In the last year, the rise of the fish pedicure has been met with equal measures of success and derision. In the treatment, Doctor Fish (Garra Rufa) nibble away at dead and excess skin to, a soothing alternative to regular (and abrasive) exfoliation.
For those who love the treatment, the whole spa ritual and experience of being gently nibbled at is a pleasurable, relaxing and exotic practice. Those who opposed it initially seemed to focus primarily on how daft you look doing it, how odd it feels and the idea that it probably isn’t all that effective.
But now that the foot spas have leapt into the shopping centres and even many proper spa chains, the opposition has become significantly more vocal about their distaste at this novelty treatment. The UK press has been awash recently with claims that, in theory, Doctor Fish could transmit blood-bourne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV from person to person. Not that it’s actually happened, just that it might happen.
The ‘concerns’ seem to be a mix of the disdain that the sector has experienced since its creation and more genuine health concerns. Unregulated business are obviously a concern, no matter how good their intentions as regards health standards.
Finally an official word on the issue has been ejected from the UK’s Health Protection Agency. Infection may come from multiple pathways and yes, microorganisms in the water are a cause for concern. But are you likely to actually get infected? The risk is apparently very low. So long as you’re not drinking the water, you will essentially never get sick.
The only people who should avoid the treatment are those with weak immune systems or underlying medical conditions that would be more like to contract a disease. Habits should also be monitored: don’t shave your legs and get into the water until at least 24 hours later.
Though we should err on the side of caution, you can’t help but feel there’s an element of the nanny state in these news reports. That’s certainly how it feels in North America, where fish pedicures have been banned over public safety concerns: proper cosmetology apparently disposes of or sanitises its tools, and that’s enough to get this practice banned.
If you’re looking for a more traditional day spa experience, why not try the Sanctuary Spa in London a chain of venues in Covent garden (and around the UK) that accepts Spa Vouchers, a perfect gift for Christmas.