Have you heard about Garra rufa fish? These nibbly fish, also known as ‘doctor fish’ are able to gnaw away painlessly at dead skin on your hands and feet.

A widespread practice for years in Turkey and the Middle East, it has only started to become popular in Europe recently.

Treatments last around 30 minutes and can leave you with callous free feet! They are available at a number of spas available via Lavish.

The fish might nibble but the feeling isn’t tickly or painful – no more than a foot rub!

You might be worried about the hygiene factor, but spas that offer garra rufa treatments should have the right permits and hygiene capabilities to keep the fish happy and healthy. You need to do your bit too – don’t use a garra rufa treatment if you have cuts, infections, blisters or verrucas.

The official advise is that these treatments are safe – the HPA has made extensive recommendations on how fish spas can further reduce the risk of infections. Below are some of the major ones.

Groups not recommended to have a fish pedicure

The agency also says fish pedicures are not recommended for people that may increase the risk of infection or pose an infection risk to other clients. This includes people who:

  • have had their legs waxed or shaved in the previous 24 hours (they may have tiny cuts that increase infection risk)
  • have any open cuts, wounds, abrasions or broken skin on the feet or lower legs
  • have an infection on the feet (including athlete’s foot or a verruca)
  • have psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis affecting the feet or lower legs
  • are diabetic (which leads to increased risk of infection)
  • have a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV
  • have an immune deficiency due to illness or medication
  • have bleeding disorders or take anticoagulant medication (for example, heparin or warfarin)

Safety procedures for fish spas

The HPA recommends that:

  • Clients should be provided with medical information on any potential risk, including specific guidance on conditions that raise infection risk.
  • Clients should have their feet examined both before and after treatment to make sure they are free from cuts and infections. Staff should log that these checks have been performed.
  • Feet should be thoroughly washed and rinsed before a pedicure to minimise the number of micro-organisms transferred into the tank.
  • If there is evidence that bleeding has occurred during a session the tank should be drained and cleaned thoroughly. The HPA has drawn up thorough guidelines on how to disinfect tanks in a fish-friendly way. After 48 hours in a holding tank the fish can be reused.
  • Clients should be told to seek advice from their GP if they experience any adverse effects.

Have a look at the treatments on offer here.