Fish pedicures. The name itself undoubtedly sparks interest and encourages you to deepen your knowledge on the subject. What is a fish pedicure? What’s it all about? What are the results? And most importantly, is it safe?
These are probably some of the questions running through your mind when you hear such a strange-sounding treatment name—but today, we’re going to reveal all the details of the fish pedicure, a treatment that’s becoming more and more controversial.
What are the origins of the fish spa?
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding fish pedicures. Its supporters evaluate the treatment positively, claiming it’s a natural way to exfoliate the skin. But on the other hand, fish pedicures have many critics.
What is it anyway? The fish pedicure is a type of pedicure treatment in which dead skin on the feet is removed by exotic fish. Its effects are similar to ones of a peel treatment, so it can also be used on other parts of the body (fish spa) or the hands (fish manicure).
Garra Rufa, the fish involved in the treatment, comes from the warm waters of the Middle East. Brownish orange in color, they are small toothless fish that grow up to 5.5 inches in length. In their natural environments, they can be found in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, where they’re called “lucky fish”.
The healing properties of Garra Rufas were brought to the public in 1843. Biologist Johann Jakob Heckel was able to prove that these fish feed on the dead skin of people who enter the water reservoirs where they live.
What’s the procedure like?
Proper preparation is required for a fish pedicure. Your feet will first be washed and disinfected with a special alcohol-based solution. After that, you’ll place your feet in an aquarium or tub with warm what in which hundreds of fish swim. They start the task themselves and begin eating away at the dead skin on your feet.
By gently biting the dead skin cells, the process will make you feel ticklish and a slight tingling sensation. After the specified pedicure time has reached an end, the feet are removed from the tub and thoroughly dried. That’s it—treatment complete. The whole process takes only about 30 minutes.
There’s no doubt that the sensations are completely different than in the case of an ordinary peel treatment. The very atmosphere and the way the epidermis of the feet is exfoliated is an enticing aspect for many people, causing curiosity to grow.
What to know before you go?
Before you commit to a fish pedicure, you should carefully check whether the fish come from trusted farms. Likewise, it’s important to verify the purity of the water and any tests carried out by the health department.
It’s imperative that the water is replaced or disinfected after each customer, and that the aquarium is washed after each use. Warm water is an ideal environment for various types of bacteria and fungi. Pay attention also to whether the aquarium is equipped with some kind of filtration system.
Where can you book a fish pedicure & how much does it cost?
This treatment is relatively new on the mainstream beauty market, so there are still very few salons offering it. Remember that a fish pedicure should only be performed at a credible and professional establishment—avoid suspicious offers! Trusted professionals will always put the client’s care first. That includes making every effort to ensure that the equipment involved is disinfected and that proper hygiene standards are taken into account. In the case of a fish pedicure, this is all the more important.
When it comes to costs, these can vary depending on the salon and location. In large cities with a higher population, fish pedicures can be quite expensive. But as a general range, you can expect to pay somewhere between $45 to $95 dollars for this service.
Fish pedicure—advantages & disadvantages
As mentioned before, fish pedicures have quite a divide between the supporters and the critics across the globe. This treatment can’t be found everywhere, but it’s most popular in Turkey, Germany, the Czech Republic, Thailand, Spain, and the US.
Some people appreciate the treatment for its effects of improved circulation and thorough removal of dead skin cells. Fish also secrete an enzyme called dithranol, which softens the skin and protects it against the recurrence of various skin diseases. And on top of that, many claim that the biggest advantage is that it’s a natural method of doing so.
The critics, on the other hand, say that the fish pedicure is not an acceptable form of a pedicure. Although the CDC is not aware of any published reports of illnesses resulting from fish pedicures, many states have banned the treatment for sanitary reasons and the risk of spreading infection.
That’s why it’s worth noting, that although salons may ensure proper disinfection of the equipment and the fish, infections can still spread from one person to another. In 2001, the British Fish Health Inspectorate publicized a case where fish from Indonesia found their way to British beauty salons offering fish pedicures—some of which had bloody mouths and protruding eyes. This was an indicator of some kind of infection.
Backing the fight against fish pedicures, are also animal activists, who are in favor of completely removing this service from beauty salons.
Not everyone can indulge in a fish pedicure. The main contraindications are athlete’s foot, warts, inflammation, and skin abrasions. People who are carriers of the HPV virus cannot get a fish pedicure, as well as those who have infectious blood diseases. This is also not a procedure for people with weakened immunity, pacemakers, diabetic foot problems, or after waxing the legs (if the waxing wad done less than 24 hours before).
Is getting a fish pedicure safe?
In 2018, the JAMA Dermatology medical journal reported a case in which a woman lost her nails for unexplained reasons. First, the growth of the nails stopped, then they simply fell off without growing back. The case was described by the patient’s dermatologist, Dr. Shari R. Lipnet.
Dr. Lipnet dealt with this case but couldn’t find the cause of the situation. She ruled out antibiotics or infection, as well as autoimmune diseases. After a very careful analysis, she came to the conclusion that the cause of the nail falling off was the fish pedicure treatment that her patient had performed six months earlier.
The details surrounding nail loss from fish pedicures is not entirely known, but there are suspicions. Dermatologists think that there could have been damage done to the nail matrix by the mouths of the fish. Dr. Shari R. Lipnet of course does not recommend this method of foot and nail care. Although her patient’s nails will eventually grow back, growth will be slow. Nails only grow about 1mm per month, so full regrowth can take around 1.5 years.
With being such a controversial topic, if you’re still planning on going for it, be sure to read all the information beforehand. Make every effort to choose a professional business and get detailed information about the origin of the fish and their treatment in the salon. Remember to verify the frequency of water changes and disinfection. Don’t be afraid to ask and if you have any doubts, clear them up first. After all, it’s about your health!