Doctor Fish Pedicure: How far would you go to look good?
Forget the 'Ick' factor, beastly beauty treatments are gaining fans here, writes Deirdre Reynolds
As a pescatarian, I suppose I had it coming. Having chowed down on hundreds of their cousins over the years, now a tankful of Garra Rufa fish are taking revenge on my tootsies.
Already a hit in Asia, the 'Doctor fish pedicure' is now going swimmingly in select beauty salons nationwide -- with women here splashing out up to €60 to have their hooves sucked soft by the toothless carp.
Measuring a miniscule five centimetres, Jaws they ain't -- but by nibbling away at dead skin they provide a powerful pedicure, says Andrea Smith of The Townhouse Spa in Drogheda, Co Louth.
"Basically, the Garra Rufa fish feed on dead skin and produce an enzyme in their saliva which boosts skin regeneration," says beautician Andrea, who began offering the treatment after trying it for herself in Singapore.
"Once you can get past the 'ick' factor, the results are amazing. It leaves your feet really soft and is also brilliant for treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
"At first, lots of women were coming in to try it out of curiosity," she adds of the fishy foot spa, which -- though ticklish at first -- basically feels like a soothing massage.
"But customers soon realised that it's not just a gimmick and many have made it a regular part of their beauty regime. It's been absolutely flying out."
Although the freaky treatment first went on sale here last year, it's back in the news after being banned in 14 US states and coming under scrutiny in the UK amid fears it could spread infection. Meanwhile, animal-rights groups have also voiced alarm over the conditions in which the hard-working carp are kept.
And while the practice of using Garra Rufa to heal skin dates back over four centuries in their native Turkey, now the country's government has made the 'Doctor fish' a protected species over concerns about their commercial use in salons.
Townhouse Spa boss Andrea rejects claims that the treatment is either unsanitary or cruel -- and as the craze catches on, some salons here have even introduced full-body immersion tanks.
"We check all our customers' feet for fungal infections, verruca and Athlete's foot and wash and disinfect their feet before they're submerged," she says, as a fish (possibly) called Wanda tucks into my big toe.
"Originally, we got 65 fish from Turkey -- five died of natural causes and we had two jumpers that we found on the salon floor.
"Our fish only do five pedicures a day so they're not over-fed and we also give them a special fish food every second day to ensure they've got all the nutrients they need. Our fish are very happy and healthy."
Nonetheless, the controversial toe-sucking treatment begs one simple question: Is there anything women won't do for beauty?
After taking off elsewhere, other beastly beauty treatments that could soon be winging their way to these shores include a bull semen hair masque, bird crap facial, snail slime hand cream and leech baths.
Taking a cue from Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary, top London hairdressers Hari's Salon offers a 'bull semen treatment' made from the protein-packed seed of horny Aberdeen Angus cattle. Nicknamed 'Viagra for hair', the €100 moisturising treatment is said to -- ahem -- give flaccid locks a bit of spunk.
Being pooped on by a bird is reputedly good luck, but now image-conscious New Yorkers are paying for the pleasure -- hoping it'll give them good look too.
Made from nightingale droppings, the so-called 'Geisha facial' has been used by Japanese women for centuries to cleanse and brighten the skin.
At more than €100 a plop in salons, Victoria Beckham reportedly used it to treat the acne that's plagued her since her teens.
Other gross-out attempts to look gorgeous include snake venom face cream reputed to have the same forehead-freezing effects of Botox and a Brazilian Ox bone-marrow shampoo for glossy locks.
So whatever about the fish pedicure, would you brave a bull-semen hair treatment?
"Animal secretions and excretions have been used for centuries in the pursuit of beauty," says beauty therapist Elaine Butler-Doolin of TV3's Celebrity Salon.
"But in more recent years, it became frowned upon to use any part of an animal in products.
"Now though, the quest for eternal youth has come full circle -- and women are going back to whatever works."
"So long as the treatments are FDA-approved and don't have any nasty aromas or textures, I don't see anything wrong with it," adds Elaine, who runs Bespoke Beauty in Donnybrook, Dublin. "I'd have to try any treatment on myself before I'd consider introducing it to my salon.
"But let's face it, we all want to look younger -- even if it means putting bird poo on your face!"
Back at The Townhouse Spa, my 15 minutes as fish food are almost up.
"Actually I've heard it's really good," laughs Andrea, when asked if she had any plans to introduce a bull- semen beauty treatment. "But I think I'd have a hard time convincing customers to give it a go -- and I don't even want to think about how they get it in the first place!"
Doctor fish treatment at The Townhouse Spa, Drogheda, Co Louth, costs €25 for 10 minutes or €60 for 15 minutes and pedicure. See www.thetownhousespa.com