Fish pedicures in London are the hottest thing to have swept the city since the Royal Wedding. Every time I walk down a street or through a shopping center, I seem to spot the low-lit rooms with deep square tanks of Garra Rufa exfoliating spa goers’ feet.
Last week I received an invitation from Aqua Sheko spa in Soho to try out one their fish therapy treatments. I was intrigued, but hesitant. Would it hurt? Would it tickle? Would it make my feet look any better (not difficult given that my last pedicure was an embarrassingly long time ago)?
I decided to put the question out to my friends on Facebook. The sheer volume of responses surprised me. Everything from “bit tickly” to “weird” to “I love it!” appeared on my wall. While informative, the comments didn’t give a clear consensus. I was going to have to try it for myself.
On Monday afternoon I walked into the spa in on Frith Street and checked in for my appointment. A friendly woman asked me a few questions about the health of my feet and whether I had any skin conditions. When I got the all-clear, she showed me downstairs to the treatment area.
The large room was dark save for a few low lights and the fluorescence emanating from the glass fish tanks. Behind the tanks sat rows of raised black leather chairs, one facing the other. In the middle there was a row of green plants, and in the background there was music playing.
I was offered a seat on a sofa at one end of the room, and sat with my bare feet over a ground-level black sink. There a staff member inspected my feet for cuts and abrasions, then washed them with hand soap, dried them, and put a fresh white slipper on each one.
Next I moved over to the fish, and there the magic began. I slowly lowered my feet into the water, unsure of what to expect. Within seconds, my feet were surrounded by tiny black fish around an inch long.
At first it tickled. I even laughed a little bit. But after a few seconds my skin adjusted and it felt more like I was getting hundreds of tiny massages. It was strange. It was good.
Over the course of the next 25 minutes, I sat and stared at the Garra Rufa as they gave me my first fish pedicure in London. Mesmerized, I couldn’t decide whether the image of tiny fish cleaning my feet was exciting, or whether it looked like I was in a bad scene from an Indiana Jones movie.
Most of the fish concentrated on my feet, hovering around my toes and soles. A few ventured up as far as my ankles, and some even went so high that their heads were sticking out above the water level.
As I watched, I was given a tea menu. I chose the Pink Tip tea, which was brought to my chair along with a plate of Ritz crackers. The choice of crackers seemed a bit random, but they were nice to munch on while I watched the fish at work.
After 25 minutes my feet came out of the water and I moved into one of the small caves in the back of the room. There my feet were rubbed down with sanitizer before being treated to a 20-minute massage. It was a relaxing way to end the fish pedicure.
At the end of the treatment, I walked back upstairs and out into the daylight, curious to see how my feet looked post-fish. As far as I could see, they were shiny and healthy-looking. Had the fish been able to paint with nail polish, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a fish pedicure and a regular one.
Two days on, my feet are still looking nicer than before. I haven’t developed gills or lost the ability to breathe above water. Overall my first fish pedicure in London was a positive experience, and I’m glad I decided to try it!