Considering my passion for punishing footwear, I’ve come a little bit late to the fish pedicure party. Friends have been raving about the benefits of this ancient treatment for months, so I decided this week that it was finally time to give my feet the post-party cooldown they deserved.
Putting aside my fear of accidental piranha-type scenarios, I booked a session at Malika at One New Change, the shiny new shopping centre in London’s St Paul’s, and rocked up for my session in a pair of boots that have seen better days, ensuring I was more than ready to let the feeding frenzy begin! The friendly assistants soon put me at my ease and explained what would be happening, along with some interesting facts about why fish pedicures have become so popular.
If you’ve not tried the treatment before, the procedure really couldn’t be any more simple – or any more bizarre! You’re simply let to a bank of tanks surrounded by comfortable seats where you sit down and lower your feet into the fish-filled water. The moment you do, your many aquatic assistants get to work on nibbling away at your toes, heels, ankles and any other bit of skin they can get their tiny mouths around.
The toothless Garra Rufa (or “doctor”) fish will then continue to suck away any dead skin cells, gently exfoliating the skin, for as long as you want to stay in the tank (usually between 10 and 40 minutes). The beauty of this process is that none of the healthy flesh is disturbed or irritated – a result that’s much harder to get with a file or pumice stone. The assistant explained that the fish also secrete an enzyme which nourishes the skin, leaving it soft and smooth.
The sensation during the treatment is not at all unpleasant and definitely not painful: initially, it really tickles, but it only took me a few seconds to get used to the sensation and after that it felt really quite relaxing: like having a very gentle massage. I certainly didn’t want to remove my feet once it was time to go!
After the session, my feet felt every bit as smooth as I’d been told to expect, and this was particularly surprising given the state they were in beforehand. I tend to suffer with the dreaded chilblains in winter, which can stay looking red, swollen and unsightly for months after an attack. After just 30 minutes in the fish tank, there was no sign of this inflammation, and my heels also felt baby soft. I can see why Malika get so many repeat customers now!