A woman’s toenails stopped growing and began falling off months after getting a fish pedicure, a recent doctor’s report revealed.
The beauty practice, in which tiny fish called Garra rufa nibble at the dead skin on people’s feet, has become a popular method of exfoliation at many spa outlets.
According to the case report published in the journal JAMA Dermatology on Tuesday, an unnamed woman in her 20s who received a fish pedicure reportedly contracted onychomadesis — a condition that causes nails to shred.
Other known causes of onychomadesis such as major illness or side effects from medications have been ruled out by her dermatologist.
“While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix,” Sheri Lipner, the woman’s doctor, told Gizmodo.
Dr. Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University’s Weill Cornell Medicine, noted that her patient’s condition is the first documented case caused by a fish pedicure.
While it was not revealed where the patient received the procedure, the doctor noted that they are popular in China.
It is worth noting that due to health concerns, fish pedicures have been banned in more than 10 states in the U.S.
“I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic purpose,” Lipner was quoted as saying. “In addition to onychomadesis, there are also serious infections associated with fish pedicures.”
There is still a chance that the woman’s nails may grow back, but Lipner noted that it can take as long as 18 months.
“We will have to wait quite a while to see the outcome,” she added.
Fish pedicure tubs are a potential fertile breeding ground for bacteria as the tubs collect waste produced by the fish.
Customers who often seek out such services include those who suffer contagious conditions such as nail fungus and athlete’s foot.
Disinfecting a pedicure tub full of fish between customers can prove to be a challenge as sanitizing the fish themselves are almost impossible.