Fish Pedicures: Are They Safe?

Fish pedicures have long been touted because of their supposed advantages over using razors to shave callouses and dead skin off heels; this seems like a great alternative, but many of you probably don’t know that they have been banned in over 10 US states for health and safety reasons. I’ve gathered the facts about Fish pedicures so that you, our readers, can be informed about the pros and cons of this treatment.

Despite what you may have heard, Fish pedicures aren’t a new thing; they’ve been used in the Middle East since the 1800’s. The fish used in this treatment are ‘Garra rufa’ fish, also known as Dr Fish, and originate from Turkey and the surrounding area. The treatment involves customers dipping their feet into tanks containing approximately 50-100 Garra rufa fish and allowing them to nibble and suck away at your dead skin for 15-30 minutes. The end result is feet that are smooth, soft and refreshed, a seemingly great alternative to using razors in the salon (the use of razors or credo knives to shave feet is also illegal in many US states).

If the end result of using Dr Fish is so good, why has this treatment been banned in 10 US states? The CDC has declared there is a low risk of infection from the fish, but they don’t detail how the tank water can contain bacteria from other people who’ve received the treatment or from the water itself. The fish can transfer bacteria from the water to your bloodstream, especially if you are bitten. The Garra rufa species of fish don’t have teeth, so there’s little to no danger of them drawing blood during the treatment, but because of the increasing popularity of the treatment these fish have become a lot more expensive so sometimes cheaper fish are used as alternatives. Other fish species, e.g. Chin Chin fish, do develop teeth as they grow older meaning you are at risk of drawing blood and getting infected. The tanks used in the treatment cannot be sufficiently cleaned and sanitized between customers when the fish are in them, meaning that they can go for hours even days without being cleaned. Also the fish themselves cannot be sanitized or cleaned, meaning they can expose you to any bacteria or infection they themselves have been exposed to. Health experts recommend that people with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions (like diabetes or psoriasis) shouldn’t use these treatments as they’re at a much greater risk of infection.

If you’re still interested in trying out this new treatment, check out Doctor Fish Massage to find your nearest spa offering it. But remember to check the species of fish being used and ask how often they change the water and clean the tank; you don’t want to be the victim of a nasty infection!

– Mette Jorgensen

Elise Wright

Elise is a social media strategist from Sydney, now living in NYC, who has a long standing love affair with the beauty industry- especially the nail industry!

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