Over the past couple of years, 'fish pedicures' have become more common in beauty salons; the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has estimated that there are approximately 300 in existence in the UK. Originating in the Far East, the treatment consists of Garra Rufa fish (usually) - otherwise known as 'Doctor fish' - feeding off the dead, rough skin on your feet, leaving them feeling soft and revitalised once it has ended.
It is said that the fish excrete Dithranol, part of an enzyme which can be used to treat psoriosis, which is why your skin is left feeling smooth; it is also said that circulation is enhanced and the treatment can improve skin conditions such as eczema - sounds good?!
A couple of weeks a go, a number of news stories appeared in newspapers saying that this treatment can spread HIV and Aids, verrucas, athletes foot and other infections as well as increasing the risk of catching parasites and bacterial infections - if you are letting fish eat your feet, which have also eaten other people's dead skin , then of course there are risks involved, surely that's just common sense?
However, what was less publicised is that the risk of any of these is incredibly low, especially if the treatments are run properly; a good beautician will not let you have this done if you have an infection, any open wounds or are wearing any sort of chemical of your skin that may poison the fish, and will conduct a quick health survey before commencing. Also, they should offer you a cleansing wipe so you can cleanse your feet and the tanks should have a sterilisation and filtration system in place to ensure risks can be minimised as much as possible - if you are considering this treatment, then DEFINITELY do your homework into the establishment first!
I will admit, the only reason I had the treatment done was because it was free (I won two gift vouchers in a charity raffle); I wouldn't have considered paying for it because the thought of fish nibbling at my feet grossed me out! And, hearing the 'horror stories' above definitely did not ease my mind. But, after reading the enclosed leaflet about the treatment, and speaking with the beautician over the phone, I definitely felt a bit more comfortable about this - enough so that I would give it a go.
Myself and @ultimatecoddy went along to Karma Therapies at Electric Beach in Cleethorpes and was immediately impressed by the standards kept here. There was a booth set up with a fixed (comfy) bench which had a filtration system beneath it. The water was warm and SO clean; I definitely felt like the fish were looked after. We were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding our health conditions (after being told over the phone too - always best to be sure) and were given a couple of cleansing wipes before submerging our feet into the water...
|Myself having a 'fish pedicure'...|
|... and Coddy, too!|
This was the weirdest sensation; it felt like thousands of little bubbles popping against your feet, as if the water was carbonated, if you like! The fish have no teeth and therefore use their lips to feed on rough skin, so there is a very low chance of skin breaking. The treatment lasted 15 minutes and the fish continue to feed throughout; they do not get bored or full, so you definitely get your money's worth. And even though it tickles at first (especially when they're trying to get in between your toes!), you do get used to it. Karma Therapies say that the treatment "stimulates meridians and acupuncture points in the feet, leaving you feeling pampered, relaxed and refreshed."
Once the 15 minutes were over, we were given a towel to dry our feet and were offered a pedicure lotion to complete the treatment. After returning home, some of the hard skin still existed BUT the skin really was so smooth, and we did feel more relaxed. Overall, I was very happy with the experience - especially knowing that Karma Therapies take great care in the cleanliness of the treatment and the welfare of the fish (as well as the customers!) Now I have tried this, I would definitely pay the £10 Karma Therapies charge and recommend them to any other potential customers.
My only advice to those considering this, if you haven't already had this done before, is to make sure the spa or salon has the same precautions in place to ensure your health is not put at risk. And for anybody who is worried about the living conditions of the fish, then Karma Therapies say that they closely monitor the tanks to ensure they are happy.
For more information, take a look at the NHS website and the HPA website and give it a go - you might just be pleasantly surprised, like me!