More Than Skin Deep

Natural grooming products are growing in popularity as pet parents take a closer look at what goes into the products they buy for their companions.




For today’s pet parent, grooming is about more than just making sure pets look their best. Now, consumers are looking for grooming products that get the job done and are as healthy as can be for their pets.

“I think the category is morphing from just ‘grooming’ into ‘health and beauty’,” says Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products. “When you think of grooming, you think of products that help make your pet look great. What’s happening now is that people are becoming increasingly interested in the ‘health’ side of the equation.”

With people paying more and more attention to the ingredients in the products they use on themselves, it is no surprise that the same attention is being paid to the products they buy for their animals. Using natural ingredients is a good first step in ensuring pets get only the best.

“A shampoo with natural ingredients is a great starting place,” explains Gleason. “The next step is to think about the health of the skin and coat. You want a shampoo that is not going to strip the natural oils out of the skin.”

Of course, it’s not enough for a product to be all natural–it also has to meet consumers’ high standards for performance. “I think what consumers are looking for these days are products that are both natural and perform beautifully,” says Gleason. “Ten years ago, you often had to make a trade-off; you could seek out natural products, but they often didn’t work quite as well. Now we want, and expect, it all.”

Ingredients are the key focus in natural grooming products, with the expectation that everything that goes in the bottle is natural and not synthesized. Consumers are relying on retailers to be educated about the elements of the products that they stock. 

“While many products claim to be natural or all natural, it is somewhat of a subjective definition,” says James Brandly, marketing coordinator for TropiClean Pet Products. “‘All natural’ would imply that every ingredient in the product’s composition is natural. ‘Natural’ could mean that some or most of the ingredients are natural or derived from natural sources.”

Because the definition of what constitutes natural ingredients may vary between manufacturers, it is up to retailers to have enough information on the products they stock to help consumers find the products that meet their needs and specifications. “Retailers should begin investigating the ingredients of products, so they can help consumers understand what is natural,” says Peggy Smith, media manager for Bio-Groom.

Manufacturers are stepping up to the plate, recognizing that this trend means they need to simplify their ingredients and make their product information more accessible for retailers and consumers alike. 

“The category is growing, and manufacturers will be forced to become more transparent about their products,” says Smith. Consumers value this transparency, as well as straightforward marketing strategies that ensure they know exactly what kinds of products they are purchasing.

Many manufacturers have also simplified their packaging to include clear lists of active ingredients and have made all the information about their products available on their websites. 

“TropiClean recommends that customers seek out products that have ingredient lists that are easy to read and have meaningful benefits,” says Brandly. In addition to providing all their product information on their website, TropiClean is also launching a Pet Professional Portal, designed to give retailers the most accurate information about their products.

“Customers are depending on their pet supplies retailer to understand how and why manufacturers chose the ingredients to make that particular grooming product,” says Brandly. “If you’re passionate and knowledgeable about a brand, you’ll feel more comfortable when customers ask you about why a certain product is natural.”

There is an increasing overlap between keeping animals looking their best and keeping them healthy. The products pet parents use to groom their pets and maintain their hygiene can be as important as what pets eat.

“Retailers can help all their customers understand the importance of natural grooming products,” says Gleason. “They can help the customer see that it’s a natural progression from being more mindful of what is in the pet’s food to being more careful about what goes on their bodies and is absorbed through the skin.” 

In addition to a growing number of natural products that are primarily aimed at pet appearance, there is more consumer interest in finding natural solutions for hygienic and health-related issues, not just grooming ones.

“Another trend we have identified is the need for effective natural solutions to fight fleas and ticks,” explains Brandly. “Pet parents want something that is safe to use on their pets and safe to use around their home and family. TropiClean has just launched a natural Flea & Tick line that doesn’t contain harmful ingredients, yet kills fleas, ticks and other insects by contact.”

Manufacturers also recognize that professional grooming and frequent visits to the vet are not always possible. As such, numerous products have been developed in recent years to help keep pets clean and healthy in between pricy or time-consuming check ups. Even in these newly expanding areas, there is a push to make sure these products are all natural, as well as accessible, effective and easy to use. 

Even if pet parents give their animals baths themselves, finding the time and energy to do so on a regular basis can be difficult. And despite owners’ efforts, pets don’t tend to follow their washing schedule and often get themselves a bit dirty between baths, creating the need for a quicker solution than a full-out bath. 

“With pet parent schedules getting busier and busier, finding time to bathe their pet may be harder and harder to do,” says Brandly. With this in mind, TropiClean developed a full line of “between bath” products to manage minor mishaps and extend the time between washings.

Pets’ ears can be very sensitive and can easily accumulate dirt and other irritants that can get trapped and cause infection. Animals also tend to dislike ear cleanings, making it difficult for pet parents to do, despite their importance.

“Ten years ago, very few pet parents cleaned their dogs’ ears; that was thought of as something for a professional groomer or a vet to do. But now there’s a much greater understanding that keeping a dog’s ears clean can prevent most ear infections,” says Gleason. “We developed our Ear Wipes because people wanted to do the right thing, but often found liquids and powders too difficult to use.”

Teeth are often the hardest to keep clean, and veterinary dentistry is often too expensive for pet parents to afford frequent checkups. The need for natural, non-toxic products is essential in dental care, because the likelihood of swallowing any amount of the product is very high.

“Most people find brushing a pet’s teeth just too difficult to make a habit of, but they are wanting to do more to take care of the pet’s teeth,” says Gleason. “We developed our Dental Wipes because the vet experts that we work with all stressed that you really need friction to remove plaque from the teeth–as effective as brushing, but much easier to do.”

Natural grooming products of all shapes and sizes are filling the market, and it is expected that the category will only grow and thrive as pet parents work ever harder to keep their furry friends healthy and beautiful.

“Humanization of our pets will forever be a rising trend. We want to give our pets what’s best,” says Brandly. “With the increase of humanization and simplification of ingredients, the natural grooming category will produce more and more healthy solutions that provide nothing but the best.” 


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