Forget pumice stones and scrubs, fish are the new skin-smoother of choice at a growing number of spas worldwide.
First discovered in a thermal spring in Turkey, “nibble fish” or “doctor fish” suck away dry, dead skin with their toothless mouths, making them a favorite treatment among psoriasis and eczema patients. Since the temperature of their native hot springs does not allow for high levels of nutrients, the fish seek out human skin as an easy food source.
In the past few years, the specialized species have been exported to nearly every continent for use in “fish pedicures”, where about 150 carp chow down on a client’s feet for 15 to 30 minutes. The pedicures have become especially commonplace in Asia, with fish spas popping up everywhere from the Singapore Changi Airport to the Pavilion Mall in Kuala Lumpur.
As spa-goers become more adventurous, places like Wayan Village in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (52-998-882-0789), Soothing Soles Fish Spa in Hertfordshire, UK, and Fisho Spa in Phuket, Thailand, are offering full-body treatments where 800 critters can nibble even those hard-to-reach places. Full-body tanks are often in full-view, so bathing suits are usually required.
Most providers sanitize the tanks with UV light or change the water after each treatment, but the fish themselves cannot be cleaned like more traditional spa tools, so some regions have questioned the safety of the practice. Several US states and Canadian provinces have banned fish pedicures , claiming the treatment is unsanitary and may spread infection, and the UK also launched an investigation into the possible health implications, though no official bans have been issued.
As for the rest of the world, business is going along just swimmingly.