You know those fish pedicures where people soak their feet in tubs of warm water while itty bitty fish called Garra rufa nibble at their dead skin cells and exfoliate their feet? Yeah, that’s a thing and after one woman had the bizarre beauty practice, her toenails started falling off and her doctor says it’s because she contracted a disease from the fish pedicure.
A case report in the journal JAMA Dermatology explains that an unnamed woman in her 20s contracted onychomadesis from the pedi and that caused her nails to shred. Her nails stopped growing and fell off, so she went to her dermatologist, who ruled out other known causes of the condition, including major illness or side effects from medications.
“While the mechanism of action is not entirely clear, it is likely due to the fish traumatizing the nail matrix,” explains the woman’s treating doctor, Dr. Sheri Lipner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University’s Weill Cornell Medicine. She says this is the first documented case of the disease being caused by a fish pedicure.
This beauty craze is already banned in 10 states because of health concerns, but just in case you were still considering giving it a try, Dr. Lipner advises against it. She warns that aside from risk of getting the nail-losing condition, fish pedicures are also associated with serious infections. On the upside, she says the woman’s nails MAY grow back, but it could take a year and a half.