I will try just about any weird spa/health/therapy/wellness experience at least once, and when I saw these little suckers in Playa del Carmen I felt inclined to give this a go.
Known as: ‘Doctor Fish Pedicure’, ‘Fish Spa’, or ‘Ichthyotherapy’, this unusual way of getting your tootsies pampered involves a tank full of tiny fish who essentially snack on your dead skin cells. What for the ‘patient’ is a pedicure, for the ‘doctor’ is lunch.
The species of fish used for this job is the Garra Rufa (or nibble fish as they are suitably nicknamed.) They are originally found in river basins of the Middle East; mainly in Turkey, Syria, Oman, Iraq, and Iran.
The beneficial evidence of the fish spa is not really very conclusive. It is said to help with conditions like psoriasis, and to exfoliate and soften your skin. Mostly, people do it for the novelty factor I’d say (guilty as charged).
Where I got it done, my feet were pre-washed and inspected for any cuts etc., and the fish tanks/foot basins were under UV filtered lights which I was told acted as sanitizers. Whether this is actually sufficient or not, I cannot say. Call me gross, but I tend not to worry too much about this kind of thing and was too excited to have fish chew on my toes to think about any fish/ skin diseases that could be passed on to me. (They don’t actually chew as they do not have teeth.)
After having it done, I did a little bit of research into it. I don’t know if I would have stuck my feet in there if I would have read more about it beforehand! A lot of people are saying that it is the most disgusting and dangerous thing they have ever heard of. The practice is not even allowed in most places in Canada and the US, due to unsatisfactory hygiene control.
Am I glad I did it though? Yeah…
It is kind of like when you look up the travel advisories for a country you are planning to go to. The warnings and worst case scenarios scare the Bejesus out of you before you have even set foot on the plane/train/car to get there. So usually I go first and then look at the advisories afterwards and feel thankful that I didn’t know all the horrors awaiting me.
And sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
My gut said: ‘the fish are hungry and your feet could use a pedicure’. It also said: ‘hey you haven’t tried that yet!’ Plus I am pretty sure that regular manicures/pedicures in many many places hold more sanitary risk than this did. Heck, I have had handshakes that felt more contaminating.
Like Helen Keller said: “Life is a Daring Adventure or Nothing at All.” I am fairly certain she did not have the fish pedicure in mind when she came up with this, but what the hey, I tried it anyways.
So what did it feel like? Basically it felt like little fizzy bubbles all over my skin. They mostly go for the top of the feet which makes it easier to not giggle uncontrollably at being tickled. If you have really sensitive feet or don’t like creatures biting you, it might take a couple of minutes to get used to it.
Overall, I found it to be a cool new spa experience to try. If I get any weird fungal infections or webbed feet, I will report back.
Has anyone else done this? Would you do this?
This post is a part of #SUNDAYTRAVELER
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This is something I was looking forward to trying when I go to Thailand this year. I had no idea people say it’s disgusting or dangerous. I’m gonna do it anyway–I think we say too many things are dangerous in the US anyway haha. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler this week–I’m glad I got to meet a new travel blogger 🙂
Yeah…sometimes you have to just use your own inner safety compass with things. If it feels ok, do it. If not, don’t do it. So exciting that you are going to Thailand! I’m jealous 🙂 There are a lot of great posts on the #SundayTraveler… and it’s a brilliant idea for connecting bloggers. Thx!
Great article! I’m extremely ticklish on my feet. So I guess this wouldn’t be really for me :). Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler.
Yeah, if you have really ticklish feet it might be drive you crazy haha.
I’ve not done this yet myself – looks really cool. Big thanks for link up with us for #SundayTraveler, I’ve pinned this to the board also.
Thank you! Glad I came across #SundayTraveler.
I want to try this so bad! But I’m super ticklish though I think I’d still enjoy it. Hey if people are putting foreskin on their face to prevent wrinkles, I can let a few fish nibble on my toes 😛
Well if you like getting tickled you will enjoy it 😉 Actually after the first few minutes you get used to it. If they nibbled on the bottom of my feet it would have been worse for me, but the tops were ok. Wait…people put foreskin on their faces to prevent wrinkles?
I don’t even like normal pedicures – strangers holding my feet weirds me out. But I kinda want to try this!