When I first heard of fish pedicures, images of some ‘essential oils’ being massaged on the feet of a diva came to my mind. But further investigation revealed a new fad that it is actually something more exotic and outlandish! The patron (you!) sits with his/her feet immersed in a tank of comfortably warm water. This is post basic washing and treatment. Hundreds of tiny fish called Garra rufa or more commonly, Doctor Fish in the water will actually start nibbling at your feet! Yes, you read correctly. This is not for the squeamish.
The fish are as small as a few cms and are toothless. They simply eat off the dead skin. Of course, this is not their usual diet. So the fish have to be starved and they can develop an appetite for dead skin or whatever else is offered. If your ethical alter-ego is pinching you already, you may not enjoy reading further. But do lend an ear to the whole story before forming an opinion.
Since the fish do not have teeth, they cannot bite off the healthy skin! Only a tingling can be felt that different people would describe differently, from relaxing to creepy! Though it may sound gross to some, but the therapy does give results. The fish can reach places that a normal human pedicurist simply cannot. It is also claimed that the fish secrete an enzyme that actually nourishes the skin! Such fish have actually been used for healing purposes in Asia for centuries. Procedures for full body treatment with fish are also in the offing.
Advantages: Pedicures can be a good way to avoid and treat nail and foot infections, but razors and waxing used for pedicures run the risk of infection. If carried out with suitable precautions, fish pedicures can actually be a safe and effective way to keep nail and foot infections at bay. What’s more, it can be fun too. Fish pedicures are also known to provide relief from serious skin ailments such as eczema, psoriasis etc.
Precautions: In many spas and beauty salons, the tanks are communal. 3 or more people usually have to share a huge tank. The fish can then have their pick of whose feet look most dense with dead skin! While this can be embarrassing for some, it can also be unhygienic. Make sure the spa changes water in the tank after every procedure. The warm water in the tanks can be a fertile mixture for infections. We do not want to put you off the pedicure but looking at the cloudy water in the tank, one can’t help but wonder.
Technically, the fish may also become carriers of infection. This procedure has actually been banned in some states in the US over safety and animal rights concerns. So, we would definitely recommend the procedure for its novelty value, but make a habit of it only if you trust the hygiene practices of the spa. All the other precautions needed for normal pedicures also apply. This includes checking for cuts and bruises, however minor. Avoid shaving and other procedures before a pedicure as these can lead to abrasions that can let infectious agents enter.
In conclusion: As mentioned in the previous feature on nail ailments, a little indulgence can do no harm if one is informed. We live in an increasingly androgynous world. While I would have made fun of anybody even mentioning pedicures a few years ago, I’m now actually open to getting it done with live fish! As stress increases, people turn to anything that makes them feel different or even mildly relaxed. So, the fact that such practices are gaining popularity is not surprising. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, people will try anything at least once. But an informed decision is what one should make.
– Punit Pania