The freakish beauty practice has people rest their feet in tubs of lukewarm water while tiny fish called Garra rufa nibble at their toes - exfoliating the skin by sucking off dead cells. Lipner notes that our toenails only grow 1mm a month on average, while an entire nail can take as long as 18 months to be replaced.
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.
Writing in the journal JAMA Dermatology, she explained that the freakish beauty ritual first gained traction after people noticed that wild populations of the toothless fish - a member of the carp family native to Turkey - liked to nibble on human skin, and for whatever reason, preferred munching on unsightly psoriasis plaques more than normal tissue.
Six months into her nail troubles, she visited a dermatologist, who ruled out any known causes of onychomadesis, such as major illness or a side effect of certain medications. This nail shedding is called onychomadesis, and it usually results in the nail falling off after an injury stops nail growth. "I am not convinced at all that the fishes caused the problem", Dr. Antonella Tosti, the Fredric Brandt Endowed Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told CNN. Following her pedicure, most of her toenails on both feet stopped growing and began to fall off, a condition known as onychomadesis.
The popularity of fish pedicures peaked about 10 years ago, but they are still trendy today, the report said.
Here in Canada, the Vancouver Island Health Authority shut down a fish pedicure spa in Duncan, B.C.in 2011, citing concerns the pedicures could lead to the transmission of skin diseases.
"I do not recommend fish pedicures for any medical or aesthetic goal", Lipner said.
There have even been two recorded cases of serious staph infections tied to fish pedicures, Lipner noted.
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 USA, but they remain popular in China. According to the CDC, more than 10 US states have banned fish pedicures entirely.
Just how the nibbling fish triggered onychomadesis "is unknown", Lipner said, but "it is likely that direct trauma caused by fish biting multiple nail units causes a cessation in nail plate production".
Indeed, in 2012, researchers in the United Kingdom intercepted shipments of Garra rufa fish bound for U.K. spas and tested them for bacteria.
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