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Do Fish Pedicures Really Work?
If you thought the fountain of youth was a strange concept, try flesh-eating fish or a faceful of placenta. Some trendy spa treatments are big on hype, but do they deliver? DC dermatologists Howard Brooks and Tina Alster help distinguish weird science from no science.
How it works: Soak your feet in a vat of doctor fish and watch them nibble off dead skin.
The hype: You get baby-soft soles without razors or pumices.
The truth: Dip in at your own risk. “If the fish are being reused, there’s a high chance of spreading infections that can require antibiotics or antifungal medications to treat,” says Dr. Brooks.
How it works: Named for its Japanese origins, this facial features powdered nightingale excrement.
The hype: Skin is brightened, glowing, and lustrous.
The truth: There’s no evidence that bird poop sloughs off dead skin any better than a basic facial. “For extra exfoliation, choose a facial with salicylic or glycolic acid,” advises Brooks. “Or go for a chemical peel, which is best for removing spots and improving texture.”
How it works: A stream of pressurized oxygen and moisturizer is sprayed onto the skin for deep hydration.
The hype: Lines and wrinkles are instantly smoothed and plumped.
The truth: “Between the pressure from the spray and the manual stimulation, skin looks swollen and plump, which makes wrinkles less noticeable immediately afterwards, but that effect is gone within hours,” says Dr. Alster. The massage, steam, and hot towels used in a regular facial may have the same effect for less money.
Slimming Body Wrap
How it works: After mineral and enzyme solutions are slathered onto the body, you’re wrapped in plastic or seaweed for up to an hour to “eliminate toxins.”
The hype: Cellulite is smoothed away and skin is left firmer; inches disappear from the upper arms, belly, hips, and thighs.
The truth: Seaweed may cause a slight inflammatory response that makes skin look plumper, temporarily minimizing cellulite. Brooks cautions that any slimming is water loss, because you’re not getting rid of fat: “A day later, you’ll be back where you started.”
How it works: Mini-electrodes painlessly jolt skin and “exercise” underlying muscles.
The hype: Billed as a nonsurgical facelift, it claims to sculpt cheekbones, tighten the jaw line, and lift brows.
The truth: If you’re looking for a little lift before a big night out, this might help. Very subtle results last about a day and are especially noticeable where skin is thinner, such as around the eyes. Skip it if you’re carrying any extra weight, says Brooks: “It’s such a slight improvement in tightening muscle that any fat on top will prevent you from seeing it.”
How it works: A protein-rich serum of placenta and seaweed is applied to the skin with a saturated fabric mask, followed by a layer of placenta facial cream.
The hype: It reduces the appearance of deep lines and wrinkles, heals acne-prone skin, and provides a noticeable lift by revitalizing cells.
The truth: Although human placenta is unquestionably rich in nutrients, no formal studies confirm that topical use can penetrate the skin and deliver stem cells into the dermis where it can actually regenerate skin, says Alster.