Woman loses toenails after having a trendy fish pedicure

(Picture: Getty Images/EyeEm)

Is no beauty treatment safe?

First we were warned of the risks of getting eyelash extensions. Then we discovered how wrong things can go if you don’t correctly remove your mascara before bed. Microblading might seem like a miracle eyebrow fix, but even that can have disastrous results.

Now it’s those trendy fish pedicures that are shrouded in horror.

You know the ones we’re talking about: The gimmicky pedicure in which you dunk your feet in water and tiny fish nibble away dead skin. They were all the rage for a while, then reports of bacterial infections put us off.

But it’s still been tempting to treat ourselves when we spot one of those little tanks… until now.

A new doctor’s report suggests that popping your feet in a tank of Garra rufa could end up making you lose your toenails.


The report, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, describes a woman in her 20s who is believed to have contracted an infection called onychomadesis from a fish pedicure.

(Picture: MCT via Getty Images)

Onychomadesis causes your toenails to shed and fall off.

The woman visited her dermatologist after her months of her toenails falling off. There other known causes of onychomadesis were ruled out, so it’s thought that the fish pedicure is to blame.

That’s because we know that fish pedicures pose a risk of transmitting infections, as the fish are often used on more than one customer. Tanks are often not correctly sanitised, and disease-causing bacteria can be found in the water and in the fish.

Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology, told Gizmodo: ‘While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix.’

This is the first reported case of a fish pedicure causing the toenails to fall off, so it’s not necessarily common. But the case is enough to sway us away from the treatment for quite some time.

The report doesn’t specify where the woman had her pedicure, for the sake of protecting her anonymity, but it’s worth noting that the pedicures have been banned in many states in the US, but they remain popular in China.

It’s thought that the woman will not be toenail-free forever. Toenails can take months to grow back, however, so she may need to wait a year before she can start rocking a great polish.

Here’s hoping she doesn’t resort to another fish pedicure to get her feet summer-ready.

We’d recommend sticking to the foot file and slathering on the moisturiser before bed. Having fish eat away your skin may feel luxurious (and ticklish), but it’s not worth the risk.

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