings and bracelets at work. Moisture can get trapped underneath and cause skin irritation.
- Hair splinters can be a severe problem for pet groomers. If you get a splinter in your skin or under a nail, try to get it as soon as possible with fine tweezers. Untreated hair splinters can work their way in deeper. If you can’t grab it with tweezers, try soaking the area (or apply a compress) with Epsom Salts. This softens the surrounding skin and can make the offending splinter easier to remove. Other suggestions are to try the type of facial masques or tapes that are applied, allowed to dry, and then peeled off. I’m not sure if they remove blemishes as they promise, but they can do a job on hair splinters! There is also a drawing salve available at most pharmacies called Prid. I keep some on hand for challenging cases.
- Talk to your doctor if the above steps don’t help your skin. Sometimes a prescription cream will be needed to solve the problem.
- If you live in a cold climate, wear gloves when you go outside. Bonus points if you apply moisturizer first!
Groomers hands are exposed to all the things that cause dry skin. Choosing the right products to help combat the problem can keep you much more comfortable in the skin you are in.
By Daryl Conner, MPS, MCG
Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years. You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism. She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.