Being in the salon industry (both working at one and writing for a trade magazine), I see and hear of lots of unusual things. Shortly before I left work today, a few of the girls started buzzing about this new “Doctor Fish Pedicure” that is being done in Alexandria, Virginia at Yvonne Hair and Nails Salon. Apparently it was on Good Morning America and Diane Sawyer gave it a go. (It was also on Ugly Betty!)

Being a Today Show Addict myself, I missed the segment. So we pulled it up at the reception desk and I watched it with my mouth hanging open. I have to admit that I was totally creeped out. I would like to get some spirited discussion going on this, so please click here and watch it. (It will open in a new window.) I’ll wait.

If you don’t have the three and a half minutes to spare or if you are so flabbergasted by what you saw if you did take the time that you can’t even think straight, I will summarize for you. But if you don’t watch it, you will miss the priceless sight of 100 fish swarming to Diane Sawyer’s feet while she talks about how adorable the “fish kisses” are.

What it is:
The Doctor Fish Pedicure

What could you expect if you got one:
You would put your feet in a tank of hot water and about 100 tiny carp will gnaw away at your dead, flaking skin, replacing the need for the razor that is used at some salons (not the upscale ones, though! It’s unsafe!!!!) to get rid of calluses. Apparently the hot water habitat where these fish originate does not support much plant or aquatic life, so they learned to forage for food among whatever became available…including dead, flaking skin, apparently!

How much is it?
$35 for 15 minutes and $50 for 30 minutes, in addition to the cost of the standard pedicure you get after the fish finish their job.

Is it safe?
Well, if you think I am asking if it is literally safe, I would say that at first glance it seems like it. However (BIG however), it is not regulated by the state. The salon started off with a communal tank where up to eight clients could get this done at the same time (Eewww!), but the County Health Department made them switch to individual tanks. In the article I read, it said “The communal pool also presented its own problem: At times the fish would flock to the feet of an individual with a surplus of dead skin, leaving others with a dearth of fish.”

Because it’s my job, I think of the business end of this. The salon owner in Virginia spent $40,000 to get this going. He claims to have sold the service 5000 times. At $35 a pop (and that’s making a grand assumption that every single client chose 15 minutes over 30, which I doubt), he’s already paid it off and has $135,000 before any other maintenance expenses, commissions, (Do the fish get commissions? Ha: the reporter didn’t ask that one!) or other associated costs. My guess is that the net profit is still a good chunk of change. Is it worth it? I guess you’d have to ask him. I wonder if the maintenance and the extra time involved in setting up a client with this service would be a pro or a con. With a salon practically on every corner and very, very few state regulators for safety and cleanliness, I think this is just one more thing to be cautious about.