Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garra Rufa Fish Therapy

Recently the fish spa craze has been hitting the Klang Valley, with more centers opening around the KL-PJ area. While the medicinal benefits were initially discovered in Turkey for people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema, the spas that have been operating here seem to target the beauty/retreat market. I've read about some spas that use a type of tilapia, which has no medicinal benefits at all other than biting off your dead skin. The real Garra Rufa species has a compound in their saliva that helps healing for those afflicted with certain skin diseases.

I came across Garra Rufa Fish Therapy at Bangsar, which uses the actual fishes for the therapy. I decided to bring my mom there as a treat for Mother's Day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were having a special promo that day.

The shop has a nice ambience, with a glass-fronted entrance, dark wood and soothing music. The receptionist was friendly and inviting, taking time to offer us towels and an explanation of how to go about with the session. It was helpful for first timers like me who felt a little ackward not knowing what to do.

First of all you need to wash your feet with a scrub to get rid of any residues so that you don't contaminate the pool. There was a separate area to do this and we were also provided with slippers to wear.

After I cleaned up, it was time to hit the pool! I was a bit apprehensive at first because there seemed to be quite a lot of them fishies swimming about. But I went in, both feet at once and breathed. I didn't have to wait long, as the little buggers came nibbling away at the feet. Mind you, I had quite a lot of dry, and probably dead skin from sunning by the beach a few weeks back!

What surprised me was how enjoyable it was to have fishes bite at you. It felt like a mild current running through my skin, not dissimilar to how an Osim machine might feel. Of course, you can't control the speed and strength of the massage hehe. The buzz sometimes got stronger when the bigger swimmers came nibbling and it was a bit ticklish. Somehow the big ones loved my left foot too. More dead skin perhaps.

After a while it really did feel like a therapy, as watching the fishes sucking your feet can be hypnotizing. I found myself just watching them, clear of thought and being very relaxed. It was also very nice of them at the spa to let us sit way longer than our booked session.

Many people question the hygiene and cleanliness of the pools and fishes, as there would be so many people using the same pool throughout the day. From my experience at Garra Rufa, there's nothing to worry about provided the spa that you go to have got the practices right. The water is cleaned everyday, and the pool has ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. The place feels really clean to me, and the staff is quite diligent in keeping it that way.

My skin didn't feel immediately smoother or nicer, but maybe because it's only my first session. But it was an enjoyable experience, something different. :)
Garra Rufa Fish Therapy is at Jalan Telawi, Bangsar (next to Al Rajhi bank). It's RM38 for 1/2 hour, RM72 for 1 hour and they also have therapy packages.