At Cat’s Scratch Nails Salon in Aurora, the newest pedicure treatment no longer requires a technician to pull out a scrub brush or razor to remove dead skin and calluses from the feet.
Instead, that job is left up to the fish.
Fish pedicure is the latest beauty fad slowly making its way into salons in the U.S. The treatment, which costs about $60, involves submerging your feet into a fish tank filled with 100 or so toothless, tiny carp which nibble away dead skin cells, resulting in smoother and softer skin. And while the fish are busy biting away, the client is treated to a gentle foot massage.
Previously popular in Turkey and Asia, these scaly critters — known as Garra Rufa fish or Doctor fish — have been reported to be beneficial in the treatment of skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema for more than 150 years.
That in itself — along with a bit of prodding from a handful of her regular customers — was enough to convince Cat’s Scratch Nails owner Mya Doan to test the waters on the cutting-edge treatment in her salon.
“There is much controversy in the cosmetic industry over the use of razors in the removal of calluses, so this offers a very safe and natural approach to the treatment and exfoliation of the skin,” Doan said.
State keeping watch
The main difference between the use of the fish pedicure in the U.S. and in Asia, Doan said, is its main purpose. In the U.S., the treatment has not been approved for use on skin diseases. Instead, it is only offered to clients with healthy skin and common ailments like dry, flaky skin.
After each fish pedicure, the tank is drained, cleaned and sterilized, Doan said. It is then refilled with fresh filtered water which is also sterilized.
A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said the department “will investigate any spa that offers fish pedicures.
“The department plans to conduct outreach to ensure that spa owners and the general public are aware of the risks of fish pedicures, and encourages patrons to be vigilant and report any spas that offer this service,” said IDFPR spokesman Louis Pukelis.
It took quite a bit of planning to get the fish here from Singapore, and also a bit of a learning curve in finding the right tanks to house them, the proper filtration system and to learn the best sanitization procedures, Doan said.
Popular in down economy
When the fish first made their debut last fall, Doan was skeptical as to whether there would be enough demand for the service. However, once word started to spread, the phones haven’t stopped ringing.
Doan believes she is the first salon in Illinois to offer the service.
“The fish came at time when the economy was really starting to get worse, and there was a noticeable decrease in my business,” Doan said. “Naturally, people have been cutting back on spa pampering treatments, but the fish pedicures have really brought new life to my business.”
She said the spa has had clients come from Indiana and Wisconsin to try out the fish procedure.
During the holiday season, gift certificates specifically for the fish pedicure were a hot seller at the salon.
The experience starts out with 30 minutes with the fish and is then finished off with a traditional pedicure performed by a technician. Visitors should plan on about an hour and 15 minutes from start to finish.