Is fish foot therapy or ichthyotherapy dangerous?

24 de November de 2020

Ichthyotherapy is a form of foot cleansing in which the feet are immersed in pools of warm water filled with small fish that act as “living exfoliators”, because with their mouths they clean the skin and leave it free of dead cells.

Although it has been known since 1863, this technique has resurfaced with great force since the beginning of the century under the name of ichthyotherapy and is much sought after by people who wish to have soft feet or by those suffering from problems such as psoriasis and eczema.

Here we use fish of the species
Garra rufa
which have suction cup-shaped mouths, lacking teeth. This species also secretes a substance in its saliva that stimulates the formation of skin cells.

But although it is considered a natural and minimally invasive pedicure technique, this does not mean that it is without risk. That is why we will tell you why you should be cautious before applying for this service.

A form of natural exfoliation

Many large aquatic animals such as sharks, whales and killer whales often establish a symbiosis with smaller species that feed on parasites that attach to their skin or on food debris that could cause infections.

An example is sharks and remoras. The latter clean the shark’s rough skin and keep it healthy.

In ichthyotherapy, the objective is to exfoliate the skin and stimulate the regeneration of new, smoother and blemish-free epidermis.

This therapy has been used in Turkey since 1863 and the rise of tourism and the fashion for Turkish baths has led to the expansion of this practice to the rest of the world in the last 20 years.

disinfecting feet after ichthyotherapy

The problem of hygiene

Any beauty practice that involves the use of plant or animal elements requires compliance with a series of health standards to ensure that it does not cause any harm to humans.

In the case of ichthyotherapy, it is common to find this service in large Spa chains and beauty clinics, but it has also proliferated without control in businesses that are poorly supervised or do not meet the minimum sanitary standards.

At these sites, the risk of contracting diseases increases because the tanks are not washed frequently or the water is not changed between one client and the next.

It has been determined that sharing water with others can increase the risk of skin diseases such as fungus and plantar warts. There are also indications of an increased risk of viral diseases such as Hepatitis B and C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Risk to natural resources

Humans are not the only ones potentially affected by ichthyotherapy. The exaggerated growth of this foot cleaning technique has led to an overexploitation of natural Garra Rufa fish farms.

To supply the demand for cleaner fish, another species known as “Chinchin Yu”, native to China, is being used in many places. The problem is that this species does have a large number of sharp little teeth that “bite” into small pieces of skin.

This increases the risk of skin lesions and the spread of diseases.

For this reason, we advise you to use the ichthyotherapy only in authorized places, which have sanitized tanks with the species
Garra rufa
and that have a good reputation, in addition to being duly registered with the health authorities.

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Article prepared by Clínica San Román



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