It might seem like a harmless self-care practice, but fish pedicures are far from a good idea for your feet or the fish. In fact, fish pedicures have been banned in an increasing number of US states but unfathomably remain legal in the UK. Here’s why the best thing to do when you see a fish spa is walk on by.
The fish most commonly used in fish pedicures is a Western Asian species called Garra Rufa – commonly known as Red Garra or Doctor Fish.
When tropical fish are imported from other countries they are transported in water-filled plastic bags. One bag could hold dozens of fish. Many don’t survive the journey due to fluctuations in temperature, lack of oxygen and toxicity from all the fish waste that accumulates in the bag.
Believe it or not, our calluses, bunions and dead skin are not the natural diet for these fish. In the wild they eat algae and tiny aquatic insects. Garra rufa only nibble on our feet because they have been deprived of real food and are starving.
When you go to a swimming pool you can rest easy knowing that the water is chlorinated to kill any bacteria and bugs from other people. However, chlorine kills fish so it can’t be used in fish spas.
Therefore, when you immerse your feet into a fish spa you are bathing in water contaminated by other people’s germs. And think about the type of people likely to want a fish pedicure – those with fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, verrucas (warts), blisters and dry skin. Do you really want to dip your toes into that water?
Not only that, but the water will also be full of fish waste. Just like other animals fish need to urinate and defecate!
As the fish nibble away your skin, they are making you much more liable to infection. Sometimes the fish even draw blood.
Rather than improving the health of your feet, a fish spa can cause many problems as one woman found out when her toenails started falling out after a fish pedicure. Garra rufa have been known to transmit zoonotic pathogens and bacteria which can cause pneumonia. Because of this, fish pedicures are particularly risky to anyone with a compromised immune system.
Rather than risk infection and cause cruelty to fish, there are much safer and compassionate ways to pamper your feet.
A good old fashioned pumice stone works wonders and if you want to treat yourself, nowadays there are plenty of vegan-friendly spas around.