In the 1950s, the idea of fish eating your feet would seem like something out of a horror movie. In recent years, this horrific sounding encounter is actually quite common. While it was originally popular in the Far East, this unique experience has spread to the United States, England and other Western nations.
Now, you can find fish eating spas and stalls throughout the world. From shopping malls to fish spa therapy centers, you can locate these little creatures nearly anywhere. To the casual observer, it looks like the fish are nibbling on the edges of the feet, but they actually just eat the dead skin.
Why Are Fish Eating Dead Skin?
It is only actually a certain type of fish that eat dead skin. The Garra rufa fish are known for being small, scavenger fish. These type of fish are native to the freshwater basins found in Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. They do not have teeth, and they are easily transferred to fish tanks filled with warm water. If the fish are kept hungry enough, they will eat the dead skin off of your feet if you put your feet into a tank.
Is It Healthy for to Let Fish Eat Dead Skin?
The fish therapy spas claim that allowing fish to eat dead skin is amazing for your skin. Unfortunately, many of their claims are not proven yet. In addition, it is possible that the fish could carry bacteria or viruses from one spa goer to another if they are not replaced each time.
The Claimed Benefits of Fish Eating Dead Skin
According to the vendors of the fish, this treatment helps to eliminate bacteria and dead skin. This leaves the feet feeling soft, supple and rejuvenated. Believers in this treatment claim that they can destroy the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, get rid of bacteria and eliminate foot odor. They also believe that this treatment can help individuals relax while boosting their blood circulation.
While many of these tall tales are not proven, the fact remains that the fish do remove dry, dead skin. If you want to have softer, healthier looking feet, this is a good way to do it. Obviously, you would need to repeat the treatment fairly often to remove dead skin cells as they develop again.
Will the Doctor Fish Help?
The Garra rufa, or doctor, fish is supposed to provide relief for people who have psoriasis or eczema. Like many of the other claims about doctor fish, these benefits are largely unfounded. In some cases, using the fish could even aggravate the current state of your condition.
Psoriasis often causes scaly, red patches of the skin. Some people believe that the doctor fish can eat away the skin cells that cause the scaly, red appearance. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Psoriasis Association says that using the doctor fish on psoriasis can make it easier for people to catch an infection. Their weakened immune system and the new lesions opened up on the feet means that it is even easier for infections to occur—especially if new infections are introduced by doctor fish that recently nibbled on someone’s feet that had an infection.
Likewise, doctor fish are unlikely to help someone with eczema. The National Eczema Society has stated that this procedure could actually do more harm to an eczema patient than good. To start with, many eczema patients already have thinner skin than healthy adults. When this fish pedicure is also used, it can cause the skin to open up and become ripe for an infection to develop.
What Precautions Should I Take Before Having Fish Eat My Dead Skin?
If you are absolutely convinced that you need fish eating your dead skin, then there are some precautions that you can take to make sure that it is safer. You should make sure that you use a service provider who provides information about how they reduce infection risks and the spread of infection. They should check your feet beforehand to make sure that there are no cuts or infections. Likewise, the tank should be completely sterilized if you end up bleeding. Before they place your feet in the tank, they should rinse your feet to prevent anything from being spread to the tank. If you do have any side effects, make sure to go to your doctor right away.
Is Fish Eating Dead Skin Safe?
As a rule, this is not a safe procedure, and it carries some risks. The water in the fish tank is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and other microbes. Some of these microbes can be easily transferred between clients. For it to even moderately safe, the fish spa would need to have exacting standards of hygiene. Unfortunately, this is not cost effective. It is often too expensive for the fish to be replaced or cleansed after each treatment. It is important that people with a weakened immune system, diabetes and psoriasis avoid this treatment completely. Since the chances of an infection are high, it is better to use a different method for exfoliating your feet.
The Garra rufa fish does not have any teeth, so it cannot penetrate the skin. Unfortunately, the Garra rufa is also fairly costly, so some fish spas choose to use alternative species that do have teeth. If alternative species are used, the fish may cut the customer’s feet, and the cut could increase the chances of your feet to become infected. In addition, you may want to avoid the fish spas out of animal rights considerations. For the fish to eat your dead skin, they have to be starved first.
Anyone who has an infection, broken skin or open wounds should never use this treatment. If you have HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or a weakened immune system, you should not use this treatment. Likewise, anyone who is on anticoagulant drugs should not use this treatment. If you have shaved or waxed your legs recently, avoid the treatment because you could have tiny cuts on your legs from shaving still.