A novel type of pedicure involving live fish which chomp away at dead skin is catching on at a Virginia beauty salon.
Owners of Yvonne Hair and Nails in Alexandria, a suburb of Washington DC, estimate 5,000 customers have so far tried the unorthodox treatment, in which customers immerse their feet in warm water filled with tiny, voracious carp.
The toothless fish, termed garra rufa but known as “doctor fish”, nibble away at dead skin while leaving healthy flesh untouched, providing what advocates say is a natural alternative to potentially unsanitary razors, clippers or pumice stones.
John Ho, who owns the salon with wife Yvonne, said he was initially sceptical about offering the technique, which is popular in spas in Turkey, where the fish come from, as well as parts of Japan, China, Singapore and Malaysia.
”I know people were a little intimidated at first,” he told the Associated Press. “But I just said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ “
But customers flocked to try the treatment and as word spread the salon’s Dr Fish Massage was featured on local radio and Tyra Banks’ television talk show.
Tracy Roberts, 33, described it as “the best pedicure I ever had” and said it marked “the first time somebody got rid of my calluses completely.”
After the fish have spent up to 30 minutes chewing away hard skin – there are about 100 to every tank – customers receive a standard pedicure.
A similar treatment was featured in an episode of Ugly Betty last year when Wilhelmina Slater, played by Vanessa Williams, had a pedicure that included soaking her feet in water full of fish.
Mr Ho, who spent 40,000 dollars setting up the pedicures, is hoping to extend the service to eventually offer full-body treatments that could treat skin conditions such as psoriasis.
For some ticklish customers, however, the sensation can almost prove too much.
”It didn’t go as smoothly as planned,” writes Yvonne customer Maeghan Leigh, describing on her blog how she clutched pillows to stifle her “hysterical laughing”.
”Seriously, those little guys on your toes is the most outrageous ridiculous feeling in the world, meaning lots of “eeeeeeeeeeeeeee” squeals,” she writes. “In the end though, I would definitely go back for more because my tootsies are smoother than a baby’s bottom.”