I’ve had a couple of fish pedicures (details here) in the past but ever since then, I’ve learned the ugly truth about this treatment for both humans and the fish and I’ve made sure to advice anyone who’s asked me where they can get it done to stay away. As these fish pedicures seem to be gaining popularity here in Nairobi, I thought it best to update my sentiments on the same. Owing to my previous review, I also feel some responsibility to shed more light on the situation in one central, accessible article (not just in the DMs).
Yes, a fish pedicure is fun and something to try if only for the kicks (and trust me, some people end up kicking!), it does pose a host of health risks that are not worth it. So before your first or your next fishy foot session, please be mindful of the following:
It’s common for a lot of spas and beauty centers not to use the actual Garra Rufa species of fish that are supposed to be doing this treatment but a cheaper alternative called Chin Chin. This “budget” option isn’t as harmless as using a fake brand of nail polish instead of a reputable one, but rather scary and dangerous. The Chin Chin have teeth while the Garra Rufa don’t which means that they actually can, and do, bite, puncture the skin and draw blood instead of just sucking on the dead skin or nibbling around it. This makes us vulnerable to infections that may already be in the tank or later on. See? Scary!
Whether the spa is using Garra Rufa which won’t bite, or Chin Chin which will and break your skin, the very same fish are used on everyone and that creates a high risk environment for bacterial, fungal and even viral transfer from one person to another. Most spas can’t afford to use a fresh batch of fish for every new client and most clients don’t disclose or maybe don’t know if they have any diseases or conditions that could infect someone else through this kind of exposure. It’s not like the fish can be disinfected like normal pedicure tools. Plus the tanks aren’t cleaned out after each round and the fish will produce waste which just adds a whole new layer of filth to this Petri dish of hazards. If you Google it, you’ll find many reports of skin and nail infections that have resulted from fish pedicures that are only discovered months later.
We might be getting a spa experience but the fish certainly aren’t! They’re just fish, right? Who cares that dead human skin isn’t their actual natural source of sustenance, right? Sadly, that’s the reality. Honestly, I didn’t even think of this until I read it and now I feel really horrible. Garra Rufa feed on our dead skin because they’re starved. And all because it’s good business to do so. If they’re properly fed, they wouldn’t try to eat our skin and they wouldn’t be an attraction, would they?
This is all very unsettling, I know. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of nasty news, but it’s necessary. To be honest, there’s not much to be missed by not trying out a fish pedicure. Like I mentioned in my initial article, it’s not even effective as far as actually working to smooth and refine the feet – you’ll definitely get a real pedicure after the session. So really, because of all the dangers it poses and it not being a real pedicure, it’s just not worth it. Not for us. Not for the fish. I Probably should have started this with a warning like Lemony Snicket: look away. But I’ll just finish it with, stay away. I hope this was helpful.