What to expect from a fish pedicure

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By Rachel Maniquis

To those who are not familiar with current beauty crazes, a fish pedicure may sound like something out of a horror movie: dipping your feet in a relaxing warm bath, only to have them suddenly swarmed by hundreds of little fish that proceed to eat off the dead skin. There are a couple of facts to remember to make this relatively new spa treatment less frightening and more pleasant:

1. The fish are toothless

2. Replacing the words eating or biting with the word nibbling creates a more relaxing experience!

If you are seeking a unique spa treatment you may want to give these little fish a chance. They work as an alternative to a foot scrub, and reportedly leave your skin smoother and softer.

Fish Pedicure
Hundreds of garra rufa nibbling at your feet: a typical fish pedicure.

The protagonists in question are the garra rufa fish, which are native to the Middle East, and found mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The fish, also known as “doctor fish”, have been known to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and eczema. According to Howstuffworks, this species of fish has already been utilized to treat skin diseases in Turkey for around 400 years.  As a spa treatment outside of Turkey, they first appeared in Asia, followed by Europe, and then the U.S. in 2008.

In their natural habitat, the garra rufa are known to feed on the dead scales of other living fish. However, there is some controversy as to whether their use in spas is animal cruelty, given that they will only feed on dead skin if no other food source is available.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are a few issues to consider before getting a fish pedicure. Although the foot baths are sanitized after each client, the fish themselves cannot be. This means that the same fish are used on multiple customers, which increases the risk of infections. On that same note, the foot baths cannot be cleaned completely, as they are during a regular pedicure, because the fish cannot be exposed to the chemicals. Finally, you should never make an appointment if you have open wounds on your feet, which is another way to spread infections.

Although the therapeutic effectiveness of the garra rufa is the subject of debate, it continues to be a popular spa treatment in many parts of the world. The feeling has been described as no more than a tickling sensation without any discomfort. So if your skin is feeling a bit scaly, and you aren’t discouraged by the controversy, a fish pedicure may get you hooked.

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Images via Shutterstock

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