Fish pedicures grew in popularity in 2010. Garra Rufa fish are used around the world as 'doctor fish' to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis since they suck and eat dead skin. The craze in London for fish pedicures has faded in recent years, but fish pedicures can be found in many spas across southeast Asia as well.
At the height of the fad, there were more than a dozen high-end spas in and around London offering fish pedicures. But very few offer it anymore, due mainly to concerns about hygiene and safety, but also because it's somewhat unkind to the animals themselves.
So what's it like getting a fish pedicure? Here's what to expect if you decide to try one.
What Happens During a Fish Pedicure
You remove your shoes and socks and roll up your trouser legs before plunging your feet into a fish tank on the floor. Each visitor has their own fish tank filled with the same number of fish. The water is warm, usually around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each fish tank has a filter fitted and you must clean your feet before putting them in the tank. The Garra Rufa fish do not have teeth and are known as 'lickers'. Many people compare the feeling to a bubbly foot spa.
What a Fish Pedicure Feels Like
Everyone reacts differently but most people do report a tickling sensation when they first put their feet in the tank. Most people get over it and relax within a few minutes but I found it incredibly tickly for the whole 30-minute treatment.
Results of a Fish Pedicure
Spas that offer fish pedicures claim that you will have smooth feet with no rough or hard spots afterward, although your experience may vary, depending on the condition of your feed. It is an exfoliating process to remove dead skin, so you will notice your feet feel differently afterward. An added bonus: The process is non-abrasive, and is said to improve circulation in the feet.
Safety and Hygiene of Fish Pedicures
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are no verified reports of illness resulting from fish pedicures (although foot baths at nail salons have been linked to bacterial infections). Some states in the U.S. have banned fish pedicures for a variety of reasons.
A major concern is that unlike other tools used in a nail salon, the fish and the tubs they are housed in can't be sanitized or cleaned between customers. That may raise the risk of spreading any possible infections.
Another reason for banning fish pedicures is that it could be considered cruel to the Garra rufa, which must be starved in order to nibble on and eat skin at all.