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Here’s What Your Podiatrist Needs You to Know About Fish Pedicures

At our Spring and Tomball TX podiatry practices, we know that pedicures matter. We want your feet to look their best. But we want you to enjoy a safe pedicure: one that won’t leave you open to infection. Or put your diabetic feet in danger.

dangers of fish pedicures

Photo by Daniel on Unsplash

Now, we think we do a good job delivering. Just ask our patient Eileen K, who recently shared,

“If you do not have a podiatrist, then this office is for you. Everyone is welcoming, friendly, and professional. In addition, they have a medical pedicure office which beats any nail salon pedicure. It’s worth the extra money! Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!”

We also know that not every salon properly protects your feet. They’ll offer trendy new treatments, but they can’t guarantee that you’ll walk away free from infection. Heck, they can’t even promise that nail trims and cuticle removals won’t up your risk for ingrown toenails!

Even worse? Some nail spas will offer treatments that are seriously dangerous (and morally questionable.)  Like fish pedicures, which—though illegal here in Texas—are still legal in many vacation hot spots. Which is why we want you to really understand what’s involved in this spa treatment before you take a walk on the wild (pedicure) side.

What is a fish pedicure?

To get a fish pedicure, you dip your feet into a water-basin full of a fish type called Garra rufa. (They’re also known as doctor fish.) The idea behind this spa treatment? Instead of brushing your feet with a pumice stone, these doctor fish will eat your feet’s dead skin cells. In theory, this leaves them smooth and free of calluses. It may also exfoliate dry skin and some studies suggest it could minimize symptoms of psoriasis.

Fish pedicures have been around for a long time. But they rose to prominence when Kim Kardashian sat down for hers while vacationing in Greece. Hilarity ensued as she shrieked her way through the process, but our team at Louetta Foot and Ankle Associates didn’t find the scene so amusing. And that’s because fish pedicures can leave your feet in serious pain/

Health Risks

In a typical salon—and certainly at our Spring TX medi-spa—all feet basins must be sanitized between customers. But at salons that offer fish pedicures, you can’t do that, since you’d have to remove the fish each time to meet safe standards of hygiene.

Also of concern? Doctor fish look a lot like another species of fish that grows teeth and bites. So, if your salon picks the wrong school for your basin, you might end up getting nibbled—which could leave you open to infection. Especially if the fish also bit the previous customer.  Or if you get unlucky and the fish in your bowl carry dangerous bacteria, which could leave you with a life-threatening infection.

As a result of these serious health risks, fish pedicures are banned in many states across the country, including:

  • California
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Texas
  • Washington

Many countries in Europe also ban fish pedicures, as do several Canadian and Mexican provinces.


Additional Considerations


Aside from concerns about your foot health, PETA raises series ethical issues when it comes to this spa treatment. After all, these fish are mistreated, left to starve so they’ll be hungry enough to eat your dead foot skin.

Plus, they’re native to the Middle East and Asia, so if you’re getting this treatment outside of those areas, your fish were shipped there. And many likely died on the way.  Finally, if a spa gets shut down and releases their leftover fish into the wild, they’ll disrupt the natural ecosystem and could overrun local fish populations.

Given all the safety and moral concerns surrounding fish pedicures, we’d suggest steering clear of this trendy spa treatment. Instead, make an appointment at Dr. Michelle’s medi-spa, where our two highly trained pedicurists will safely get your feet looking their best.

From diabetic nail trims, to foot facials, manicures and luxurious massage treatments, you can relax and enjoy some pampering. All without the fear of infection or danger. Or the thought of a bunch of small critters nibbling at your toes!