If we are talking about a pedicure, then we are used to seeing a pumice stone or a foot file as tools. But for thrill-seekers, there is a more exotic way to achieve smooth feet. Our topic is fish pedicure.
What is a fish pedicure?
Fish pedicure or, as it is also called, fish peeling, is a procedure during which hundreds of tiny toothless carps of the Garra rufa species pinch off the dead skin of the feet. You have probably seen many offers of this type of pedicure in spas, beauty salons, or even in ordinary shopping centers. And this is not surprising, because due to its originality, the procedure is in great demand.
Popularly known as the doctor fish, Garra rufa is native to Turkey and a number of countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Iran and Iraq. These fish are used almost exclusively for pedicures, due to a special survival tactic that allows them to evolve by feeding on dead skin flakes when their preferred food is not enough.
In addition to improving the appearance and condition of the feet, fish pedicures are often credited with relieving the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema. However, despite the fact that fish peeling is still quite common in Southeast Asia and Europe, its popularity has declined in the West due to the danger to human health and the humane treatment of fish. In today's article, I have prepared for you some facts about fish pedicure, so you can draw your own conclusions about this controversial procedure.
How is the pedicure procedure with fish
Usually, before starting the procedure, the fish is kept in a common aquarium. Then, when a client arrives, about 100 of them are transferred to individual foot baths.
After you have removed your shoes and socks, your feet should be thoroughly rinsed and checked for cuts or infections before submerging them in warm aquarium water.
Garra Rufu is attracted to the vibration of your feet entering the water, so they immediately gather around any areas of hard or dead skin for nourishment. Because they don't have teeth, biting into the skin should feel more ticklish than painful - though the sensations vary from person to person.
Most fish peel treatments last between 15 and 30 minutes and can be followed by a traditional pedicure.
The history of fish pedicure
Legend has it that the Turks have been using Garra Rufa for peeling for at least 400 years. However, fish pedicure only became commercially popular in the mid-2000s, when it appeared in resorts in Turkey, Japan, and Croatia. Then in 2008, the first fish spas opened in America, and in 2010 the craze spread to the UK. Just a year later, there were about 280 fish peeling services in the UK, and of course, opening many of them was associated with attractively cheap costs in the industry.
However, in 2011 the popularity of fish pedicures plummeted when testing on a batch of 6,000 Garra rufa imported from Indonesia showed that the fish were contaminated with Streptococcus agalactiae, a bacterium that is potentially harmful to people suffering from chronic diseases and/or immune deficiencies. The discovery prompted the British Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct in-depth investigations.
What harm to health can cause pedicure with fish
Although Garra rufa are toothless, anecdotal reports indicate that they can break and tear the skin if they bite too long in one place. This fact, combined with the likelihood of customers getting a pedicure with a cut or callus, has allowed the British Health Protection Agency to determine that there is an extremely low risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases from one fish spa user to another. Transmission of bacterial infections is also possible, especially if you have eczema, psoriasis, or broken skin.
Although the possibility of infection has been scientifically proven, there have been very few confirmed cases of infection as a result of fish pedicures. However, the health protection agency recommends that carriers of viruses, or people with medical conditions such as diabetes, a compromised immune system, or dermatitis (on the feet or legs), avoid this kind of pedicure. In addition, the agency asks to refrain from the procedure for those who were originally intended to help fish peeling - owners of psoriasis or eczema.
In 2018, the international media covered the story of a woman whose toenails stopped growing after contracting a condition known as onychomadesis, at a spa after coming into contact with fish.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that fish pedicures cannot be considered entirely hygienic, as most beauty treatments require instruments to be thoroughly disinfected or disposed of after each use, which is obviously not possible when the instrument is a live fish. As a result, fish pedicures have been banned in at least 10 US states.
Controversy over the humanity of the procedure
Animal rights groups such as PETA and the RSPCA have opposed fish peeling for several reasons. Firstly, the increased demand for Garra rufa fish has led to its overfishing in the wild: a law was passed in Turkey prohibiting the commercial exploitation of this type of fish. Secondly, the practice of exporting fish in plastic bags filled with water is considered inhumane, and many of them die on the way.
Once the fish arrive at their destination, they fast between sessions to create conditions that encourage them to eat the dead skin. The RSPCA has also raised concerns about how the constant movement of fish from tank to tank can affect their lifespan. Like all fish kept in captivity, the doctor fish needs a stable temperature and water quality. Finally, exposure to chemicals that clients may have on their feet in the form of lotion or sunscreen can also be harmful.
Is it worth it to do a pedicure with fish
To do or not to do a fish peel is up to you. While there is no way to guarantee that the fish at your chosen spa is well processed, there are ways to minimize the risk to your health. Make sure the salon follows basic hygiene procedures, including thoroughly rinsing feet before a pedicure and checking for cuts and abrasions both before and after the procedure. Advanced filtration systems, including UV sterilization, also reduce the risk of bacterial infection to near zero.
The price of a pedicure with fish can be different, and depends on the level of the institution in which this service is provided. You can make a pedicure with fish in Kiev in several beauty salons and shopping malls. You can find all the necessary addresses on the Internet.
Fish pedicure is an exotic way to care for the skin of the feet. However, in the pursuit of thrills, do not forget about the value of your health. Be healthy and beautiful! :)