Clipper burn is not a burn; it's more of an irritation, sort of like shaving your own body without any water or shaving cream. It usually shows up a day or two after grooming, and you'll notice your dog start scratching all of a sudden. Before you know it, he's scratched his face and developed a hot spot. You have to be especially careful with Poodles' faces, which you usually shave very closely for most trims.
With some skin traumas, including hot spots, the hair may grow in a darker color. It will eventually fade with repeated haircuts and shedding. Darkly pigmented melanin granules are often deposited in the new, healing skin after a deep hot spot. As part of the inflammatory process, cells containing melanin rush to the area and the pigments can turn the skin and hair a darker color.
Hot spots are areas of hair loss and weepy oozing sores that develop from irritation of scratching due to allergies, very close shaves, or flea bite dermatitis. The idea with hot spots is to dry them up. Creams for them are not nearly as effective as powders. Gold Bond® medicated powder will dry up a hot spot quickly.
This is not due to incompetence on the groomer's part — it happens to the best. Some dogs are unusually sensitive to having a close shave anywhere. Hot spots (also called moist eczema) can result from trauma to the skin surface from a clipper blade scratch, a scratch from the dog's toenails, or from contact with a hot blade. A true clipper burn is a skin lesion that can occur due to a hot clipper blade coming into contact with the skin. Clippers run fast, and the friction of the clipper blades rubbing back and forth makes heat. It's important to keep each blade clean and oiled properly to help prevent excess heat from building up.
After using your clipper for a few minutes, test the heat of the blade by touching it to your forearm. Keeping the blades well lubricated keeps them from heating up too fast. You can also lay the hot blade on a ceramic tile for a few minutes to let the heat dissipate.
Clipper abrasion is the actual scratching of the skin, which results from using misaligned clipper blades, from holding the blade at an angle and not flat against the skin, or from using a dirty or dull blade that pulls the hair rather than cuts it. It can also be caused by using too much pressure to the area you are clipping. Don't dig into the skin. Always lightly run your clippers along the body and let the clipper do the work. Don't force it.
If it is your blades, you need to take them to a blade sharpener to be realigned. The most common site for this problem is on the cheek and along the cheekbone. You won't know when it happens, but you'll find out a few days later when a hot spot appears after the dog scratches her face.
Shave the face while it's still damp. Shaving a dry face can be like dry shaving your legs — ouch! If your clippers won't go through the hair damp, add a little more water to the hair. Many clippers will glide through wet hair but will clog up when going through slightly damp hair. Be sure to thoroughly dry your blades and oil them afterward. Some groomers swear by rubbing a little witch hazel on a cotton ball and applying it to the face after shaving, and still others use a lotion on the face to keep it moist and prevent the dog from scratching.
Hot spots can also result from inadequate rinsing. If you don't completely rinse the shampoo away and it remains in contact with the skin for an extended period, a local skin infection can result. It's best to see your vet if it doesn't improve right away with at-home treatment. Hot spots need to dry up to heal, so Gold Bond® powder works well to dry them up and heal the irritation. Your vet may have other recommendations for treating hot spots.