By Amanda MacMillan
A FISH supper with a difference will arrive in Scotland this week as two new “fish spas” open for business.
The latest beauty craze to sweep Britain will see customers paying to have their toes nibbled by fish.
Tiny toothless carp are placed in tanks where glamorous spa –goers allow them to feast on their feet – removing dead skin to leave them soft and smooth.
Christina Wright, founder of Apply Feet, runs a chain of fish spas in England.
Her first Scottish spa opens in Edinburgh’s St James Centre today (Mon).
She said that the sensation is actually quite pleasant and that there is no need to worry about pain.
She said: “It feels like putting your feet in a bowl of champagne.
“It’s a fizzing sensation, a very nice, gentle pins and needles.
“A lot of people scream or giggle in the first 30 seconds but once they understand that the fish are not going to hurt them then they can relax.”
The fish, known as garra rufa fish or doctor fish, only feed on dead or infected skin, allowing healthy skin to grow more easily.
They originate in Turkey, and have long been used in the Far East to treat skin complaints.
The fish saliva contains an enzyme called diathanol which is said to improve the skin regeneration process.
Joanne Revill-Price, a formal local council environmental health officer, gave up her job to set up the Beauty Fish Foot Spa, which opens in Glasgow on Thursday.
She first came across the treatment while on holiday in Singapore.
She said: “I first saw it there several years ago and thought it was fantastic and I’ve been thinking seriously for the last 18 months about bringing the treatment to Scotland.
“What the fish do – removing the dead skin – is something you could normally only do during a pedicure or trip to the chiropodist’s and it’s not a very enjoyable process.”
An average treatment takes around 20 minutes and costs £20, with around 150-200 fish nibbling on each foot.
It has also been claimed that the fish foot spa can help those suffering with a number of serious skin conditions.
Some psoriasis suffers have been known to travel from Britain to Turkey in order to have the treatment before it was made available in the UK.
Ms Wright said: “It’s a great healer of eczema and psoriasis.
“We’ve got a lot of sufferers who come to us quite often and say that the day before their treatment they can’t walk and for two days afterwards they can.
“It’s not been proven yet but there is still a lot of research going on.”
But Bevis Man of the British Skin Foundation said that people should be cautious.
He said: “Some sufferers of psoriasis believe that going to a fish spa can bring with it some benefits in terms of their symptoms.
“If this is the case, then by all means continue the process.
“However it’s worth pointing out that the actual benefits for this treatment have yet to be proven scientifically, and that it is essential to continue with the more traditional methods of psoriasis management.”
Advocates of the treatment also claim that it can stimulate circulation, a common problem with diabetes sufferers.
Eddie Fullick, 52, has suffered from type two diabetes for 30 years and started visiting a fish foot spa regularly after he found the treatment helped his problem.
He said: “I have very bad circulation in both my hands and my feet and I’ve found that through regular use of the tanks I was actually getting feeling on the bottom of my feet for the first time in years.
“My circulation would really improve and it would last eight days or so after a treatment before it started reversing.”
A spokesperson for Diabetes UK said: “We’ve seen no evidence for it and we tend not to recommend things unless there’s been research done, however if people are getting benefitting feelings from it I would imagine it’s a pretty harmless treatment.”