News & Politics

Hanging With the Fishes: A Fishy Spa Treatment

Imagine walking into a shallow pool filled with thousands of minnowlike fish. Now picture the tiny creatures swarming your legs and feet, nibbling at the dead skin on your callused heels. Sound like the spa experience of your dreams?

Once patrons of Yvonne Hair & Nails in Alexandria get past the initial shock of seeing these toothless little eaters covering their feet or hands, some become hooked on the experience, known as the Dr. Fish Massage.

The fish species, Garra rufa, was discovered in the hot springs of Turkey and originally used as a treatment for psoriasis and eczema.

“When I first saw the fish, I thought, ewww,” says Susan Valentine, a client. “They convinced me to try it. I went from ‘Ewww’ to ‘Ooohh, this feels good’ and sat there for 40 minutes.”

Clients sit on a leather banquette and dangle their feet into the salon’s pool, which is kept at 94 degrees and contains 7,000 fish.

“The sensation is tingly,” says Kate Sargent, another salon client and fish convert. “The results are amazing.”

A fish pedicure costs $40 and includes a 25-minute fish soak; a $55 version features a more luxurious pedicure. Fish manicures are $20 or $30.

Although Yvonne’s treatment is for hands and feet, the fish were imported from Asia, where spas provide full-body experiences.

Wondering how safe it is to have fish nibble at you? “I don’t know of any risk the fish would impose,” says Dr. Paula Bourelly, a dermatologist with Georgetown University Hospital.

Washingtonian Spa Database

This article appears in the June 2008 issue of Washingtonian. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

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