Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?

WRITTEN BY: Elizabeth On 06/04/2012 • Nails

Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?

We brought you the news in May that Cindy Vong in Gilbert, Arizona has teamed up with the Goldwater Institute to sue the Arizona Board of Cosmetology over being barred from offering fish pedicures as a service in her salon. New research has shown that the ever popular fish pedicures may not be as safe as people once thought. The researchers of UK Center for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Sciences have recently performed a study on the fish used in these treatments and their susceptibility to carry harmful bacteria.

Submitted by Elizabeth on 06/04/2012 - 13:36

A fish pedicure involves a tiny Asian fish called the Garra Rufa. It feasts on a client's toes to get rid of any dead skin. This may sound barbaric, but Eastern countries have been practicing this treatment for thousands of years. The fish have no teeth and they tickle clients more than anything. The research began with a shipment of the Garra Rufa from Indonesia, which was intercepted and treated at a UK airport for disease. Scientists from the UK Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the fish were carrying a variety of harmful bacteria that were not easily treated. For example, a strand of Vibrio vulnificus was found. It can make open wounds break out and infect people with the lethal disease, Septicemia.

Despite the bacteria found in the fish, there have been only a handful of people who have ever reported being infected with bacteria after dipping their toes with the Garra Rufa. Still, several states in the U.S. have banned the practice, including Virginia and Delaware. Researchers specifically have advised that people with weak immune systems or diabetes to avoid a fish pedicure. A suitable alternative is for salons to order their fish from special facilities where the fish are raised in controlled atmospheres rather than less reliable international sources.

If you decide to visit a salon that offers fish pedicures or new salon in general, there are some guidelines you should follow to ensure that your experience is healthy and clean. This list was put forth by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in order to help people understand what they can do to avoid getting an infection.

First and foremost do not get a manicure or a pedicure if you have an open wound or infection. This includes everything from bug bites to dry skin. Bacteria could spread or become even more infected by irritation from the treatment. Also, whenever skin to skin contact is involved, there is a risk of transmitting a virus or harmful bacteria.

Nail technicians should have a license to work in the U.S. that allows them to work in a nail salon. Pay attention that the nail technician uses proper hygiene and wears gloves. They also need to use sterilized equipment or replace items for each person. Do not get your cuticles cut or calluses shaved to avoid getting accidentally cut. And if you do decide to take the plunge and get a fish pedicure, ask about the origins and testing of the fish. If you feel the salon is unclean or unscrupulous for any reason, trust your instinct and find somewhere else to go.

Have you had a fish pedicure? Do you or your salon offer the fish pedicure service? Tell us your experience in the comments below!