THERE’S something about putting your feet in a tank full of flesh-eating fish that just makes you hesitate ever so slightly before taking the plunge.
Well, okay, they are not exactly flesh-eating, more like dead skin nibblers, but it’s a craze that has swept the country and is now putting a spring in the step of many Ballyclarians.
Garra Rufa fish pedicures are fast becoming the must-have skin treatment for all diehard beauty fanatics - so who better to go along and sample the new craze than the Times’ own intrepid reporter and photographer?
Originating in Turkey, the treatment involves immersing your feet in a tank of the little fish who then nibble away at any dead skin.
Everyone who visits the new Indulge salon in Ballyclare’s Square has their feet washed and cleansed and the water in the tank is changed regularly and filtered throughout the day. The fish themselves are well-looked after and changed on a regular basis - probably so they don’t get fat on all the dead skin in Ballyclare - although they do get fish food at proper mealtimes.
“It’s very clean, we make sure there is no chance of any infection,” said Indulge beauty therapist Lesley-Anne Hamill, before she asked me if I was scared.
It all sounds very easy and straight-forward, but the fear did hit me as I hovered my feet just above the water - I was sure one of the fish was licking his lips in anticipation of the hearty feast only inches away.
As I slowly lowered my kebs into the water the fish latched on with an almost manic hunger of starved animals.
Lesley-Anne describing them as “feisty” was a bit of an understatement, these fish were intent on feasting on my obviously very tasty feet and I was worrying if they were going to leave me anything left to walk on.
But soon the apprehension turned to a ticklish, if nervous and tad anxious experience.
Some of the fish gently nibbled and picked and prodded away, while others seemed intent to reach the core of my soul and were drilling away with an unrelenting focus on the task at hand.
In a separate tank, where photographer Freddie Parkinson had reluctantly also decided to experience the treatment, proceedings appeared more serene. Fish were swimming about gently kissing his feet while he giggled with joyful abandonment. In contrast, in my tank there was battle to the death - bubbles and torrents of splashing water everywhere as the fish fought over the tastiest bits of my feet. Although that might have been my imagination.
“There is no reason to it,” said Lesley-Anne, “it is always very random, sometimes they take to some more than other people.
“It is very good for the circulation and also good for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Obviously it may not be as thorough as taking a cheese grater to your feet, but it is gentle and relaxing and your feet are really smooth afterwards.”
And she was right - for the rest of the day it felt like my feet had been washed in fizzy water, and I can’t tell you how many people I asked to stroke my feet over the weekend such was my amazement at their silky-smooth texture.
Said Lesley-Anne: “It is very popular, especially among men who maybe don’t take as much care of their feet as they should do.”
Lesley-Anne recommends treatment every fortnight for best results and for keeping your feet in the smoothest condition. Freddie and I have already booked our return appointment!
Indulge offers a full range of the more traditional beauty treatments alongside the fish pedicure which costs £8 for 10 minutes, £10 for 15 minutes or £12 for 20 minutes. If you’re now hooked, booking is strongly recommended.