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Hi there!

Welcome to e5thestories, my Korean-American perspective on life in Seoul. You'll find my beauty, food and travel adventures here (as well as some potentially helpful tips for those who want to move here). Formerly a K-beauty blog, and now living the dream. Hope you'll keep following along! xx

Seoul Skincare Journey: Part 1

Seoul Skincare Journey: Part 1

I had a few beauty-related priorities when I moved here: 1. getting my hair done (check), 2. getting my brows done (check) , and 3. finding a good facialist. The first two I managed to get done in the first six weeks, but the last one took six months.

It's damn hard finding a decent esthetician in Seoul, especially one who will do facial massage and anything beyond just a bunch of sheet masks. I went to one spa in my neighborhood in February, hoping for extractions or at least some sort of deep cleansing, and I was so disappointed. The entire hour was spent doing a very light facial "massage" and then she put on a bunch of serums and sheet masks—and let's be serious, I can basically do that myself at home.

My coworker who also previously worked in beauty told me that it's really difficult to find estheticians who still use old-school techniques in Seoul because so many people get botox and fillers, which you essentially can't maintain that unless you use lasers.

About a month ago, I finally asked my pilates instructor what she does for her skin—Semi has a stunning complexion and her makeup-free face is bright, lifted and line-free. She said she goes to this woman who does all sorts of old-school facial massage, and she uses natural products as well as a great derm product line from Germany. I was in. I didn't care where she was or how much it cost (okay, maybe I cared a little but it turned out to be a fraction of the multiple-mask facial I got near my apartment)—as long as she could get my skin to look like Semi's, I was in.

I went for my first session two weeks ago. Semi had set my expectations: it's not a fancy shop at all and just a small neighborhood store, like you might see in Korean dramas. I was the only client there, and the esthetician spaces 30 minutes between sessions so you never run into someone else.

Ms. Oh, as I’ll call her this for these posts, spent the first 20 minutes explaining her methodology to me over tea. She said that when we're in our 20's, our total skin cell turnover rate takes about 28 days. As we get older, this takes longer and it becomes more difficult for our skin to do naturally. 

The massage techniques she does encourages this turnover to occur more quickly, as well as getting down to the bottom most layer to detox and purge out any nasty bits hiding down below the surface. Ms. Oh said I could experience breakouts on my face, neck and even back as we start this process, and to be assured that this wasn't a result of bad products, but more from my skin purging out anything that shouldn't be there. She said that at one point during these treatments, she’d determine when I’d be okay to proceed with a peel, which is essential in her process to really turn over the skin. But we’d need to see how my skin responded to the treatments first.

Ms. Oh spent the next hour and a half double cleansing and doing a light-pressured facial massage, then a steam, then a clay mask with herbal bits in it, then an intense facial massage where she took extra care with lymphatic drainage, my jawline, neck and collarbone. It was almost like she was resculpting my face with her massage movements. After she cleaned off the mask, she applied serum, moisturizer and a tinted BB treatment that is tinted and to cover redness.

I swear, I felt like a new woman. The tension I had built up in my forehead muscles were almost completely relaxed and I no longer felt my face sag down thanks to gravity when I was laying on my back. It was a really incredible sensation—and one that I didn't actually think was possible.

The next day, my coworker remarked how well-rested and relaxed my face looked. I felt more relaxed but wasn’t sure if I could see any visible results yet. I started to break out a little bit here and there, including on my upper back but all of it cleared up fairly quickly.

The first session overall was very promising and I loved how attentive and detailed she was with my skin, explaining to me what she was doing at every step. I’ll keep updating here how it’s going (I’ll be seeing Ms. Oh once a week until I see the results I want) and will post anything new I learn! I haven’t been good about taking before and after photos, but I’ll try. For now, these IG story selfies will have to do it. Hahaha, sorry.

 Read Seoul Skincare Journey: Part 2

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Seoul Skincare Journey: Part 2

Seoul Skincare Journey: Part 2

Seoul Food: 시골밥상 | Country Table Hannam-dong

Seoul Food: 시골밥상 | Country Table Hannam-dong