You may have noticed them. I certainly have.
A new type of shop seems to be springing up.
Those shops full of water tanks. A bit odd, but not that weird. But there are people with their feet in the tanks. A bit more odd.
Oh, and did I mention that those water tanks are full of skin-eating fish.
Now, before you get nervous and think that these shops are selling the opportunity to have your foot eaten off by piranhas, I’ll give you a little bit of background into these establishments.
These shops supposedly give you the “Ultimate Fish Pedicure”. They have big tanks of fish called Garra rufa fish, often known as “Doctor fish”. These fish have no teeth and nibble away at dry skin.
Appy Feet, the largest provider of these fish pedicures in Britain, say
“Although these little Minnow size fish have no teeth, they certainly have a big impact! When you immerse your feet into the warm water these curious little dermatologist will get to work by gently nibbling off any dead hard skin, leaving you pampered, healthy and glowing.
All over the world nibble fish centres are springing up and people are taking advantage of a totally organic pedicure. The fish will only work on unhealthy or dead skin, the healthy skin is left untouched.” – AppyFeet.co.uk
The price works out at £10 for 15 minutes or £20 for 35 minutes in the tank. They also offer a hand spa for £5 for 5 minutes or £10 for 15 minutes.
There are a few problems though, the main one being the issue of disease transmission.
In the US, these spas and salons are banned for being “unsanitary”. In order to keep these places sanitary, the fish need to be thrown away after each use.
I called the Manchester branch of Appy Feet and asked them what their protocols for disease prevention were, to see if they followed this sanitation recommendation.
The person on the phone told me that they used a water filter, a UV filter and fresh water pumping through the tanks all the time. Seeing as it’s the fish that would need to be replaced after each use, this doesn’t seem like an adequate compromise.
Also, these aren’t just promoted as a cosmetic or relaxation device. It’s claimed by some that these can help with a load of dermatological illnesses, including eczema and psoriasis.
There is precisely one pilot study that I could find when searching “Garra rufa” on PubMed. It gained a positive result. However, it was a pilot study. It had no control group and only involved 67 patients. And it was used in combination with UVA therapy. It’s a little hard to derive much meaning from this then.
To conclude, these fish pedicure establishments have the potential to pass on disease – for a fee!
And, if you’ve been told to go there because they can cure psoriasis or another dermatological illness, I wouldn’t advise it. There’s close to no evidence to support it’s use.
I think I’d rather stick with my Crappy Feet.