Fish Pedicures Aren’t As Safe As You Think
This is definitely one of the weirdest self-care techniques in the world, and apparently it’s equally as risky. A woman has recently lost her toenails following a fish pedicure, which is when people put their feet in a small water bath filled with tiny Garra rufa fish. Garra rufa, or the red garra, also known as a doctor fish and nibble fish, has been integrated into this unusual spa treatment where they feed on patients’ dead skin. It’s often used to treat psoriasis, but is not curative.
Six months before her toenails began separating from her toes, the woman tried the treatment. Once she realized what was happening she went to the doctor, who then linked the issue to the fish pedicure. The phenomenon, which arrests nail growth and causes the damage and separation, is known as onychomadesis in the medical community. This is relatively common and has been linked to infections, medications, autoimmune and heritable conditions. While the treatment is called a fish pedicure, the CDC says they “do not meet the legal definition of a pedicure.”
Over the last decade or so fish pedicures have been made available at select locations all over the world, but the practice is also banned in several of the states in the United States and Canadian provinces as cosmetology regulators believe it’s unsanitary. In 2011 the UK Health Protection Agency issued a report assigning a “very low” risk of transferring infection from the procedure. PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, denounces the practice, citing callous methods of international transportation and suggesting that the fish are deliberately starved between treatments to force them to take this abnormal food.