The latest rage in 'beautiful feet' treatments is a fish pedicure! That's right, instead of having the pedicurist work on your feet you have hundreds of little fish eat away at your tootsies. The fish, called Garra Rufa, are tiny little minnow carp fish originally from Turkey, otherwise known as 'Doctor Fish'. In the wild, they eat the dead and decayed flesh of bigger fish and they are now used in spas all over the world to exfoliate your feet. In fact, the fish pedicure has been very popular in Japan and other Far Eastern countries for years.
When you go to the spa, instead of having a human being touching your toes, you put your clean and washed feet into a floor level fish tank filled with up to about 150 of these tiny little fish. They proceed to nibble away at all the dead skin on your feet. Although it sounds a rather strange way of having a pedicure, apparently it's quite pleasant. Rather like "being gently tickled" according to one client who had it done in Thailand. However, it can be a bit difficult for some people to actually watch all the fish attacking their dry, damaged and dead skin. Perhaps they are put off by all those Jaws movies even though these fish don't actually have any teeth! As the fish eat away at your feet, they eventually get full and stop. The treatment can take anything from about 15 minutes to about half an hour. Sufferers with skin problems like eczema and psoriasis find it particularly beneficial.
As the fish only tackle your dead and damaged skin, leaving healthy skin alone, your feet will get a good all over treatment. It may even be better than a trained pedicurist could do in the same time. This is especially true as exfoliate equipment like pumice stones and files can't always get to all your stubborn areas, while these little fish are able to nibble everywhere, even in those hard to reach places like between your toes. And of course the fish benefit too, as they get to eat a yummy meal of your dead skin!
One of the problems with this treatment is that there can be health concerns. If someone using the fish tank pedicure has an open wound this could pass on an infection to the next customer. This is especially problematic for people with compromised immune systems. There is also a question of how the tank is kept clean. If the salon has a lot of customers, the water could get very dirty. This would make the transmission of infections like athletes foot and other fungal diseases very easy, which could be perhaps avoided by frequently changing the water. Changing the water after every customer isn't necessarily an option as this could severely traumatize the fish. Animal-rights groups are trying to get these type of pedicures banned as they say it is cruel to the fish.
One way of keeping the water free from infection could be to use the latest in UV-light technology to sterilize the tanks. This would keep the water hygienic without necessarily harming the fish. Nevertheless, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is investigating both the health and the environmental concerns to see if this trendy treatment is safe.
However, some 14 states in the Union aren't waiting for the results of the HPA investigation and have already passed legislation banning the treatment.