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Korean Body Scrubs

What Are Korean Body Scrubs?

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Korean body scrubs are an important part of traditional Korean culture. In Korean bathhouses, called jimjilbang, people go once a week to sauna, steam, soak, and scrub each other with brightly colored mitts,as often as once a week. In the U.S., Korean body scrubs are performed by therapists, and in my opinion they are much more effective than American-style salt scrubs or body scrubs. Korean body scrubs also done in conjunction with a trip to a Korean bathhouse or spa, where you spend time in saunas, steam rooms, and baths. This helps prepare the skin for the scrub.

What Happens During Korean Body Scrubs

First, you leave your shoes and clothes behind, and if it's a same sex Korean bathhouse or spa, you'll probably be walking around buck naked. You rinse off in the shower but don't use soap.

"Traditionally, Korean body scrubs are prepared by having the client soak in warm to hot water for 10 to 15 minutes," according to Myung Yi, owner of Juvenex Spa, a Korean spa pioneer in Manhattan. You might also spend time relaxing in the sauna or the mugwort steam room. All this softens the skin and prepares it for the scrub.

The Korean therapists, sometimes dressed in bras and panties or shorts and t-shirts, lead you to a table that might be a comfy massage table or a row of plastic tables, depending on the luxury level. (Juvenex is at the luxury end of things).

The therapist starts to scrub you, using only warm water and Korean mitts made of a slightly scratchy viscose material. She will probably show you the thin ropes of dead skin cells that start forming. She rinses the dead skin away, using hot water, and keeps scrubbing, hopefully until nothing more comes. This can take a while if it's your first Korean scrub -- or you might need two visits.

A Korean body scrub also includes a fresh cucumber mask, a thorough hair wash, and a rinsing with milk, which is nourishing for the skin. (Maybe Cleopatra was onto something with her milk baths.)

Myung Yi said Koreans use water, scrubbing mitts and milk because it's gentler on the skin and gets a better results. The scrub helps with the whole detoxification process by "opening up the pores for a deep clean," he said. "With the improved blood circulation, the skin is healthier."

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