The Garra Rufa pedicure is one of the latest innovations in spa treatments.
This unique approach to removing dead skin and calluses is creating quite a splash (and more than just a little controversy). Fans of the fishy procedure have even hailed it as the best pedicure they have ever had.
Spa patrons immerse their feet in a warm water tank where a hundred or more tiny carp nibble away at the exposed hard skin. It is a painless, albeit somewhat ticklish procedure, as the little fish don’t bite (they have no teeth). Simply by sucking and licking your feet they eradicate dead skin cells gently and naturally. What you feel is a tingling sensation that mimics a stimulating, yet relaxing, foot massage, as the inch-long fish run their suction cup mouths over your tootsies.
The Garra Rufa is a bottom-feeding freshwater carp native to Turkey and the Middle East where it has been used for centuries in the treatment of skin conditions. It is believed that their unusual behaviour, consuming dead skin cells from anyone who happened to be in the water with them, was an adaptation to the scarcity of food in the warm water mineral pools that are their natural habitat. Visitors to the pools soon discovered the benefits of being nibbled by the Garra Rufa, as the fish seek out and remove dead skin, bacteria and calluses, rejuvenating the skin. People suffering from skin conditions, like psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema, noted a marked improvement with repeated visits to the pools, earning the tiny nibblers the title of “Doctor Fish”. Research into the exact mechanism by which the Garra Rufa can actually improve skin health, has identified an enzyme in the saliva of the fish, called Dithranol, believed to have properties that revitalize the skin.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the Garra Rufa began to find its way to commercial hot springs and spas throughout Asia and Europe. In Southeast Asia fish foot massages rapidly became a craze as outlets opened up in shopping malls and department stores where busy shoppers could come and dangle their feet in a tank full of fish. Garra Rufa pedicures were soon introduced in the UK and by 2010 they had begun to capture wide interest. Initially only available in up-market salons and spas, the tanks are now appearing in shopping centre salons all over the country. The reception hasn’t been quite so warm in other places, where the practice has come under the scrutiny of health authorities and become the target of animal rights campaigners. Fish pedicures have even been banned in regions throughout the United States and Canada.
A Garra Rufa pedicure generally involves a fifteen to thirty minute session in the tank, followed by a standard pedicure, made easier by the treatment’s prior softening of the feet. The fish indeed replace the need for pumice stones and razors to remove hardened skin from the feet. In the UK, you can expect to pay around £1 per minute for the procedure. Aside from the fresh, soft, supple look of your feet after the fish have had a go at you, a Garra Rufa pedicure is sure to put a smile on your face.
Guestpost by Muzammil Bashir, who works alongside the Senior Editor of Pretty-small-shoes – a company that specialises in small sized shoes for women