The Real Way Korean Girls Get Gorgeous

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
When it comes to beauty, the world can't get enough of all things Korean. In fact, Korea has even surpassed France as the go-to spot for beauty innovation. The biggest, buzziest launches of the past three years — from BB creams to exfoliating powders — have all come from the Asian country. So, when we were looking ahead to find the next big thing, you can bet the very first stop on our expedition was a Korean spa.
We have to admit we're a little spoiled when it comes to Korean spas. The first time we ever went, we inadvertently visited the mother of all spas in New York. Spa Castle is exactly what it sounds like — four floors of indulgent steam rooms, crystal saunas, and futuristic massage chairs where you can eat a Melona bar in peace. We don’t think we're exaggerating when we say it's literally the most amazing place on earth.
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If you’ve never been to or even heard of a Korean spa, the concept is pretty simple: Using hot and cold pools, as well as a series of saunas, you rejuvenate, detoxify, and reenergize your mind and body. We know that sounds like the opening lines of a Scientology recruitment pamphlet, but in plain English, it means you’ll look and feel fantastic. On top of the pool and sauna circuit, one of the key treatments at Korean spas are the intense body scrubs which take years and mega layers off your skin.
While the spas are increasingly popular in North America, they aren’t always that easy to get to. Because we don't think anyone should miss out on this unique pampering ritual, we've gone ahead and broken down the traditional Korean spa experience and provided you with the tips and products you need for a DIY home project. Read on to learn the secrets, and then get ready to get your spa on.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The Korean body scrub is the Holy Grail of the spa experience. We wouldn't exactly call it a relaxing treatment, but by the time you're done, months of dead skin will be washed away, and you'll feel insanely soft. The process involves slathering the body with an oil blend and then using one of these super exfoliating mitts to physically slough off layers of dirt and dead skin. You can actually see it all balled up on the body as they scrub away.

You can duplicate the scrub at home with one of these mitts and your favorite body oil. Or, if the mitt is too harsh, prep a sea-salt and olive-oil scrub by mixing equal parts sea salt and olive oil (a few tablespoons of each should to do it). Hop in the shower, do a quick rinse so you have some water to work with, and then go for it. Scrub the hangover, workday, or just the dead skin away! Rinse off and get ready for the next part of your DIY spa experience.

Exfoliating Towel Asian Exfoliating Bath Washcloth, $14.95 for 8, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
The idea of alternating hot and cold plunges is a practice used by many cultures to boost circulation and promote relaxation. What's great about the Korean spa experience is the different kinds of herbal soaks that can be added. This herb pack from Mountain Rose Herbs offers a relaxing blend of chamomile and lavender and gives you the option of a more calming soak.

For something more detoxifying, try this DIY treatment with tea. Fill the tub with hot water — as hot as you can stand. As the water fills the tub, toss in five to 10 green tea or mugwort tea bags. Mugwort or angelica is great for tired limbs, eczema, and acne. In Chinese medicine, it is also helpful for increasing blood circulation and regulating your period. Green tea is an awesome detoxifier. Hop in the tub and soak your cares — and your skin problems — away.

Mountain Rose Herbs Relaxing Bath Herbs, $5.50, available at Mountain Rose Herbs.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
While you’re waiting for your giant tea party to be ready, throw on a face mask. One of our favorite sights at the Korean spa are the men, women, and children in their disposable cloth face masks. It's a bit terrifying for the uninitiated, but as mask fanatics, we always feel like we've finally found home! This pumpkin mask is packed with vitamin A, great for moisture and rebuilding tissue. You can recreate this mask at home with a fresh apricot or pumpkin mixed with honey and yogurt.

L&P Beauty Clinic MediHeal Pumpkin Ade Mask, $5.76, available at Korea Depart.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Just as important as the hot soak is the cold plunge. After draining the tub, turn on the cold tap and have a good icy rinse. This Dead Sea-salt soap provides soothing minerals for your final soak, recreating the feeling of our favorite salt saunas at the spa. This process of hot and cold is usually repeated a few times at the spa, but water doesn’t grow on trees! By doing the cycle once, you’ve exfoliated, increased your blood circulation, detoxified, and increased your blood circulation again. Tell us you’re not glowing after that.

Mugunghwa Dead Sea Mineral Salts Body Soap, $2.73, available at Korea Depart.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
All those plunges can be drying for the skin, so seal in moisture with this geranium-laced lotion. We love geranium for its long-lasting moisture and calming properties. A luxurious DIY alternative is to use sweet almond oil with a few drops of geranium and lavender right out of the bath. Geranium and lavender also help ease stress, which for us is the best part of hitting the spa.

Apieu Forest Bath Body Lotion in Geranium, $4.68, available at Korea Depart.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
For us, the spa is all about the little luxuries — giving yourself the time to soak, relax, and treat the things you've put off all week. For a great spot treatment after your mask, target long-neglected blackheads with this gel. Designed to dissolve the gunk that gets stuck in there after a week of urban living (you know what we're talking about), this product takes the edge out of blackhead removal with its adorable egg-shaped packaging.

Tonymoly Egg Pore Blackhead Out Oil Gel, $16, available at Urban Outfitters.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Green tea is jammed with antioxidants and benefits for your skin, including decreased inflammation and acne-fighting properties. After cleansing your pores, use a green-tea serum to amp up the antioxidants and help keep your complexion calm after a day of invigorating treatments.

Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum, $22.40, available at Amazon.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Even though you've scrubbed off a seaon's worth of dead skin with your scrub mitt, the feet can still be painfully overlooked this time of year. This foot mask is amazing for those hardened heels, especially as we (hopefully, fingers crossed) head for spring.

Tonymoly Shiny Foot Baby Skin Heel Patch, $2.99, available at Amazon.
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