During a trip to Singapore, I threw in the towel and decided to allow the little doctor fish (yes, that is their nickname) to have at it with my callouses at a fish spa. Talk about natural exfoliation, right?
What Are Doctor Fish
Garra rufa are little toothless carp that use their mouths to scoop up dead skin and eat it. In the wild, they’re found in Turkey’s rivers and hot springs. They can survive in pretty hot water and are credited with alleviating psoriasis symptoms.
What Does a Fish Pedicure Feel Like?
At the time of our visit, the fish spa at the Singapore Night Safari (it is no longer there) has a tank with big fish and another with little fish, just an inch or two long. If visiting Singapore with kids, they can even participate. I had to remove my shoes and rinse my feet prior to my treatment. I plopped down on the bench, looked down, and panicked.
I could not bring myself to put my feet in the big fish tank. They were moving so quickly and slithering around like mad. The attendant was beginning to grow impatient with my cowardice while my 6-year-old couldn’t stop laughing. After failing to provide dinner for these fish, I was motioned into the less intimidating small fish tank which proved a heck of a lot more manageable. My feet went in.
It tickles, but not more than a regular pedicure does. The fish scrape their mouths against your skin in order to pick up any loose debris. I had only signed up for a 10 minute treatment (it was getting late) but my feet did feel ever so slightly cleaner. At times there were close to 50 or more doctor fish circling each foot. I lost count, actually.
Fish Spas Are Illegal in The United States
As you might imagine, there are sanitary concerns. Ambitious spa owners have attempted to bring the fish spa pedicure to the United States but they’ve been shut down. Think about it this way, the fish eat your dead skin and excrete it (and who knows what else) out in the same tank your feet are dangling in. Not to mention, they’re noshing on the feet of multiple people. Another belief is that in some spas the fish are starved in order to incentivize them to perform pedicures. I can’t imagine at some of these spas that there is any time for that as so many people circle through–which also means overall complaints must be low.
It is not possible to have a fish pedicure in San Diego. I checked.
In Singapore, Fish Spas Are Everywhere
There’s even a gorgeous fish spa at Changi Airport. Though its an exotic treatment, you don’t have to look hard around town to find an opportunity. Some spas I peeked into while shopping were quite luxe looking and going to one just feels like a normal thing to do. Fish spas are common in Asia and some parts of Europe.
Would You Do It?
If you were traveling to a part of the world where this was common practice, would you get a fish pedicure?
Photo credit: istockphoto/jdyerphoto