The amazing thing about Asia, especially for Westerners, is all the unique things and experiences you get to have here.
One of the most memorable for me was Dr. Fish. Even if you’ve never heard of the term “Dr. Fish,” I’m certain you’ve heard of the concept before. It’s where the little fish come and nibble the dead skin off of your feet. The fish that do the nibbling are literally called Dr. Fish or nibble fish but their scientific name is Garra Rufa.
I accidentally stumbled upon this concept of Dr. Fish when I was scrolling through Pinterest, looking for fun things to do in Seoul. Some blogs mentioned Dr. Fish cafes and that they pop up all throughout Seoul, but that they also shut down quickly and without notice. After doing some more research online, I found a spa in Myeongdong that offered the pedicure and seemed to still be in business.
The spa was in the center of Myeongdong- you honeslty have to get lost in order to find it. There’s a sign that says “Dr. Fish” and the spa is on the 3rd floor (It’s next to an Innisfree store).
To my relief, the spa was still there after I climbed up the 3 fights of stairs. Upon entering the spa, you see this nice pedicure area with a big hole in the middle of the floor.
My friend and I went up to the counter and told the lady that we wanted the Dr. Fish treatment. I thought she was going to lead us to one of the pedicure stations but instead she pointed at the hole in the middle. Peeking in, I could see that there were little fish swimming around in there.
We took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and placed our feet in the hole.
The feeling of little fish nibbling at my feet was definitely a new sensation for me. It doesn’t hurt at all, it just tickles a bit. You can feel the fish as they nibble on your feet but it’s not uncomfortable.
The lady that ran the front desk even brought us each a cup of tea while we had our treatment!
The Dr. Fish treatment lasted about 20 minutes. Though I did still have some rough patches on my feet (taking into consideration that I walk around Seoul a lot), I do think that my feet felt softer!
Student & Traveler Tips
Health and Safety
Dr. Fish isn’t really available outside of Asia and, for lack of a better word, is more or less banned in some western countries. I didn’t really read into it until after I had the fish nibble on my feet but there are some concerns about the practice.
According to the CDC and the HPA, the practice was originally created in ancient times to try to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. There has been no proof that these treatments actually work and doctors advise that people with these types of skin conditions do not try Dr. Fish for fear of making their condition worse.
Secondly, it’s not allowed in many foreign countries because of sanitary concerns. The spas use the same fish for the treatments; it’s not practical that the spa replace the fish after each use. This practice goes against some health codes in Western countries.
If you want to read more about it, I suggest looking up some of the articles on the CDC and HPA websites. Now I didn’t mention this to scare anyone, but it’s always good to know what you’re getting in to! ~In case you were wondering, both my friend and I are fine after going there~
Have you ever had a Dr. Fish treatment? Let me know about it in the comments!