Though it does not meet the legal definition of a pedicure, the practice of sticking your feet into a tub filled with diminutive omnivorous fish from the species Garra rufa has been a popular spa service worldwide for more than a decade, according to Dr Lipner. If you don't know, the fish pedicure is just like it sounds. Dermatologist and lead author Shari Lipner diagnosed the woman with onychomadesis, or a condition that halts nail growth at its root, likely caused by fish repeatedly biting the affected toes during the treatment. Lipner notes that our toenails only grow 1mm a month on average, while an entire nail can take as long as 18 months to be replaced.
"I am not convinced at all that the fishes caused the problem", Dr. Antonella Tosti, the Fredric Brandt Endowed Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, wrote in an email.
A young woman lost her toenails when they began to separate from her toes.
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As for the woman, her nails will likely return, but not for a long time. In addition, the fish themselves can not be sanitized between each customer's pedicure session, the CDC says. Lipner was not able to identify the fish species involved in this case.
Having fish eat dead skin off your feet may be a trendy (and ticklish) way to exfoliate, but so-called "fish pedicures" could pose health risks. It could be due to lingering microbes from whomever's feet were there last, versus the fish itself. There other known causes of onychomadesis were ruled out, so it's thought that the fish pedicure is to blame. Additionally, the fish are sometimes recycled from person to person, and a bacterial outbreak among the fish was reported in a 2011 investigation by the UK's Fish Health Inspectorate. Fish were found with bulging eyes, many hemmorhaging around the gills and mouth. David Verner-Jeffreys, a senior microbiologist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the United Kingdom, stated the culprit for the outbreak was streptococcal bacteria, which is found fish like tilapia. As a result, people may see deep grooves that run horizontally across their nails - known as Beau lines - or they may see larger gaps where there is no nail, the AAD said. They hit their peak in popularity in the USA around a decade ago, but have since been banned in at least 10 states, including NY, largely because of health concerns.
"I think we can pretty definitively say that getting a fish pedicure is probably not the way to go to treat skin and nail conditions".