March 2009

Vicki Peters

The Nail Extension | by Vicki Peters


There’s Something Fishy About Fish Pedicures

Editor’s Note: Pedicures by fish — the use of tiny, live carp to clean feet — has been deemed unsanitary and illegal in several states. California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology issued a statement saying “fish pedicures” are not permitted in California under the Board’s health and safety regulations. The fish pedicures, popular in Turkey and Asian countries, started gaining attention in the states after a Virginia-based spa talked to the media about the benefits of using fish instead of razors to slough away scales and calluses.

Fish pedicure – I wonder who the genius is that thought of this?

Fish Photo provided by Rhonda Kibuk from Ford City, PA and Tommy the fish (deceased). Maybe they tried to disinfect him!

In the wake of the recent media frenzy about fish pedicures, that’s all you hear about around the nail business and for good reason… especially when a state board approves them.

Fish pedicures are definitely not sanitary and just how do you go about disinfecting the fish? It would kill them!

Besides, under the category of common sense, I don’t understand why anyone would even want to put their feet into a bowl of pedicure water that fish poop in when the nail business is plagued with disinfection problems as it is. It just does not make any sense to me, not to mention a fish eating the dead skin on feet. How barbaric!

I work with the Nail Manufacturer Council on writing protocol ( and they recently stated the following answer to the question: Why is the new trend of fish pedicures being approved by some state boards? Aren’t we required to use EPA registered disinfectants on everything that touches the client’s skin?

The Nail Manufacturer’s Council does not support “fish pedicures” since the procedure is in clear violation of many state board requirements that all surfaces or implements coming in contact with clients’ skin must be properly cleaned and disinfected between uses. Since the fish, container and water cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected as required, this is an unsanitary and potentially risky procedure which should not be allowed or preformed in salons.

I recently came across some written material posted by the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology and here is what was written:

“I see no reason why [fish pedicures] should not be approved, as long as the licensee follows basic sanitation guidelines and examines the clients feet as any other procedure, this is no big deal,” [Dr. Marilyn Huheey] concluded. The service, which costs approximately $45.00 (which does not include a pedicure), has gained attention across the country. But before you rush right out to bring this new service to your salon, consider the costs. Each fish is approximately $100 a piece and you need 30 - 40 of them to perform a service according to salon staff. So, keep that in mind before thinking you can go to the local aquarium to buy just any old fish.

So I went “fishing” more and searched around the Ohio State Board website and found this as well:

All instruments should be washed in soapy water after each client and fully immersed in a disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for at least 10 minutes.

Now common sense tells me that this rule contradicts everything by approving fish pedicures. I also find on many state board websites the terms sanitation and sterilization used when the term disinfection should be used. No wonder we’re confused.

Use Your Common Sense

Another thing that confuses us is the use of Credo Blades, which is a name brand for foot razor blades. No matter what your state board says we should not be using them. Most state boards will not list the term “Credo Blade” to be politically correct, and some also state that you cannot cut skin.

So common sense tells me that you cannot use a razor blade on the callous. Plus today we have great callous remover products that are much safer to use than a razor blade anyway. And for those demanding clients that are requesting blades, sell them on your service of callous removal products and tell them if they are not happy with the results you will refund them. They will be pleased. Using the razor blade is not worth losing your license.

So the purpose of this “fishing “ trip is to get you to use common sense on things when you are confused, even if they are state board rules.

You should always call the state board and clarify a rule that is not clear, then use your common sense, especially if they do not have a definitive answer.

We need to think outside the box sometimes and question what is right and wrong, even if it is a state board rule. We should also be giving our state boards feedback on situations like the fish pedicure and razor blades so they can evaluate the feedback. They need to hear from us.

Attending open state board meetings are important as well. They are your state board and you should be heard and offer assistance when you feel they need it. Most state boards are doing the best they know how and following the rules is priority to them because that is what they are in place for. But that does not mean you can’t help with your hands-on information.

Vicki Peters is a 27 year veteran master nail tech, competition champion, judge, international educator, author and manufacturer and serves on the Nail Manufacturer Council. For more information visit or email her at