Ten years ago, tiny fish nibbling away at your feet may seem like a scene out of a horror movie. Today, people enjoy the experience of these little creatures eating the detritus of their feet. Stalls and even spas specializing in fish spa therapy now populate shopping malls, pedestrian walkways and tourist attractions. Below, we are going to look at how fish eating dead skin may not be all that it is claimed to be.
What Does Fish Eating Dead Skin Mean?
The heroes of this story are the Garrarufa fish, small scavengers that love sucking and nibbling on dead skin. They grow in the freshwater basins of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. These toothless creatures are placed in tank filled with warm freshwater. When the customer immerses their feet in this water, these fish get to work and exfoliate the skin.
Is Letting Fish Eat Dead Skin Really Helpful?
Vendors may claim great benefits and customers hope for wondrous changes to their skin. However, these miracles have yet to be proven.
WebMD has listed some of the tall claims made by vendors of this service. These claims include the ability to eliminate bacteria and reduce foot odour, destroy a fungal infection on the foot called athlete’s foot, help improve blood circulation, make the feet soft and supple, and cause the body to relax through a technique similar to acupuncture, but none of these benefits have been scientifically proven.
These fish, also called doctor fish, simply help remove dead skin from the feet. You can simply get the same effects from regular feet scabs.
It Isn’t Gonna Help
Pedicure using the Garrarufa fish is touted to provide relief for people suffering from eczema or psoriasis. These claims are largely unfounded and in some cases this procedure could aggravate the disease.
People with eczema have raised objections to the unscrupulous promos that portray fish pedicures as a cure for this disease. The Chief Executive of the National Eczema Society, Margaret Cox has expressed disbelief at the notion. According to her, the procedure can inflict more harm as eczema sufferers do not have enough skin to begin with. She believes that a fish pedicure can further enhance the risk of infection.
This disease can cause the occurrence of abnormal patches of skin that are scaly and red. Many claims have been made that this condition can be treated if fish eating dead skin away. However the Psoriasis Association objects to this. They claim that patients can easily catch infections after such a pedicure session due to their weak immune systems and the presence of lesions on their skin. The only benefit from fish spa therapy, they say, is the exfoliation of the feet.
How Safe Fish Eating Dead Skin Is?
Having fish feast on the dead skin on your toes can be akin to borrowing a pair of stinking sweat-drenched socks. It is not safe and may even cause lots of dangers, which way outweigh its claimed benefits.
The water in the fish tank can be a breeding ground for a multitude of microbes. These microscopic beings can easily transfer infections between different clients.
- Exacting standards of hygiene are required to conduct a well-meaning fish spa but even then the risk of infection is ever present.
- These fish cannot be cleansed and their cost makes it impossible to replace them for every procedure.
- The Health Protection Agency has advised people with impaired immune systems to avoid fish pedicures. People with medical conditions like psoriasis and diabetes also run a high risk of contracting an infection.
All these factors contribute to a higher chance of infection by this treatment, when compared with other methods of exfoliating feet.
- The Garrarufa fish do not grow teeth and thus do not penetrate the skin, which make them suitable for feet exfoliating. But Garrarufa fish costs a lot, which drive some vendors to use alternate species for the same purpose. These substitutes can grow teeth and cause a customer to bleed, increasing the chance of an infection.
- Forcing a fish to feed on dead skin could trouble animal lovers, as this procedure would require these fish to be starved.
- In the U.S., the Fish and Wildlife Service considers the Garrarufa fish a threat if allowed into the wild because this foreigner could harm the local flora and fauna.
Who Shouldn’t Use Fish to Eat off Dead Skin
The Health Protection Agency have put forward recommendations that fish eating dead skin is not suitable for people who are vulnerable to infection or pose an infection risk. This list includes people who:
- Have an infection on their feet;
- Have open wounds or broken skin on the lower portion of their legs;
- Have skin diseases like psoriasis, dermatitis or eczema on their lower legs or feet;
- Are infected by virulent viruses like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV;
- Have shaved or waxed their legs recently, as it is highly probable that tiny nicks were left on their feet;
- Are suffering from diabetes, as they are highly susceptible to infections;
- Suffer from a deficient immune system;
- Take anticoagulant drugs or suffer from diseases that cause them to bleed around the foot easily.
What to Do If I Do Want Fish Eating Dead Skin off
If you really wish to have a fish pedicure, there are ways to do it in a safe manner. It is important to find a place that follows the following guidelines:
- Service Provider offer adequate information about potential medical risks and conditions that can increase the chances of an infection.
- Customs should carefully examine feet prior to and after the treatment to ensure the absence of cuts and infections, and maintain a log of these checks.
- If bleeding occurs in the tank, steps should be taken to sterilize the tank. There are ways to do this in a manner that allows the fish to be reused.
- Prior to placing the client’s feet in the tank, they should be properly rinsed to reduce the chances of micro-organisms entering the fish tank.
- Customers should be advised to visit their doctor if any adverse effects are noticed.