Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Spas in South Korea February 17, 2014

Filed under: beauty,Spa Services — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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Or Why I Desperately Want to Visit South Korea Very Soon

Many of the spa's 22 baths and pools are located outdoors, including this saltwater foot bath and wading pool.

Please allow me to once again indulge my Korean beauty obsession.  I hadn’t been planning on writing another post about Korean skincare or beauty but after reading The New York Times article A Look at Korea’s Culture From the Bathhouse I felt compelled to write yet again about Korea and their beauty culture.  (As sometimes happily happens reading one article takes you to another related article or an interesting website so I’ll be sharing those links here as well.)  Previously I’ve written about Beauty in South Korea and my personal experiences trying a few different Korean skincare products (Korean Skincare Products: Tested).

I actually had an opportunity to go to a Korean spa (or Americanized version of a Korean spa) before moving back to Israel about a year and a half ago.  A branch of King Spa and Sauna opened not so far from my suburban Chicago home before I moved.  I really cannot come up with a good excuse why I never went since the admission is quite reasonable, it is open 24 hours 7 days a week, and a friend even recommended it to me. My loss to say the least.  Now I can only dream of hanging out in the salt room or the base rock room at this spa.  At least I now know one thing I will be doing the next time I visit Chicago (besides eating at my all time favorite restaurant) unless somehow I make it to South Korea first.

Anyhow, before I really digress any further lets talk about Korean spa culture.  The origin and the modern evolution of the Korean bathhouse is very interesting:

When South Koreans evoke the good life, they talk of a “warm back and full stomach.”

Nowhere has the Korean longing to lie on a heated floor (a feature of traditional houses) and eat one’s fill found fuller expression than in the jjimjilbang, the 24-hours-a-day public bathhouse.

But calling the jjimjilbang a bathhouse hardly begins to describe its attractions. …

The jjimjilbang is modeled on the public bathhouses that were popularized early last century by the country’s Japanese occupiers but eventually fell out of favor when showers became a standard feature of Korean homes. In their modern incarnation, the bathhouses are a reflection of South Korea’s relatively newfound wealth, but also a way to satisfy nostalgia.  …

The first public bathhouse was built here in 1925, mostly to cater to Japanese colonialists, but the institution quickly became part of Korean social life. Most urban neighborhoods had a bathhouse, as did small towns. Inside, patrons sat in or around large, sex-segregated baths filled with extremely hot water, gossiping and scooping water on themselves with gourds. Scrubbing other bathers’ backs, even strangers’, was common practice.

Many Korean adults share a childhood memory of being taken to public baths for no-nonsense, sometimes tears-inducing scrubs by their mothers. The bathhouses began adding amenities in recent decades as more people bathed at home. Those included steam rooms and professional body scrubbers, barbershops and hair salons, and communal sleeping rooms, where harried business people — often expected to work long hours and stay out late drinking with colleagues — could come during the day for a nap on a heated floor.

By the late 1990s, many bathhouses had turned into true recreation complexes, and going to one became as much a part of Korean social life as going to the movies. In 2006, there were more than 13,000 in the country, more than 2,500 of them in Seoul. Some can accommodate thousands of people. …

Some jjimjilbang have karaoke rooms, concert halls, swimming pools, even indoor golf ranges, as well as cafeterias and rooms to watch videos.

But a jjimjilbang’s reputation owes much to its saunas.

Some feature heated huts suffused with the aroma of mugwort (important in traditional medicine). Sometimes the walls are studded with jade and amethyst, which many Koreans believe emit healing rays when heated.

(From For All Kinds of Good, Clean Fun Koreans Turn to Bathhouses from The New York Times)

(This is not a political blog is any way, except for my occasional rant about letting everyone define for themselves their own idea of beauty, but I did find it interesting that the Japanese occupation of Korea produced such a positive, lasting effect on Korean culture in the form of bathhouses.  If you know nothing of the history mentioned above see this for more information.)

Unlike American spas which are seen as an indulgence, a special treat, Korean spas or bathhouses are meant for the entire family and as a place to spend the day.  Women (and men) in Korean follow a much more elaborate skincare routines than their American counterparts making skincare and body care a top priority for a large part of the population.  Since many young people live with their parents bathhouses are a place where young couples can spend quality time together outside the confines of their homes.  So if you are a Westerner forget everything you know about spa culture and open yourself up to a new idea of how to spend your day off.

Need more proof?  Frances Cha wrote about her day at a Korean bathhouse for CNN:

Visitors change into cotton shirts and pants handed out at reception. Then they head to communal areas.

There’s a tarot card reading station set up near the entrance, but most people beeline past this and head straight for the outdoor foot bath area.

Here there’s a large heated pool for wading back and forth, as well as private booths where couples often play games on their phones while perched precariously above pools of water.

Theme rooms

Spa Land has dreamed up a variety of themes for its many steam and sauna rooms.

These range from extremely hot (I couldn’t enter this one without yelping in pain) to extremely cold (the Ice Room has a cute, fake jellyfish aquarium) to the gimmicky.

How gimmicky?

The walls of the pyramid room are set at a 52-degree angle, “which has been said to be the easiest angle to collect energies from the universe,” according to the spa.

The SEV room “radiates electrons from SEV” meant to “metabolize your body rapidly.”

The theme rooms are fun to take pictures in.

The downstairs snack bar serves bingsu (a beloved Korean shaved ice dessert) and various vinegar drinks said to be good for the skin.

Customers can take the snacks and eat them all around the bathhouse.

Upstairs there’s a restaurant and cafe run by chefs from the Westin Chosun Hotel.

Alcohol consumption is limited to 500 ml per person, to prevent sauna accidents and overly rambunctious parties from disrupting the austere atmosphere.

Bath time

My favorite spot in the spa is the outdoor rock pool in the women-only bathing area.

I soaked under its sodium bicarbonate waterfall for a good 20 minutes before my appointment with the seshin ajumma (scrub ladies) in the scrub room.

For 25 minutes I beached myself on a plastic slab, and gave myself over to the capable hands of a professional scrubber.

Clad in black bras and panties (standard scrub uniform), she scoured my entire body with two loofahs.

“Young ladies are the most sensitive,” she said in an amused voice when I squeaked a little. “The older ladies always ask for the hardest pressure.”

I emerged red and raw, but wonderfully clean.

It was the best extra ₩20,000 ($18) I’ve ever spent in spa.

(From Korea’s Most Outrageous Sauna: Spa Land Centum City)

Back to The New York Times article  mentioned at the beginning of this post, the article does touch on the “darker” side of Korean beauty culture – conformity.  This takes the of form of plastic surgery, pressure to weigh a certain amount, and a strong need to try to achieve “perfection” as defined by the prevailing culture.  I guess it is always important to remember what an outsider may see as interesting and even “exotic” (I hate that word but sometimes there isn’t a better one to use) is actually a burden for those who are a part of that culture or country you are just visiting.

Bottom Line:  Despite the fact that I am now more aware of the conformity in Korea when it comes to beauty, and that does not sit well with me, I am still very intrigued by Korean bathhouse culture and Korean skincare practices and products. Since I am  “indulging” in Korean culture from afar I can pick and choose the aspects of Korean culture that I want to explore and experience making it easier for me to enjoy the best aspects of that culture.  Perhaps one day I’ll finally make it to South Korea or just visit a Korean bathhouse the next time I am in Chicago.

The original New York Times article that prompted this post lead me to discover two really interesting websites for information about Korea:

  • If I do make it South Korean for a visit I will be sure to read this entire website before going: Seoulist.
  • For reviews of Korean skincare and make-up I’ll be checking out this website: Lady Fox Make-up Blog

Photo from cnn.com

 

Facials 101 March 15, 2012

Every once in a while I come across a great post on another blog that I feel I need to share immediately with my readers.  The latest one comes from one of my favorite beauty blogs Gouldylox Reviews which is a wonderful resource for anyone since it is filled accessible beauty information and make-up ideas.

Recently Gouldylox Reviews published a fantastic post called What to Expect at Your First Facial.  Truthfully, I couldn’t have said anything better myself!  The post goes step by step through the facial process – from arriving at the spa to entering the treatment room, and even includes really on target tips about how to tell if you are being treated by a good esthetician or not.  I always get a little nervous when I see that people are writing about spas and estheticians since, unfairly and unfortunately, estheticians can get a lot of bad press.  So I very pleased when I read through this post.

Here are some of the things, according to Gouldylox Reviews, that set a good spa and esthetician apart from a so-so one:

Since not all spas are created equally, here are my guidelines for what I look for. I’m picky, so if certain things don’t bother you, then carry on.

1. The esthetician must take time to ask you how you are hoping to benefit from the appointment (unless you are a regular client and they know you really well).

2. If they glower at you when you mention you use drugstore skincare, I would not return again. Nothing irks me more than snobby estheticians who try to profit by making you feel less, looking down on because of how much you spend on your products. Skincare can be very expensive. Many drugstore brands work beautifully and many very expensive brands do not. It’s a personal decision and anyone that makes you feel less than for not using expensive products is missing the point. They should be concerned with what is best for you. It could be that a Kate Somerville product may be perfect for you. But if you can’t afford the price tag, it should not affect the quality of care you receive.

3. The treatment rooms should be quiet and clean. Your esthetician should not smell of smoke, including her hands, or chew gum. Call me picky, but these two things make me insane and feel dirtier, not more clean.

4. They should always observe your modesty.

5. They should be knowledgeable about all products they use or recommend. Skincare is changing at lightning speed, and like any professional, it’s important to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. This includes products as well as treatments like lasers, peels and other medi-spa options.

Finally, if you are happy with the service, you should tip 20%. If you were uncomfortable or unhappy with your service, you should politely tell them why, so they can change and suit your needs better. A good spa will want to know how to improve your experience. While it’s great if you can financially swing a facial each month, it does your skin good even if you can only go quarterly.

Fabulous advice!  I agree wholeheartedly that estheticians should not be trashing a client’s home care regime – no matter where her products come from.  If someone asks me what I think about a specific product I’ll give them my honest opinion, but only if they ask.  Having said that there are some estheticians out there whose whole shtick (aka personal gimmick, attitude, ploy, or persona) is to have a “I know better than you” attitude.  Some people actually like this and don’t mind when the esthetician trashes their skin, their home care routine, and choice of skincare products.  I guess they think that the esthetician is an expert so she knows what is best for them.  Or perhaps they like being around forceful personalities.  Who knows?  Personally I don’t like when people treat me in a condescending way so I try to avoid doing this with my clients at all costs.  Plus I want my clients to come back and see me (and refer me their friends) so I want to make sure that they feel good about their experience.  In my book putting someone down doesn’t equal a positive spa experience.

Though I also agree that an esthetician should be up to date on the latest skincare, make-up, and treatment options available I think you need to evaluate this criteria from a very personal perspective.  If you know more than your esthetician about the latest innovations in skincare and the newest and greatest thing in the beauty industry is important to you than perhaps you should think about finding someone else to go.  But if you just want to relax for an hour and don’t care if your esthetician knows all about the developments in laser technology than you can asess your esthetician on different criteria.  That is a truly personal choice.  But as pointed out above since the whole skincare industry changes at lightening speed, if your esthetician hasn’t heard of something but is open to finding out about new things take that as a positive not a negative.

And if you are a beauty junkie or novice I suggest subscribing to Gouldylox Reviews for on-target beauty tips.

Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from www.facefactsclinic.co.uk

 

Spa Etiquette October 10, 2011

Filed under: Spa Services — askanesthetician @ 6:03 am
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Some time ago I wrote a post about how to get the most out of your facial which gave tips on what to do before, during, and after a facial in order to enjoy your experience.  Recently I came across an article in Allure called Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spa * but were afraid to ask which answers lots of questions on what to expect and how to behave in a spa.

The article clearly states how important it is to speak up both before and during a spa treatment in order to get the best possible service.  It is totally within your rights as the recipient of a treatment to say something when you aren’t enjoying your treatment.  Do keep in mind that certain services – waxing and facial extractions chief among them – are never pleasurable.  One common thing I hear from people, especially people who rarely have facials, is that they had a facial and did not like the steam during the treatment but were too polite to say anything.  Though steam is great for opening up the pores allowing for easier extractions and it also helps to soften the skin, a facial can definitely be performed without steam.  So if you just don’t like the way steam feels on your face or if the steam is too strong be sure to let your esthetician know.  Spa professionals are not mind readers.  The more feedback you can give before and during a treatment is helpful to the person performing the treatment.  After all we want you to return for another treatment and to recommend us to your friends so the more enjoyable your experience is the more likely you are to do both of the above.

The article also discusses tipping.  Unless otherwise stated that tipping is against spa policy, believe me your spa technician is going to appreciate a tip.  Even if you have gotten a facial from an esthetician at a doctor’s office you still can and should tip.  How much you tip is, of course, up to you but it is a good idea to tip between 15% to 20% of the cost of your service.  A kind word, a thank you, or positive feedback is always appreciated as well.  If you were really happy with your service think about writing a review for the spa, mentioning by name the person who gave you the service, on Yelp! or another online review site.  Of course, if you were treated badly or had a poor experience, you can also write about that on one of the internet review sites.  Getting the word out about your esthetician or massage therapist is always appreciated.  Spas thrive on good word of mouth.  One last word about tips – technicians appreciate tips in cash so that they don’t have to wait to receive their money.

Arriving on time or calling if you are running late, being polite, and being relaxed are all hallmarks of a great spa guest.  When you come in for a treatment it is a great opportunity to forget your troubles.  If someone falls asleep during a treatment with me I actually take it as a compliment.  Remember that a spa treatment is a treat and enjoy it!

 

The Science Behind Spa Treatments July 25, 2011

 

Global Spa Summit, an annual meeting of spa professionals and leaders, has launched a new web site that aims to present science based evidence for why popular spa treatments offer many health benefits.  The site is called Spa Evidenceand according to an article on Skin Inc. the portal:

consolidates clinical evidence about 22 key spa therapies, including yoga, reflexology and aromatherapy, from four existing databases: Natural Standards, the Cochrane Library, Pub Med and the Trip Database.

Through the website you can look up information and scientific studies about such diverse topics as yoga, ear candling, foot reflexology, and reiki.  So now the next time someone questions why you need that massage you can use science to prove to them to your health benefits from it.

And if you are wondering what certain spa treatments are, not to mention if spa lingo confuses you, be sure to check out The Associate Skin Care Professionals online Skin Care Glossary for explanations on a whole wide variety of spa related topics.

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Facial December 28, 2010

This post was prompted by an article I read in Spa magazine entitled Your Therapist Needs to Know … .  (Unfortunately at the moment I cannot find the article online)  The article outlines what information you should be sure to share with your massage therapist or esthetician before and during a treatment.  Of course I’ll focus on issues that have to do with estheticians and facials. 

Before you have a facial your esthetician will have you fill a questionnaire that will ask about your general health and about your skin’s health.  You’ll also probably be asked what skincare products you currently use, what skincare issues you are concerned about, and what you would like to improve about your skin.  If the questionnaire doesn’t ask you those questions, hopefully your esthetician will ask you a variation on those questions either before or during your treatment.

If you suffer from cold sores, especially if you are currently experiencing an outbreak, be sure to tell your esthetician.  Steam can make a cold sore worse or even spread to another part of your face.  You can still have a facial if you have an active cold sore, but your esthetician just needs to be extra cautious when treating that area.  And by that I mean, the area with the cold sore shouldn’t be treated at all.  If you have sensitive or irritated areas on your face, neck, or chest be sure to point that out to your esthetician.  If you have ever had a negative or allergic reaction to a skincare product tell your esthetician.  Hopefully the questionnaire you have filled out will have a place to check if you suffer from rosacea or eczema, but even if they do be sure your esthetician has made a note of that before beginning your treatment.  Mention if you have had precancerous or cancerous lesions removed from the areas that will be treated during the facial.  If you have just spent a lot of time in the sun or are sunburned mention that too.  Some of these conditions might be completely obvious to your skincare therapist, but it never hurts to gently point them out before beginning treatment.

Also please tell you esthetician if you have an infectious disease, especially one that could be transferred through bodily fluids.  Though esthetician follow universal precautions, which means we have to assume that everyone has an infectious disease, it would be best to alert your esthetician about such a situation.  If you are pregnant, but it isn’t obvious yet, or if you are nursing be sure to tell your esthetician since many skincare ingredients are off limits for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Hopefully your esthetician will ask you what your expectations are for your treatment – relaxation, intense exfoliation, treatment of acne, anti-aging, etc. – but if she or he doesn’t be sure to let them know if you have any specific expectations from your treatment.  Of course, keep those expectations in check.  A facial won’t make you look 24 if you are really 50 (go to a plastic surgeon if you want that kind of change).  If you are interested in hearing about new skincare products or want to hear the esthetician’s opinion about certain skincare lines – ask.  Personally I love to share what I know about skincare products and most other esthetician do as well.  On the other hand, if you are happy with the products you are using you can politely tell your esthetician that.  Part of our job as an esthetician is to recommend the skincare products that our spas or offices sell.  If you don’t want to hear about other skincare products just politely let your esthetician know that.

In my opinion there are two other essential parts to getting the most out of your facial – ask lots of questions and speak up.  I always tell my clients “let me know if something doesn’t feel good, and I’ll fix it.”  Of course, extractions never feel good, but the rest of the treatment should be pleasant and even wonderful (the massage).  Personally, I’m a talker so I love clients that like to chit-chat about life or just about skincare products.  I am more than happy to share my knowledge, but if you just want to close your eyes and drift off to sleep during your facial tell your esthetician that at the beginning of the treatment.  You’ll enjoy your facial so much more if you speak up about something that might be bothering you during your treatment.  Instead of complaining afterwards to a manager tell your esthetician at that moment so they can correct what is bothering you.  Spas are driven by customer service so we are there to please you – the paying client.

And above all, relax and enjoy!

 

Further Reading –   11 Tips on Getting the Most Out of Your Spa Experience – Spa Magazine

 

Why You Should Get A Facial ASAP May 12, 2010

This post follows up on some subjects I already mentioned in this blog, (like Why Visit An Esthetician and Quit Bashing Estheticians) but here I’ll focus on why you should get a professional facial.  I dislike the fact that many, many dermatologists and so-called beauty experts (and here I especially mean fashion magazine beauty editors) continually tell people that facials are both a waste of their time and money.  Obviously in my opinion nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Why You Should Get A Facial

 

Facials are great for rejuvenation and relaxation.  Facials will help improve the health and appearance of your skin especially if you get facials on a regular basis; you can’t expect big changes to your skin if you get facials once a year.  After a facial your skin will look brighter and healthier.  Additionally your skin will feel softer after the facial. 

The relaxation portion of the facial does nothing but benefit your skin and your overall mental and physical health.  The stress of our hectic daily lives shows up in our skin so taking an hour to relax and be pampered will help you out both physically and emotionally.  Massage is a big part of a professional facial.  Massage will help you to relax and will also reduce the stress hormone cortisol  in your body.  If cortisol is left to run amuck in the body it will only hurt you over time, and additionally massage releases oxytocin which is one of the body’s feel good hormones.  (For more information about stress and your skin see my previous post – Stress and Your Skin)

I’ve written before about the fact that esthetician have available to them a wide variety of skincare products that are  professional only products and how estheticians know how to use these products properly.  Finding the right skincare products is terribly confusing and expensive.  Getting a professional facial cuts down on that mystery.  After cleansing your face the esthetician will analyze your skin and then customize the products she or he uses during the facial according to what they have seen while analyzing your skin.  Without the training and knowledge of a licensed esthetician finding the right products for your skin can just be a downright futile endeavor.  Your esthetician not only will use great products on your skin during the facial, they will also recommend the right products for your skin type for home use helping to eliminate any confusion.  I consider a discussion home care regimes with my clients a HUGE  and important part of my job.   If you don’t maintain a proper home care skincare regime the positive effects of your facial are pretty much for nothing (except for the relaxation part).

 

What Is A Professional Facial?

 

A professional facial will include the following steps (or a variation on these steps): a thorough cleansing of the skin, a skin analysis, professional exfoliation (with or without steam), extractions of blackheads, clogged pores, and pimples if necessary, a facial massage, a treatment mask, and the application of serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens.  Sometimes the facial includes a hand and arm massage and an additional neck and shoulder massage.

A typical professional facial takes about an hour (give or take) to perform.  Consider that time a vacation from the “real world” – relax and destress.  Yes, you can do a variation of a facial at home, but can you really give yourself a massage on your own?

 

And for all those people who say “Facials Make Me Breakout”

 

Not only do I often hear from people that they think facials are unnecessary and a waste of money I also hear “facials just make me break-out”.  If you do break-out right after a facial that isn’t an actual pimple since “real” pimples take about four to six weeks to form under the skin before you see them on the surface of the skin.  What you are seeing after a facial is irritation or a reaction to a product used during the facial.  If you find that you are sensitive or allergic to certain skincare ingredients be sure to speak up at the beginning of your facials so that your esthetician can avoid using those ingredients on your skin.  If anything hurts or burns during your facial speak up again so that the product can be removed immediately and not cause you any harm. 

 

 

Bottom Line

 

So go get a professional facial in order to relax, rejuvenate, to have your skin thoroughly cleaned and exfoliated, to receive expert advice about what is happening with your skin, and in order to receive home care product recommendations.  Yes, for many people facials are definitely a luxury because of the money and time spent receiving them, but think about the importance of that “me” time.   Never under-estimate the power of a little rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

 

 
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