Fish Pedicures Revisited: The Debate hits New York State

Irina Knopp

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The seemingly symbiotic relationship where customers lose their dead skin cells and fish get a free meal is back in the news.  This time, in my home state of New York.

The procedure has spread like wildfire across the country since its establishment in the United States by John Ho at the Yvonne Hair and Nail Salon in the D.C. area.  However, as popularity grew, concerns for the health of salon patrons increased.  Many states have imposed bans on the procedure stating that it can cause fungal and bacterial infections because there is no way to sterilize the fish. If New York follows suit, it would become the 15th state to ban the procedure.

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Fish Pedicures — Who Knew?

The Florida Board of Cosmetology has taken a stand against fish pedicures.  Now, I know what you may be thinking — fish don’t have feet and even if they did, why would the Cosmetology Board want to prohibit their proper care and grooming?  Alas, fish pedicures are something different entirely.  They consist of humans sticking their feet into a small pool of water stocked with fish.  The fish then eat the dead skin off the humans’ feet.  In banning the procedure, Florida joins Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, New Hampshire and others.  Apparently, there is some concern over disinfecting the pool.

To my eyes, this story has some interesting subtext.  While there is an undeniable grossness factor that might make one instinctively support such a ban, anyone who has ever waded in a pond filled with fish knows that certain fish like feet (and dead skin).  The underlying issue here is not that fish eat dead skin but rather that, in this context, eating dead skin is all they can do.  The fish live their lives in a small pool, acting as living cuticle nippers in the service of human vanity.

So, for whatever reason, I’m glad it’s no longer permitted in Florida.  Hat tip to Florida Animal Law for breaking the story.  And here‘s a good read on the same issue in New Hampshire.

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