Video Clip: Suzette Standring Gets a Fish Pedicure
In France I had a fish pedicure where scores of fishes nibbled away at my tootsies. When I read the signs, “Fish Pedicure” and “Fish Massage,” I joined the gawkers at the front of the salon to peer in at two young girls with feet immersed in their own individual fish tanks. Suddenly, it seemed like a good idea. I said to my husband, “Give me 11 euros and come back in 15 minutes.”
David and I were visiting Aigues-Mortes, an ancient walled town in the Petit Camargue region of Southern France. Giant stone ramparts of its fortress encircle the medieval village. After two hours of touring and shopping, my dogs were yapping! Why not try a foot soak with fishes?
French Salon Guy led me to a white tiled footbath where my feet were soaped and rinsed. “So how does the fish pedicure work?” I asked.
He explained the tiny fish nibble away at dead skin, an au natural way to smoother feet.
“You mean they eat skin?” I asked, slightly pulling my toes away.
“No, no. Zey nibble and spit it out,” he said as he briskly dried my newly washed feet.
I was led to a sparkling clean tank with dozens of tiny black fishes. “Slowly lower your feet into zey watah,” he said.
I did and immediately, schools of fish clustered around my feet and the buzz began. No, there wasn’t any sound, but it felt like buzzing. It was ticklish, and just a tiny bit scary, like little bubbles with teeth nibbling at my ankles.
My face went into contortions, the universal language of yow, eek, is this going to hurt, and what am I doing?
I tried very hard not to imagine the fish as the tiny, more refined French cousins of piranhas. Actually, the species are Garra rufa, kangal fish or doctor fish, which originate in the Middle East. They have been used in spa treatments for skin conditions because they work to expose new skin. The practice is not widely done in the U.S. and has been banned in a few states. The Center for Disease Control lists some reasons.
At first it felt freaky to feel my pedicure “go live” and French Salon Guy tried to reassure me by pointing to a different tank. “You would feel it even more in zat tank because zose fishes zey are bigger.”
Well, the next adventurous patron was seated at “zat tank.” When “zose bigger fishes” glommed onto her tootsies, her body language went into scream mode, even though she was trying to stay quiet and not to shoot out of her seat. Her friend at the next tank nearly wet herself laughing.
By now I was a pro. I sat back, looking down at the crystal waters in my pedicure fish tank, feeling slightly more at ease. If I didn’t allow my mind to wander into the bad neighborhoods of man-eating fish, or worse, man eating pedicure-fed fish, it felt rather pleasant.
Brrrrrring! My fifteen minutes were up. I rose from my tank and my feet were once again soaped, rinsed and dried. Were my feet noticeably different? Well, not really, but in comparison my own manicurist has to scour and brush my feet to beauty. Did I really think a 15-minute nibbling would achieve the same results? Definitely, more tank time would be needed. Fresher feet through fish – now who knew?