Fish Spa

Photo by Jan Smith

Spa getaways are nothing new, but what is different is when a spa attracts as many men as it does women, and when the treatment involves not massages and manicures…but fish. Flesh-eating fish to be precise.

Well, okay, perhaps flesheating sounds a little dramatic, but the truth is, these fish do nibble at your skin.

Located in the small town of Kangal in central Turkey, the Kangal Psoriasis Treatment Center is home to a unique species of fish that can only survive in the waters around that region. Both the fish and the mineral properties of the thermal springs have been hailed as a miracle treatment for psoriasis – a skin condition that has no known cure. For many, a visit here is the last hope of treating the disease.

So how does it work? Well, that’s something no one entirely understands. But all you need to know is that you spend your day soaking in the warm waters (37C) and let the little “Dr. Fish” as they’re known do their work.

Rest assured, it doesn’t hurt, since the fish don’t actually have any teeth – they’re mostly just nibbling with their mouths.

But, I won’t lie – it does feel weird and it does tickle. A lot.

As for whether it works, I can’t comment on psoriasis since I’m not a sufferer, but I did go into the water with an extreme case of dry, flaky skin as a result of months on the road with little in the way of skin products other than soap (the life of a backpacker!). Anyway, my skin must have been in some serious need of exfoliation because let me just say, as soon as I got into the water, those fish did a u-turn away from everyone else and literally swarmed towards me. I have to say, I looked much better after a few hours of face time (body time?) with the fish.

A few fish spas using different varieties of “Dr. Fish” to perform pedicures had popped up around the United States several years ago. Unfortunately, they’ve now been banned in many states because of a law that requires tools used in cosmetics procedures to be either sterilized or thrown out after use. Fish, however, were a little too expensive (and alive!) to just throw out.

But the good news is you can still get the fish treatment in Turkey – and make a vacation out of it. Though you might just want to avoid any restaurants serving fish while you’re there.

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