Ask Susie: Something ‘Fishy’ – Controversial Fish Spa Therapy
I have a clinic in the UK, and we are considering introducing a fantastic new product called “fish peeling.” It entails bathing your feet with live fish (Garra rufa) and then letting the fish do all the work. Feels relaxing, increases circulation, there is a micro massage, releases stress and unclogs pores. I was wondering what your thoughts are about this new treatment?
First a little background: This increasingly popular spa treatment comes from Turkey, where the Garra rufa fish (also called the reddish log sucker) are in abundance. They live and breed in outdoor pools. The fish nibble on a person’s skin and consume the dead areas, leaving the healthy skin to grow. Some say this “Fish Therapy” benefits those who suffer from psoriasis. The Kangal Spa in Turkey is generally credited with being the originator of this treatment.
Spas – always looking for something to differentiate themselves – picked up on this treatment a few years ago and simulated the experience by building fish tanks and adding Garra rufa fish in which customers can soak their feet.
The media, always interested in the latest spa treatment (and the more bizarre, the better), picked up on this and articles started appearing in newspapers and on TV. The trend spread, and now I have seen Fish Spa Therapy on spa menus around the world. Although there aren’t really that many so-called “Fish Spas,” they do garner a lot of media attention, thus giving the idea that they are all the rage.
A few red flags to consider – and thus my hesitation in promoting them – many consider the treatment to be unhygienic. It has been banned in approximately 15 states, with officials arguing that it breaches U.S. health regulations. There is also the fear of spreading infections from one person to another. In addition, it appears that some are substituting other – cheaper – types of fish for the Garra rufa with problematic results (nibbling becomes biting).
I think it is only a matter of time when there will be a “fish incident,” and this particular treatment will be a thing of the past – with the exception, perhaps, of the outdoor natural springs setting in Turkey. The rest, well frankly, smells fishy to me.