A Natural Beauty
The pet grooming supply market is brimming with natural products. Here’s a look at the naturally derived ingredients that make these products work.
Consumers are bombarded every day with messages from manufacturers touting that their pet-care products are all natural, but the term natural is such a popular buzzword that many pet owners have become numb to what it really means. What is natural? What is being used in these natural products, and what are the benefits?
The goal of natural pet-grooming products is simple: to maintain or improve the condition of the pet’s coat and skin using all-natural ingredients. These ingredients are added to many different types of products and are often combined for maximum benefit. Shampoos, conditioners and spray applications are the most common. It is important that the pH value of these natural products correspond with the pH of the pet’s skin. Also, they should not strip the natural oils from the coat and should be non-irritating.
In general, the additives can be divided into three basic groups: soothing, enhancing, and treatment.
The soothing group focuses on different skin and coat issues, including hot spots, cuts, itching, specific and non-specific dermatitis, seborrhea, bacteria, fungal issues–the list goes on. Here is a summary of some of the ingredients found in products in the soothing category, which often provide relief from some of these afflictions:
Aloe vera –The extract from this succulent plant is used for everything from lotion and makeup to consumable items, such as beverages and desserts. Gentle and soothing, it is a great treatment for burn healing.
Colloidal oatmeal –A fancy term for powder made from extremely fine-ground oats. It has antioxidant properties and also affects the pH balance of the skin, which can reduce itching.
Tea tree oil (melaleuca oil) –Harvested from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant found in Australia, this oil has medicinal properties when applied locally; the oil is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It is also considered to be a broad-spectrum germicide and antiseptic. This oil cannot be ingested, however, and is not to be confused with another common ingredient found in natural grooming products, tea seed oil, often called Camellia oil.
Camelia oleifera or tea seed oil –Often called the “olive oil of Asia,” this edible oil is the main cooking oil in many parts of China. It is pressed from the seeds of Camellia oleifera and is high in vitamin E and antioxidants. Tea seed oil is often confused with Camellia sinensis.
Camellia sinensis –This is the species of plant from which Chinese tea is produced. (The process determines the type of tea–white, green, oolong or black–according to the level of oxidation, but it is all derived from the same plant.) Extracts taken from this tea during the “green tea” phase have shown notable anti-bacterial properties.
Calendula oil –This extract made from marigolds has antioxidant and antiviral properties and is often used to treat acne in humans because of its tendency to soothe irritated tissue.
Prickly pear cactus–This plant has a gel-like sap that can be added for conditioning properties, wound treatment and for anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in shampoos as well as natural conditioning products.
Salicylic acid –Taken from the bark of the willow tree, this colorless acid is chemically similar to the active ingredient in aspirin. It is often used in humans for treatment of acne, psoriasis, calluses and warts, but it is more widely known for its use in dandruff shampoos. It has a unique two-part effect on skin cells: first, it causes epidermis cells to shed and then it opens up clogged pores. It actually neutralizes any bacteria within the cells, in turn, preventing the pores from clogging up again and promoting new cell growth.
Sulfur –This ingredient can be used as an acaricide, a group of pesticides that kill members of the Acari group, such as ticks and mites. In the grooming world, it is often combined with coal tar in shampoo form for itching, scaling, fungicidal and antibacterial uses.
Tar –Coal tar is used to treat dandruff and psoriasis, and to repel and kill human head lice. In the grooming world, it is often sought out for pets that have excessive oily coats. It is important to note that there is an ongoing debate about the use of coal tar, since it is thought to be a carcinogen.
Some natural products’ additives have been known to actually be more irritating to the skin. Eucalyptus, lemon and orange extracts have been found to be potential allergens to some pets. Conversely, oatmeal has been noted to be one of the most highly tolerated of the natural additives.
Ingredients found in enhancing products are delivered in a variety of mediums: shampoos, conditioners and sprays, with the goal being coat enhancement and restoration.
Hydrolized silk –When silk fiber is subjected to an alkali, it produces this water-soluble silk protein, which can be easily absorbed. When utilized in pet products, this conditioning effect actually provides a notable silkiness to the skin and coat.
Vitamin E –When applied on skin, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. It prevents the formation of free radicals on the skin, which in turn protects the skin from damage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and is non-enzymatic.
Coconut, almond, cottonseed, olive, sesame, corn, peanut, lanolin (wool grease), mineral, paraffin and safflower oils –These oils are often used in emollient pet shampoos meant to relieve and treat itchy, dry, flaky skin.
The third group of natural products is the treatment group. There are many natural additives used for pesticidal treatments, some more controversial than others. Two of the more common ones are:
Citronella –This essential oil is obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of lemongrass and is a well-known insect repellent. It is considered by many to be a healthy botanical alternative to chemical pesticide treatments for pets.
Pyrethrin –Derived from the seed cases of the Chrysanthemum flower, this compound is actually a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous systems of just about all insects. In proper amounts, it kills fleas, lice, and ticks; in lesser amounts, it even demonstrates insect repellant properties.
Shannon Heggem NCMG, CKO, CMG, is a dynamic pet business expert who has motivated thousands to take action. She is an internationally recognized grooming and boarding kennel expert, with a long list of accolades and certifications. She is the founder and drill sergeant of the newly launched groomingbootcamp.com, and the Australian Grooming School in Queensland, Australia. Subscribe to Shannon’s free e-zine “Words to Wag By” at www.petbusinessadvice.com.