National Association of Professional Creative Groomers

Promoting safety and education in the grooming industry since 2009


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On the Topic of Bleach

Posted on April 28, 2015 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (25)

Originally written by Kelcie Brown on July 13, 2012

Being a creative grooming organization, the NAPCG supports and encourages creatively grooming and coloring domestic pets… as long as the safety and the comfort of the animal are not sacrificed. While most creative coloring products are safe, there are a few that raise concern. Bleach, or a hair lightener product, is one such example, which is why the NAPCG does not support or condone the use of bleach on pets. Note that this refers to hair bleach, which is a peroxide bleach (1,2). This is not the same as a household cleaner, which typically contains a chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite being the most common) (3). While household bleaches present health hazards all their own, this discussion and the references contained within pertain specifically to hair bleach. 

This is understandably a controversial topic, as no one wishes to be accused to endangering their pet. However, although it has never been the intentions of the organization to condemn any specific person or group, we remain convicted in our stance against the use of bleach and will continue educating groomers and pet owners alike to the risks involved, risks that include exposure to harsh chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide is the key ingredient in hair bleach formulas. It is the oxidizing agent that reacts with the hair to remove color (1,2). Unfortunately, the reaction conditions required for destroying the naturally occurring chromophore are so extreme that side reactions occur simultaneously (2). That is, bleach degrades structural proteins and can be particularly damaging since hair has a high protein content (2). Jeong, et al (4) states, “These hair treatments [bleaching] can lead to hair and skin damage which could result in a loss of the cuticle of the hair and the stratum corneum in the skin.” This means that, even when used “properly” (more on that later), bleach damages the hair it lightens and can damage the skin as well (2,4).

Damaging the hair does not, arguably, physically hurt a dog, but I ask – What outcome could be so desirable that it is worth damaging the coat? Is it not the job of the groomer to care for the skin and the coat? That, of course, is a matter of ethics rather than safety. Regardless, inhalation of and contact with hydrogen peroxide pose many risks that ARE a matter of safety.

At the lowest concentrations found in hair bleach (3%), hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation via contact and respiratory irritation via inhalation (5). Exposure to higher concentrations (>10%) may cause pulmonary irritation, blistering, and ulceration or perforation of the cornea (5). Additionally, it can damage DNA structure and lead to cell death (6). Lastly, and most importantly, the CSTEE specifically mentioned that dogs appear to be especially sensitive to the effects of hydrogen peroxide (1), which is important for anyone who has used hair bleach themselves to consider. I know few people who do not notice the effects of bleach fumes; imagine the effect that must have on dogs, who are even more sensitive than we are.  

Next on the ingredient list are persulfates. Ammonium persulfate, potassium persulfate, and sodium persulfate are the most commonly used persulfate salts and are included in hair bleaching products to increase the reaction rate (7-9). Persulfates are, arguably, even more hazardous than hydrogen peroxide, as they can induce a number of responses (both respiratory from inhalation and cutaneous from direct contact) including allergic eczematous contact dermatitis, localized edema, irritant contact dermatitis, localized contact urticarial, generalized uricarial, rhinitis, and asthma (7-9). These symptoms have been reported as both immediate and delayed reactions to exposure to persulfate-containing hair bleach solutions (8), meaning a dog may appear unharmed during a bleaching session but exhibit painful symptoms at a later time.

Furthermore, the NICNAS (10) has concluded, “Over time, the airways and skin can become more sensitive to persulfates, so that less exposure is needed to produce a reaction. Once acquired, this sensitivity can be a life-time response,” and stated “Ammonium and Potassium Persulfate are classified as Hazardous Substances. The Report recommends that Sodium Persulfate be added to the list.”

Lastly on the topic of persulfates, De Vooght et al (11) concluded that ammonium persulfate can initiate an asthmatic response in mice after a single airway exposure.

After reviewing this information, some may argue that bleach is not dangerous if applied correctly, but there is no “proper” way to apply bleach to a dog, as bleaching products were not created or intended for use on dogs. Additionally, I present these cases of chemical burns that occurred at professional hair salons:

  • A 12 year-old girl experiences a “well circumscribed, erythematous ulceration with one purulent focus with an adjacent smaller similar ulceration” two weeks after a professional highlight treatment (12). 
  • A 13 year-old girl underwent a similar experience showing a “well circumscribed ulceration with prominent overlying granulation tissue and no visible hair within the ulceration“ five weeks after professional hair highlighting (12). 
  • After a 12 year-old girl underwent a professional bleaching session, “necrosis appeared on the scalp, leading to a sharply demarcated crust, which after a few weeks became detached together with the hair, leaving an oval-shaped ulcer measuring 9×9 cm. Plastic surgery with excision of the ulcer base and placing of a skin graft was performed” (13). 
  • A 16 year-old female underwent her routine highlighting procedure at her local hair salon. Two weeks later, “she was noted to have two well-demarcated, circular full-thickness burns with central ulceration at the top of her scalp” (14). 
  • Hoekstra et al (8) lists 8 case studies involving reactions to persulfates from salon-related incidents, as well as 24 case studies documenting occupational injuries caused by exposure to persulfates. 

Keene (15) makes mention that the number of complaints concerning hair dyes reported to the Food and Drug Administration suggests that these types of burns occur more commonly than what is recorded and notes that cases such as those listed above are almost certainly chemical in nature, rather than thermal, meaning the ingredients contained within the bleaching solution are to blame rather than overheating during application.

Professional hair stylists have been thoroughly trained to properly apply bleach, and yet, as mentioned, these cases are surprisingly common. Despite this, bleach remains prevalent in the human hair industry because we are capable of understanding the risks involved and of making a conscious choice to have our hair colored however we desire. Dogs cannot choose to be exposed to these risks, nor do they benefit from being bleached.

It is important to maintain perspective in this situation. Some say topical flea products are dangerous, and therefore, we should not condone their use. Flea products do, indeed, present health hazards, but those hazards are considered by most to be less severe than the flea infestations they prevent. In that case, the preventative care is greater than the risks incurred. There is absolutely no outcome of bleaching that is medically beneficial to an animal.

A few groomers choose to disagree with the organization’s stance against bleach on the grounds that dogs have been bleached in the past with no ill effects, offering this as evidence in favor of bleaching. However, the lack of recorded cases of hair bleach injuring dogs does not necessarily indicate its safety, as bleach is not a common practice in either the show world or the grooming world. Additionally, imagine the negative responses a groomer would receive from both those who support bleach and those who are against it were they to openly admit to harming their dog during a purely cosmetic procedure. Therefore, it is understandable, although not condonable, for a groomer to conceal it, especially in the show world, where bleaching is explicitly against the rules.

Let us not forget, too, that it is possible for ill effects to occur that are not necessarily noticeable, such as general airway discomfort or the development of asthma. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, persulfates are sensitizing, meaning a reaction could occur where there had been none in the past. Therefore, a dog is just as at risk of reaction whether it is the first time it has been bleached or the hundredth time it has been bleached. In fact, repeated exposure to hair bleach is a major concern for hairdressers and has lead to many chronic health complications (8, 11), which shows that problems may arise even if an initial reaction does not occur.

Even if there are dogs that have not suffered and will never suffer any adverse reaction to bleach, the available research indicates that there is a significant risk for harm. This does not mean that it always results in injury, simply that the chances of injury are too high for its use to be justified. This is important because there is a small risk for a dog to have an allergic reaction to any grooming-related product, but it is not such a significant risk nor is the risk so severe as to warrant the ban of those products. If you have reviewed the literature but still ask where the line is drawn between a significantly dangerous product and one that has a very slight chance of causing a reaction, then consider how many grooming products contain such lengthy warning and safety advisory labels as bleach. Consider, too, how many other products we apply to a dog’s coat that require us to wear gloves to prevent chemical burns on our hands.

The last argument I wish to address is that of the unnatural color removers – those who bleach not to remove natural color pigmentation but to remove dye or stains. I have heard some insist that the lower concentrations (~3%) used are less harmful, and this is true, but that does not mean that lowering the concentration removes all risk of harm, especially when considering that bleaching tearstains, in particular, exposes the most vulnerable part of a dog’s body to persulfates and hydrogen peroxide. The fumes are near its airways; its eyes are awfully close to the mixture; and the bleach is applied extraordinarily close to the skin, including the very delicate tear ducts. There are enzyme-based solutions that may require more regular usage than bleach but do not compromise the dog’s safety, so why expose a dog’s face to these products when other, safer alternatives exist?

In conclusion, the information provided from the listed references and the accompanying discussion of this information irrefutably demonstrate the significant dangers of using hair bleach. It is the opinion of the NAPCG that the potential for injury caused by bleach is such to warrant the ban of its use from creative grooming competitions and that it should not be used on a pet for any purpose. However, if anyone chooses to disagree with this information, perhaps they at least understand why the organization has taken the stance it has.


  1. Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity, and the Environment (CSTEE) Opinion on the results of the Risk Assessment of: HYDROGEN PEROXIDE, HUMAN HEALTH EFFECTS, CAS No.: 7722-84-1, EINECS No.: 231-765-0 
  2. Robbins, Clarence. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. Fourth Edition. New York: Springer-Verlag New York, Inc, 2002. 
  3. Rutala, W, and D Weber. "Uses of Inorganic Hypochlorite (Bleach) in Health-Care Facilities." Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 10.4 (1997): 597-610.  
  4. Jeong, M, C Lee, W Jeong, S Kim, and K Lee. "Significant damage of the skin and hair following hair bleaching." Journal of Dermatology. 37. (2010): 882-887. 
  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Hydrogen Peroxide, CAS: 7722-84-1  
  6. "Hydrogen Peroxide." International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - Summaries & Evaluations. 71. (1990): 671.  
  7. Fisher, A, and A Rooms-Goossens. "Persulfate Hair Bleach Reactions: Cutaneous and Respiratory Manifestations." Arch Dermatol. 112. (1976): 1407-1409.  
  8. Hoekstra, M, S Heide, P Coenraads, and M Schuttelaar. "Anaphylaxis and Severe Systemic Reactions Caused by Skin Contact with Persulfates in Hair-Bleaching Products." Contact Dermatitis. 66. (2011): 317-322. 
  9. "Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Ammonium, Potassium, and Sodium Persulfate." International Journal of Toxicology. 20.3 (2001): 7-21. 
  10. Australia. National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme. Safety Info Sheet No. 18. 2001. 
  11. De Vooght, V, M Cruz, et al. "Ammonium Persulfate Can Initiate an Asthmatic Response in Mice." Thorax. 65 (2010): 252-257. 
  12. Lund, J, R Unwala, L Xia, and V Gottleib. "Chemical Scalp Burns Secondary to the Hair Highlighting Process: Clinical and Histopathologic Features."Pediatric Dermatology. 27.1 (2010): 74-78.  
  13. Jensen, CD, Sosted H., “Chemical Burns To The Scalp From Hair Bleach And Dye.” Acta Derm Venereol 86 (2006): 461–462. 
  14. Maguina, P, M Shah-Khan, G An, and M Hanumadass. "Chemical Scalp Burns After Hair Highlights."Journal of Burn Care and Research. 28 (2007): 361-363. 
  15. Keene, Sharon. "Scalp Necrosis and Scarring Alopecia Caused by Chemical Burns from Hair Highlighting Procedures." Hair Transplant International Forum. 21.2 (2011): 44-47. Web. 1 Jul. 2012. 

Additional resources:

  • Valks R, Conde-Salazar L, Malfeito J, et al. “Contact dermatitis in hairdressers, 10 years later: patch-test results in 300 hairdressers (1994 to 2003) and comparison with previous study.” Dermatitis 16 (2005): 28-31. 
  • Munoz X, Cruz MJ, Orriols R, et al. “Occupational asthma due to persulfate salts: diagnosis and follow-up.” Chest 123 (2003): 2124-9. 
  • Blainey AD, Ollier S, Cundell D, et al. “Occupational asthma in a hairdressing salon.” Thorax 41 (1986): 42-50. 
  • Moscato G, Pignatti P, Yacoub MR, et al. “Occupational asthma and occupational rhinitis in hairdressers.” Chest 128 (2005): 3590-8. 
  • Pepys J, Hutchcroft BJ, Breslin AB. “Asthma due to inhaled chemical agents: persulphate salts and henna in hairdressers.” Clin Allergy 6 (1976): 399-404.  
  • Parra FM, Igea JM, Quirce S, et al. “Occupational asthma in a hairdresser caused by persulphate salts.” Allergy 47 (1992): 656-60.  
  • Cruz MJ, De Vooght V, Munoz X, et al. “Assessment of the sensitization potential of persulfate salts used for bleaching hair.” Contact Dermatitis 60 (2009): 85-90. 

A Labor of Love

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (6)

As the owner of a private grooming salon as well as president of the NAPCG, I want to dispel a myth that many pet owners have about the professional groomer.

“Groomers love dogs and get to play with them all day”

While every groomer out there wishes this was true, it simply isn’t. We do not get to ‘play’ all day. We are urinated on, defecated on, bitten, scratched, vomited on…..these are all occupational hazards that we accept. But these things are just the tip of the iceberg. What I want to refer to now is the amount of heart ache professional groomers deal with.

I see it posted in the NACG private group all the time….some poor dog or cat matted to the point that its hair/fur is a pelt….infested with fleas that cause anemia and pass tapeworm eggs that lead to intestinal problems. So many of our members work with rescues, shelters, special cases, etc…they don’t do it for trophies, they don’t do it for money (they always undercharge if they charge at all), they don’t do it for praise. They do it because they see a soul that needs them: but the satisfaction when it’s all over and done is priceless for both the groomer and the pet.

These grooms are beautiful in a different kind of way. They are not ‘breed standard’ and are often complete shave downs that require a different set of skills. They require tremendous amount patience and the careful skill of a surgeon as they remove pelts in which one wrong move can mean stitches or staples for the pet. Removing these pelts is usually painful for the pet, so the chances of being bitten and/or scratched are multiplied. Nerves of steel come in really handy as well. They are beautiful because these grooms often signify a new beginning for the pet.

The NAPCG has proudly teamed up with Pure Paws to create a new program “Paw It Forward” to recognize some of the amazing stories NAPCG members encounter on a fairly regular basis. Each month, one of our members’ cases will be chosen and recognized via the NAPCG fanpage. There will be no trophy or cash for those chosen. They will however, receive grooming products from Pure Paws so that they can continue to pay it forward for those in desperate need.

We hope you will continue to follow our fanpage not only for the amazing creative grooms performed by members, but also for the amazing stories of those who are often forgotten.

Meet Curly. Curly is a poodle mix that was dropped at the Animal Rescue Foundation in Sylacauga, Alabama. NAPCG president Bullet Brown and her staff at A.B. Grooming spent over three hours carefully peeling the pelted mess from Curly’s body. While there wasn’t much hair left, Curly was so beautiful an9d was adopted within days of his new groom.

Oh the Shame!

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (2)

You know, as president of the NAPCG, I often have to answer questions regarding skepticism about creative grooming. Some of these concerns are very legitimate, the most obvious being, “Are these products safe for pets?” While there still groomers out there using very dangerous products, I can honestly and confidently defend the members of the NAPCG and will spend as much time as necessary explaining exactly how these products work as well as what is (and what is not) safe for use on pets.

I think the inquiry that requires the most amount of patience on my part is the,”Oh that poor dog. He must be so embarrassed!” or “The other dogs will not want to play with her because she is pink!” These are ridiculous statements typically made by humans who impose their own emotions onto animals. So let’s break this down a bit.

First of all, neither dogs nor cats have any idea what they are ‘supposed’ to look like. They don’t care about color or style. They don’t grab a book from the library and see what their breed standard groom should be. Let’s take poodles for example; poodles come in numerous colors and have many different styles of grooms. Their grooms are typically chosen based on their lifestyle, the amount of maintenance an owner is willing to do at home, and the grooming schedule they are placed on. No red poodle has ever suffered from depression because he really wanted to be a black poodle instead. White poodles do not congregate together and shun an apricot poodle because of its color either. In fact, canine vision does not allow them to see colors in the same spectrum humans do, so how would they even know if they were an unnatural color such as purple as opposed to a natural color such as silver?

I’ve heard pet owners say that their dog was embarrassed about being groomed and hid under the bed for days. I assure you this has nothing to do with the physical appearance. But if your dog or cat hasn’t been groomed for months and the coat has become matted, your professional groomer will often have to shave them very short to avoid harming them and at the same time remove neglected coat. As someone who has lost all of their hair to chemotherapy, I assure you that it feels ‘funny’. Skin that has been covered with matted, pelted, or long hair and then has to be shaved exposes skin to sensitivities it was previously protected from. This is why your pet’s behavior returns to normal within a few days; the skin becomes desensitized.

Lastly, dogs and cats do not share the same modesty that human beings do. Do you honestly think they become embarrassed by their physical appearance when they are more than content to poop or lick their genitalia in public? Will a dog react negatively when one states, “Oh look at you!! You poor thing!” Yes, they will. But it isn’t their groom they are reacting to; it isn’t even your words. It’s the negative body language and energy they are reading from you.

Creative grooming isn’t for every pet. If your dog is shy, withdrawn, or has social anxieties he or she would not be a candidate for creative grooming as it would draw the very thing they fear the most….attention. But most pets thrive on human attention. If a little pink or blue color brings them extra attention, then why not? They don’t care ‘why’ people stare, take their photos, or ask to pet them….they just know they are loved.

Hey.... Wanna Buy Some Swampland

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (5)

There are so many resources available now to research professional grooming products, but it gets a little tricky when referring to creative grooming products. Because groomers sometimes delve into human labeled products and even products intended for “art” caution must be used to the extreme. Just like we can’t believe everything we read on the internet, we can’t believe everything we hear at tradeshows and read in magazines that do not cite published research either.

For instance, many groomers are being told that using products such as artist chalks is perfectly safe because they are AP approved. The use of airbrush machines has also become the latest trend in creative grooming and again groomers are being told that using a product called Doc Martin India Ink is perfectly safe because it is AP approved. These are simply asinine statements that are not true.

Let me first explain that an AP approval is given by the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). The ACMI gives the AP seal to products deemed non-toxic “for their intended purpose”…..not for prolonged exposure. This means that a product with an AP approval is safe if it gets on the skin, but should immediately be washed and removed.

We spoke with Debbie Gustafson, Associate Director for the ACMI and she had the following to say about using such products for creative grooming on pets…..

Thanks for your email. Our AP Seal does not mean that a product is safe to be used on the skin. ACMI-certified products are not evaluated for intended use on the skin. In fact, we specifically state to manufacturers wishing to have their products evaluated in our certification program that our program does not certify products that are intended to be used on the skin, such as face paints, nail paints or polishes, surgical/skin markers, or hand soaps/cleaners. Such products are regulated under the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act administered by the FDA. These regulations are not covered under the ACMI Certification Program. Also, our evaluation covers human toxicity. It does not take into account whether a product would be toxic to an animal. For these reasons, I would not recommend using any ACMI-certified product for this purpose.

Best regards,


Debbie makes a great point in that the AP approval refers to “humans”, not animals. There are numerous products that are safe to humans that are toxic to pets such as chocolate, grapes, onions, acetaminophen, etc…

It’s clear to see that groomers are being misinformed by those who have not done the proper research. They do not understand the AP seal and simply want to promote products they sell and justify their actions in using products that have potential to harm the very pets they have been entrusted with. These products have not been tested on animals nor do they list the ingredients or provide a list of ingredients for individuals to do further research. There are numerous products available that ARE safe for use on pets…even with extended exposure.

The pet product industry has exploded in the last few years with products that are temporary as well as products that are semi-permanent to give longer lasting results. Want to use a temporary chalk? Why not use an FDA approved hair chalk or even a pet labeled hair chalk that contains the same ingredients? Want a safe product to use in your airbrush gun? How about using an FDA approved temporary tattoo ink that is not absorbed through the epidermis?

These same groomers claim they have used the products for years with not a single incident of reaction. Again, this simply is not true. At a seminar at the Pet Pro Classic, groomers were told to use Bombay India Ink. After using this product however, two different dogs both had adverse skin reactions.

Because these groomers do not have the science and research to back up their claims, they prey on your naivety. They hope that you just believe them and of course never question them. But one has to ask themselves why these groomers would continue to use potentially dangerous products when we have availability and access to perfectly safe pet labeled products as well as FDA approved products. One also has to question the integrity of companies such as Wahl Clipper Company and Barkleigh Incorporated who promote such practices yet claim to have built their companies around the safety and love of the pets groomers are entrusted with. Is it really the pets they are concerned with….or is it the attention they can garner for themselves?

New Certifier in Town!

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (4)

The NAPCG is thrilled to announce the addition of a new certifier to our ranks! Michele Grenkow of Surrey, British Columbia passed both her written and practical exams with flying colors. Michele is owner of world renowned Animal Haven Grooming School.

This will make the certification process more accessible for those on the west coast. With two certifiers now in place (Michele on the west coast and Erica Chou in Toronto) Canadian members will have an easier time pursuing their certification in regards to creative grooming.

Creative grooming can often be a controversial topic, especially with groomers using dangerous and toxic products such as bleach and oxidizing dyes. The NAPCG’s creative certification program ensures that groomers are highly educated in regards to skin and coat anatomy, safe products, and how these products interact with skin and coat.

A huge “congratulations” to Michele and Danny the toy poodle!

For more information regarding the NAPCG’s creative certification program, please visit our official website.

Define 'Animal Abuse'

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (7)

Animal abuse…it’s not something that’s hard to define. Wikipedia defines animal abuse as – Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the human infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense or survival.

Some forms of abuse are easily recognized and acknowledged, such as kicking a dog, starving a dog, or leaving a dog outdoors during inclement weather. But other forms of animal abuse are more subtle…and for some reason, are actually being encouraged.

As president of The National Association of Professional Creative Groomers, I love me some creative grooming. Two of my own standard poodles, Oona the Bama Poodle and Xerxes the Zombie Poodle are the most recognized creative grooms in the world. But the NAPCG draws the line on creative grooming when it comes to the health and safety of the pets involved. There is absolutely NO creative groom worth sacrificing a pet’s safety.

Within the grooming industry, there are groomers using both hair bleach and oxidizing dyes on dogs…simply for cosmetic purposes. Now, I’m not going to get into ‘why’ these products are dangerous for use on pets, instead I have included a link at the bottom of this article that includes over twenty scientific resources that will explain why the NAPCG is opposed to the use of these products.

Sure….these groomers claim that they know how to use the products safely, but don’t be fooled by their arrogance, There is no way you can use a toxic product safely. One of their biggest defenses is ‘I open the windows and use a fan’. Really?? Are you that stupid?? They claim that there is no report of a dog ever being harmed by bleach. Really?? Because this is a screen shot sent to me recently that shows otherwise.

This poor dog was made to suffer and become sick because of a toxic product that a groomer intentionally put on this poor animal. Let’s call this what it is folks…ANIMAL ABUSE. These groomers are purposely using toxic products and putting dogs and cats health at risk. Hydrochloric acid is a toxic product…and if you put it on a cat or dog, you would be arrested for animal abuse. Why is the grooming industry and the public making an exception for hair bleach?

Even scarier is the fact that large corporations such as Wahl Clipper Company and smaller distributors/companies such as Groomers Mall and Barkleigh Inc are actually supporting and condoning this practice. They sponsor groomers who purposely put animals’ safety at risk for cosmetic purposes. Again, let’s call it what it is….these companies are sponsoring animal abuse and placing animal abusers on a pedestal….all so they can make a dollar. They have no regard for the animals they have built their companies around. They actually allow these people to teach ‘how to bleach your dog’. This saddens me because so many groomers will unknowingly abuse animals in their salons….because these companies have condoned it.

There was a huge ruckus over a dog fighting ring in south America supposedly supported by Heineken. People were outraged that a company would support animal abuse….they should feel the same way about these grooming companies who are abusing animals in a much more subtle and deceptive way.

I can’t wait for the day when the grooming industry becomes government regulated. Not because I want the government telling me how to run my business, but because I will be more than happy to make the changes it takes to stop animal abuse in the grooming industry. I have been an animal advocate my entire life, and I for one refuse to turn a blind eye to the abuse happening to these pets just because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do

Creative Grooming: Toxic or Trendy

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (2)

As president of the only organization that is dedicated to both the art and science of creative grooming, I know firsthand about the controversial topic of ‘creative coloring’. Hands down, the most common concern of pet owners, as well as the public, is the safety of the animals. This is a very legitimate concern and theNAPCG addresses this issue on almost a daily basis.

Let me start by informing you that the pet industry is completely unregulated. That’s right, no mandatory level of education, no licensing, and no official body that governs the grooming industry. For this reason, it is imperative that pet owners ask questions and interview potential groomers, and it’s even more important when it comes to creative coloring. It was also this very reason that I was prompted to establish the NAPCG. I wanted professional groomers to have a resource for continuing their education and to ensure the safety of the pets we are entrusted with.

Read the full story.

Ammonia Free?! You've got to be kidding me..

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (2)

With the professional grooming industry, as well as the public, becoming more aware of the dangers and health risks posed by using hair bleach on pets, it’s no wonder that the proponents of bleach are scrambling to find ways to justify their careless actions.

There have been lots of attempts at justifying their actions, but the public is not as stupid as those using hair bleach on pets would like to believe. They use elusive terms such as ‘color lifting’ or ‘reverse color inlay’ but make no mistake, these terms still mean ‘I use hair bleach on my dog’.

The latest strategy being scrounged up is the use of a hair bleach with the brand name of ‘Ion’. They claim that it is ammonia free and can be used right on the skin! Wow…just wow. If these groomers had any education concerning coloring and bleaching products, they would know that just because a brand claims to be ‘ammonia free’ does NOT make it safe. But it does prove they know bleaching pets is dangerous…and that’s why they constantly seek ways to justify their actions.

Now, the Ion brand of hair bleach is in fact, ammonia free….meaning that the bleach powder contains no ammonia. But ammonia is not the only ingredient one should be concerned about, nor is the bleach powder being used without having to be mixed with a developer. So let’s analyze this a bit.

The very first ingredient on the Ion bleach powder packaging is potassium persulfate (1). Potassium persulfate is a strong inorganic oxidizer that can cause respiratory distress, contact dermatitis, chemical burns, and even lead to long term health issues such as asthma or seizures. It is considered a ‘hazardous substance’ by OSHA (2). Severe reactions can occur in concentrations greater than 17.5%, yet hair bleaching products contain concentrations of up to 60%! (3) So, we substituted one dangerous chemical (ammonia) for another (potassium persulfate). Of course, those groomers condoning the use of hair bleach on pets are not looking for information; they are looking for justification, so they could care less.

The next ingredient listed on the label of Ion bleaching powder is sodium metasilicate which is a strong alkaline that can cause damage to the respiratory tract, skin irritation, and even third degree burns (4). There are many studies to show that both potassium persulfate and sodium metasilicate are damaging to human skin, but keep in mind that the human epidermis is composed of 20-25 cellular layers while canine epidermis is composed of 8-10 cellular layers. What does this mean? Well, in layman terms it means that canine skin is much more sensitive to these caustic chemicals! The label explicitly states “not for use on children”. Do you know ‘why’ this product is not safe for children? Because the epidermal layers of a child’s skin has not fully developed. This means the epidermis of a child is very similar to the epidermis of a dog or cat. Bleaching proponents claim their dogs are ‘like their children’ and they would never do anything to harm their children. But if Ion is not safe for use on children, why in the world would one think it is safe for pets!?!

We aren’t quite done yet! Let’s not forget that in order for Ion bleaching powder to work, it must be mixed with a developer. How else could one get such a volatile chemical reaction that can literally combust the color pigmentation within the cortex of the hair?

Now the first ingredient in the Ion 20 volume developer is water…no problem there. However, the next ingredient on the list is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide was used for decades to treat wounds and prevent infections. But new research has shown that hydrogen peroxide is damaging to healthy skin (5). Once this research was published even hospitals stopped using hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds and found safer alternatives…and that is just at 3%! Now, according to the directions on the bottle, Ion hair bleach powder should be used with a 20 volume developer…that translates to 6%. A 30 volume developer (which is not recommended for use on scalp) converts to 9%….and a 40 volume developer converts to 12%. If the medical industry has stopped using 3%, why in the world would one think using 6, 9, or 12% on an animal whose epidermis is half the thickness of a human being would be safe?! I recently saw a self-proclaimed “expert”…and I use that term loosely…tell someone to use 150% peroxide to “lighten” (there we go trying to use those misleading terms again) the coat. According to OSHA, one would burst into flames at such a high concentration (7)(8). This tells me that this self-proclaimed “expert” is completely ignorant when it comes to hair products.

There is a reason one cannot purchase a ‘ready to use’ hair bleach…because the mixing of these chemicals causes a violent, caustic reaction that would cause the product to explode right in the bottle…that should tell you something in itself.

For those of you who don’t understand ‘how’ hair bleach works, let me explain this in laymen terms. The corrosive nature of the alkalizing agents cause the cuticle of the hair to swell and lift…this damage is permanent by the way. The oxidizing agents then enter the cortex of the hair to do their job…destroy the pigment molecules. The problem is that these caustic chemicals cannot distinguish between other components of the hair, so they destroy everything…the fibrils, the medulla, everything that gives hair strength and elasticity.

According to the instructions on Ion hair bleach powder, one should only use a 20 volume developer. But a 20 volume developer only lifts two shades…it does NOT bleach dark hair to an orange or yellow stage. Why then do we see dogs bleached to yellow and hear the groomer say, “I only used 20 volume developer”. Well, there can only be one of two answers. 1.) They are repeatedly subjecting these poor animals to numerous bleaching sessions, or 2.) They are simply lying and using a higher volume. It is physically impossible to bleach to a yellow using a single application of 20 volume developer. Proponents of hair bleach know this; hence their need to lie to the public.

I can’t help but wonder what the manufacturer of the Ion brand would think about groomers promoting their product for use on pets? I would be willing to bet my last dollar that they would be quite upset. The NAPCG has a call in to the company, but as of this posting we have not received a response. I can’t wait to get an official statement from them.

I’ve listened as the pro-bleaching groomers try their best to defend their ‘rights’ by touting that scientific research has been performed on humans, not canines. This is true. No scientific laboratory has (or ever will) perform these studies on domesticated canines. Why? Because these educated professionals have already performed studies and research on human beings. They also know that canine/feline skin is much more susceptible to corrosive and caustic chemicals and such research would not be necessary to conclude that these products are dangerous for canines/felines. Just take a look at a few reactions that have been caused by hair bleach being used on humans (6) and keep in mind that a cat or dog cannot tell you when they feel itching or burning.

As you can see, these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ are pretty clueless about the science behind creative coloring products. Somehow they have disillusioned themselves to think that a trophy or ribbon is equivalent to real education, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. For those professional groomers seeking true education with concern for the pets’ safety, your best course of action is to acquire a membership with the NAPCG (9). For those pet owners who would like to find a groomer to perform safe creative coloring on your pet, e-mail us at [email protected] to find an educated member in your area who makes the safety of your pet the top priority.

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe











Posted on September 1, 2014 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Many of my fellow writers here at Zen Dixie are Canadian…or at least Canadian at heart. What’s the one love Canadians share? Hockey.

Now, I am not a sports fan. I do know that the object of the game is to get that puck into the opposing teams net…but that’s about the extent of my knowledge concerning hockey. Basically, if it doesn’t involve a dog, I don’t really know much about it.

Seeing that I am surrounded by hockey fans, I have heard about the recent lockout. I have no concept of all the details involved, but the players were ‘locked out’ while the NHL and NHLPA hammered out details of the latest CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). In a nutshell, politics and greed took center stage while the little guys paid the price.

Like I said, I am not a sports fan but greed and politics seem to thrive in almost any and every profession out there….even my own industry, professional grooming. For example, I recently saw a group of groomers publicly ripping someone else to shreds for using OdoBan on a pet to remove odors. Now, I completely agree that a product such as Odoban should NEVER be used on pet as it can cause respiratory distress, burn the skin, and irritate the eyes. What bugs me is that this same group of groomers wouldn’t dare speak out publicly against using hair bleach on a pet…which can be much more dangerous than Odoban.

This of course makes me ponder ‘why’. Obviously these women aren’t stupid. They know that an industrial cleaning product contains ingredients that could be harmful if used on a pet, so why not speak out against a caustic and corrosive chemical like bleach? Could it perhaps be that their friends are the very people using bleach on pets? This is called ‘double standards’ folks….setting standards, but changing them depending on ‘who’ is the topic of discussion. We see it quite often in the grooming industry which lacks any regulation or mandatory education.

The NAPCG has worked tirelessly since 2009 to have the use of bleaching products and oxidizing dyes banned from use in grooming competitions. While it’s great to see that some shows such as The Atlanta Pet Fair have ‘limited’ the use of bleaching products….they have removed the use of such products from their creative grooming competition…they still allow it to be used for stain removal!

The biggest issue with this is that the most common ‘stain’ being removed are tear stains…on the dogs’ faces. How could someone possibly know that these products are dangerous and ban it from one competition, yet still allow a caustic chemical to be used right on an animal’s face? Politics, that’s how. God forbid we anger the ‘big dogs’ and have them throw a tantrum. It’s much better to allow the dogs, who have no voice in this matter, to be put at risk than have a top competitor be angry because they’ve been told ‘no’. Now many moons ago, I used bleach on my scalp as I am sure many of you have. But have you ever put it on your face? I have ‘dripped’ it onto my face, and rest assured it began to burn immediately.

Barkleigh Productions produces more grooming tradeshow/competitions than any other show producer in this country. The new rules they post for competitors ‘look’ okay. The problem is that only certain rules are enforced for certain competitors. Three years ago, a competitor entered the competition ring at a Barkleigh show with areas on her dog that had been pre-shaved. This competitor was disqualified from competition. The following year, another competitor entered the ring with areas pre-shaved on her dog. This competitor was allowed to compete and was docked 20 minutes of her allotted time. How can one competitor be disqualified and another is allowed to compete when they both violated the same rule? Politics, that’s how.

Quoted from Barkleigh’s competition rules… “All products, decorative objects, coat coloring and applications must be safe for the dog and the stylist”. Rather vague wouldn’t you say? Some of Barkleigh’s favorite competitors openly admit to using oxidizing dyes (dyes that must be mixed with a developer). These same groomers also ‘teach’ at Barkleigh shows and use the ole “if it’s safe for people, it’s safe for pets” analogy. Now, we have already established through scientific research that oxidizing dyes are harmful (even to humans). This explains the vagueness stated in Barkleigh’s competition rules…rules which can easily be bent and manipulated. Why can’t they simply state that oxidizing dyes should not be used on pets? Politics…that’s why.

While show producers feel they are not responsible for what their speakers teach, I beg to differ. It’s your show….you should take the caliber of your speakers as well as the information they present to your attendees very seriously….it’s called accountability….being accountable for the information your show perpetuates and promotes. That would be far too simple though…it would make playing politics much more difficult if you adhere to a set of real standards.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic professionals in the grooming industry, but politics are everywhere. I don’t think there is any way to avoid it, but we can refuse to participate. Of course that presents a whole different onslaught that one must endure. In an age where politics abound, double standards are the norm, and no one has to be accountable for their actions it’s no wonder that we have groomers using odoban, hair bleach, and oxidizing dyes on pets.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself ‘Why do I care? I am not a professional groomer.’ Well you should care. Most households have pets. You very well may need the services of a professional groomer. If ‘your’ groomer attends one of these shows and ‘your’ groomer sees these products/techniques being allowed to be used by competitors or being taught in a class, ‘your’ groomer just may assume this is a safe practice….and God forbid they apply these same products to YOUR pet. I don’t really care about the politics in my industry, but I worry about those who pay the price of these political games….the pets we have been entrusted to care for who cannot speak for themselves.

Thanks and Giving

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (1)

I’ve noticed this thing going around on social media such as facebook, where people list something daily that they are thankful for. I’m not so sure why November seems to be the time that everyone gives ‘thanks’ for what they have, it’s really something we should be doing every day of our lives. I’m guilty too…we live in a fast paced, materialistic world and we often forget to be thankful for the simple things in our lives; things like a home, food, water, and love.

I want you to meet someone. Her name is Matty. She is very thankful…very thankful. Not that she has had a lot to be thankful for in her short little life as Matty is only about 2 years old. At some point, Matty was discarded at the shelter…neglected, unwanted, and miserable. Matty had been at the rescue for quite some time and no one had even thought of rescuing her. Not until NAPCG member April Perry walked in the door. The staff begged April to take her, as her time was nearing an end and Matty would be euthanized.


April found Matty cowering in the corner of her cage…terrified and alone. She was a matted, filthy mess. She had twelve inch long matts hanging from her body that were caked with urine and feces. April was warned to use caution when reaching in the cage for Matty, but her sister had accompanied her and she wrapped her hand in a towel and reached inside anyway. Matty never moved a muscle…she was too terrified.

After a long day of work with regular clients, April took Matty to her salon at 8:30 p.m. to begin the cleaning and grooming process. April could have simply shaved her naked, but her heart broke looking into those sad eyes that could not understand what was happening. Eyes that were not only sad, but also lonely, confused, and afraid. April wanted to do everything she could to keep this little girl safe, yet leave her some dignity by saving even a tiny amount of hair.

April is a very skilled, professional groomer, and it took every ounce of skill and patience to get the job done. She worked on Matty for three hours that night…then another two hours the next day. She accomplished her goal of keeping Matty safe, yet retaining some amount of coat for the little girl. Matty was good for the long and tedious process. The only time she panicked was when the water was turned on to rinse her. By the time the job was done, Matty trusted April enough to stand for photos.


Matty is now in a foster home with April…awaiting a forever home. She is an absolute sweetheart who is content to lie at your feet while watching television. She has a new bed that she loves and insists that it be with her at all times. She is housebroken, but you must be willing to accompany her outside.

Want to know what I am thankful for? I am thankful that Matty, a single dog in the thousands who fill shelters across the country, was saved. Think that saving one dog doesn’t make a difference? Tell that to Mattie; a dog whose spirit had been broken by neglectful abuse and was mere days away from death, but now has a second chance at a new life.

I am thankful that there are people like April Perry in this world, people who give of themselves to help those animals in need. April wasn’t paid or compensated for what she did. She did it because she saw a dog who desperately needed help; a dog who didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being adopted. She did it because her heart broke at the sight of a helpless soul who truly needed her. Matty may not have ‘words’ to speak with, but she didn’t need them…her eyes told April everything she needed to know.

I’m sure Matty would gladly post what she is grateful for…but like so many furkids, she doesn’t have that option. This is why it is our responsibility to be the voice for those who cannot speak. So while everyone plays the facebook game of posting what you are thankful for, please don’t forget that “giving” is just as important as “thanks”.

If you are interested in adopting Matty and giving her the forever home she deserves, please contact Roll Over Animal Rescue at (847-703-0337) or ([email protected]