There are a number of Beauty Salons in town. Most of them offer the usual facials, pedicures, manicures etc. However, at the beginning of the year a new salon arrived in town.
Just glancing through the window, it looked like any other Salon, if a little more upmarket than the others. What puzzled me, though, was the brown leather seats with mini basins and what looked like empty aquariums in front of them. I shrugged and carried on with whatever it was I had to do that day…
Then TOH came home from seeing his Nan one weekend, saying that he’d had his feet nibbled with his nephews.
“Pardon?” I said.
It turns out that his younger nephew has Eczema and as a way of preventing and controlling the condition, TOH’s Sister had been taking him for regular visits to the Doctor Fish spa in their local shopping centre.
SIL had paid for TOH to try the experience himself and by the sounds of it, had converted him! I shuddered at the thought of having fish nibble at my dead skin and vowed never to try it.
During one trip into town, TOH pointed out the new salon and said “They’re doing that Fish Pedicure thing you know.”
“Really? That’s nice.” I dismissed what I knew he was going to say by walking straight past.
A few weeks later, another salon began offering the same pedicure service and I got a little curious. I peered in through the window, but could only see people having manicures done. “Must be done in a different room.”
I mentioned it to a friend in the school playground that day and she grinned. “You have got to try it.” She said. “It’s the funniest thing ever!”
What could be funny about being eaten alive? I thought and smiled vaguely before changing the subject.
I was still curious though. So I googled it.
Some of the states in the USA had banned it as being unsanitary, due to the fact that you can’t destroy the fish after using them, the way you can a syringe or a razor blade. There was an interesting article on the BBC News website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12595809 – and while it didn’t encourage me to have the pedicure, it didn’t scare me away either. After that I forgot about it, with too many other things on my mind.
Fast forward to today.
We stopped outside the Salon’s window. I peered in at the tanks of fish.
“Go on. Have a go.” TOH said, nudging me. “It doesn’t hurt.”
“Nah. We haven’t got time.”
“Yes, we have. Go on.” he said, pushing me towards the door.
“I can’t afford it.”
“Yes, we can. ” He pushed me up to the door and I spun away, laughing. I looked in through the window a little more. The two women at the counter were smiling and looked rather friendly.
I made to walk away.
“Just try it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it ever again.” TOH said. “You never do anything just for yourself like this. Come on, pamper yourself for a change.”
That made me pause. Because he’s right; I never do pamper myself. I rationalise it as an unnecessary expense and walk on by. I only have my hair done a few times a year, usually when I can’t see out through my fringe and I’ve never had a professional facial or massage done.
“Okay then.” I heard myself say. What on earth am I doing? I thought.
TOH took advantage of my momentary hesitation and pushed me in through the door. The women at the counter smiled.
“Fish Therapy?” One asked.
“Um, yes.” I said.
“Any Fungal infections, Athletes foot, open wounds….” she ran through a small list of things.
“No. Just hard skin.”
“Good. That’s what the fish love.” She smiled and handed me a clipboard. “Fill this in.”
Three minutes later, I was sat on one of those brown leather seats taking my socks and shoes off and rolling my jeans up. The assistant used a small shower to wash my feet off – that tickled a little, then I had to rest my feet on the edge of the tank.
The fish shoaled just underneath my feet and you could almost hear them squeaking “Feed me!”
“Put your feet in slowly and up to your ankles.” she said.
I summoned up my courage and did as she said. Then I started giggling.
Because it was tickling! I’ve never had my feet tickled in such a way. The pedicure I had before (a traditional style one in a Scholl shop) was really relaxing and yes, it tickled, but never like this!
You could feel the fish sucking at your feet and when they moved it was like having a mini hoover run over your skin. I couldn’t help giggling! I must have laughed for three minutes or more – the tears rolled down my cheeks and my diaphragm got a good workout.
Eventually I got used to the sensation and started watching the fish work. It really was fascinating. I spread out my toes the best that I could and they darted in-between. They even hopped from foot to foot, obviously looking for more food. By the end of the 15 minute teaser session, I was relaxed. Getting my feet out was a little tricky – the fish were determined little things and one or two managed to hang on, but soon plopped back into their tank.
The assistant showered my feet again, gave me a paper towel to dry my feet with and some lotion to massage into my feet. She also covered the fish over.
“All fed now?” I asked.
“Yes. I’ll clean the tank out a little later and they won’t get used again until tomorrow.” She replied. Well, that put paid to any lingering thoughts about it being unsanitary.
Walking back to the car, my feet started tingling.
They still are tingling, 3 hours later. It’s left me with a tiny headache, which makes me think the fish may have stimulated the reflexology points on my feet and knocked out a blockage or two in the Qi lines. This can only be a good thing as Reflexology is an excellent way to de-stress.
* * *
Now that I think about it, it was a strange experience, but one that I’d like to repeat – possibly with my mum when she visits in the Summer.
In summary, it’s a healthy, natural way of getting of getting a pedicure – the fish get fed and are well looked after. You get the benefits of a laughter workout – The 10 Benefits of Laughter – and you have wonderful, smooth, soft skin on your feet, just perfect for wearing sandals!
The salon I went to was The Nibblers and they have a number of add ons like foot / leg massages and File / Polish Treatments for a very reasonable cost, so as a treat once a month, I can highly recommend it!
It was the weirdest experience of my life so far, but also one of the best!