The fishy business of beauty!

3rd Febuary 2011.' Skinny Dipping, Xscape, Glass Houghton.'Pictured: Sarah Whittle'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE
3rd Febuary 2011.' Skinny Dipping, Xscape, Glass Houghton.'Pictured: Sarah Whittle'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE

WHEN I was asked if I fancied trying out the latest luxury beauty treatment to sweep the nation I jumped at the chance.

But when I discovered it involved me plunging my feet into a tank of dozens of flesh eating fish, I reconsidered.

After sitting down to do a bit of research I discovered everyone was doing it – so why not?

You may have heard about the craze – Garra Rufa fish foot spas have been popping up across the country since early last year and Castleford caught on in December when Skinny Dipping was opened in Glass Houghton’s Xscape leisure complex.

The concept of the treatment comes from Turkey, where Garra Rufa fish live and breed in outdoor spas and have been used to treat skin conditions for hundreds of years.

The tiny toothless fish nibble and suck on dry and unhealthy skin cells, knowing instinctively to leave healthy skin alone, making them perfect for pedicures.

During the treatment the fish also release an enzyme, dithranol, which has healing properties and they can stimulate pressure points on the feet linked to relaxation.

With these positive facts in mind, I went along to see what all the fuss was about.

When I arrived I was greeted by Garry Long – who owns Skinny Dipping with business partner Tony Smith – and 12 glass tanks full of bubbling water and dozens of tiny fish.

Admittedly they looked harmless, but I was one of those children that would never paddle in the sea through fear of a slimy creature brushing against my ankles, and here I was faced with a glass cage full of fish ready to feed on my skin.

While Garry went to set up a foot spa, I sat reading the frequently asked questions on display and had a chat with two women who were enjoying a treatment.

Paula Maxfield, from Pontefract, first experienced the treatment on a holiday in New York, and had brought her friend Claire Marsden along to try out Castleford’s version.

Claire said: “I love it, I was a bit nervous about trying it but it’s actually very relaxing. I’d recommend it.”

With Claire converted, I plucked up the courage to have my turn and after dithering on the comfy black leather bench for a few minutes, I slowly lowered my feet into the tank of waiting Garra Rufa fish.

The initial sensation was a bit peculiar as all of the tiny creatures gathered around my toes and ankles and got to work. I was surprised to discover it was actually a pleasant sensation, as though my feet were being tickled by lots of little bubbles in a mini-jacuzzi.

As I relaxed into the treatment I asked Garry how the business got up and running. He said: “We saw it on display at an exhibition and Tony had it done before and we thought it was the kind of thing that would work well at Xscape.

“We’ve had a lot of interest since we opened, there are often people queuing up to have a go at the weekends. We did wonder whether it was a bit of a gimmick, something people would come and try out once, but we have had a lot of repeat customers.”

Garry reassured me that it is not unusual to have a funny reaction when you first dunk your feet in the tank. He said: “We get mixed reactions. Some people are really excited to try it, others laugh, others scream. Girls are generally more calm than guys, believe it or not.”

After 15 minutes the treatment was finished and I dried my feet off. They felt clean and soft and I was pleased with the results.

Despite the initial nerves, the treatment was not only unusual but enjoyable – I’d recommend it to even my most squeamish friends.