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September 30, 2019

Make the Most of Your Korean Spa Experience With These Pro Jjimjilbang Tips

You may think you’ve been to a spa before, but until you’ve experienced the utter mind-melting, hydration-soaked indulgence that is the Korean spa, then you’ve never spa’d. Editor Sheryll shows you how it’s done.


There are three places that I love more than any place on Earth.


1. The Vietnamese restaurant on Buford Highway in ATL that has banh mi for $3.

2. Any bookstore. Doesn’t matter what kind.

3. The Korean spa, aka the jjimjilbang


I still remember the first time I went to a Korean spa. I was nervous about being naked in front of a group of ajummas (Korean aunties, aka older women), but I quickly realized that no one cares. AT ALL. After my first evening of bathing, soaking, and sauna-ing it up, I decided that the jjimjilbang is singlehandedly the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity (or at least to me).


jjimjilbang korean spa


I went to the jjimjilbang a few times while I lived in Korea, but it was in Vietnam where I really perfected my spa routine. I lived in the Korea town of Ho Chi Minh City (on purpose because JJIMJILBANGS), and went at least once a week, if not more. Vietnam was just so inexpensive. *sighs and looks out of window*


Anyway, I was that extra person (I mean, I’m always that extra person) who brought an entire bag of products with me to the spa. On more than one occasion, Korean women would look at my stash like “GIRL YOU KNOW ABOUT SULWHASOO AND SU:M37?!” I’d like to think they were really impressed.


As far as the Korean spa goes, I’m definitely more of a fan of the actual sauna room with the pools and the showers and the steam rooms than I am of the hot salt rooms and all of that. So my routine will be focused on the sauna part only.


Korean sauna korean spa



Step 1. Shower & mask


Before you do ANYTHING, you must shower. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT just jump straight into the pools. You’ll get the ajumma death stare. I like to use my first shower to wash my hair and put on my conditioner so I can wrap my hair up and let it deep condition while I sit in the steam room. My current favorite shampoo is the Vitabrid Scalp Shampoo (it’s a Korean brand sold at Barneys), and I love using the SanDaWha camellia oil conditioner. There’s been a few times that I’ve used the shampoo and conditioner that they provide at the spa as well. The one in Korea had a peppermint set that made my hair super soft and bouncy!


At this time, I also wash my face, spritz on some toner, and put on a sheet mask. I bring whatever sheet mask my skin is in the mood for. If I’m having some hormonal acne issues, I might bring a Benton snail bee mask to help with the inflammation, or if my skin is cooperating, I may use something that’s hydrating and brightening, like the Leaders Vita Bright mask.


Instagram @wispa_usa



Step 2. Steam & dip


So at this point, I’ve wrapped my hair up and my sheet mask is on, so I make myself comfy in the steam room. I like the steam room over the dry sauna because I need my skin and hair to get all the extra hydration.


I stay in the steam room as long as I can stand it, then I quickly jump in the cold pool to shock myself and reduce inflammation in my body. I stay in for about 30 seconds (I’m not that brave) before I head back to the steam room. I repeat this maybe two or three times.


Crystal Spa



Step 3. Soak & scrub


After I’ve done my steam room-cold bath combo, I soak in the hot tub for another 15 minutes. After I’m all nice and pruney, I go one of two routes. Sometimes, I go ahead and get a body scrub and let the ajummas scrub me down and wash my hair, or sometimes, I go ahead and take a ridiculously long shower at one of the sit-down stalls. I usually go all out: I scrub myself until I feel like a baby, I shave, I rinse out the deep conditioner, I do my entire skincare routine, and I style my hair. It’s legit like I’m a whole new woman.


Ruby Palace



Have you been to a Korean spa? What’s your routine? Let me know in the comments!



Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.




This sounds amazing.


I recently saw a old Conan O'Brian clilp where he went to a Korean spa (in LA I think?) and I so want to go, it looked completely amazing. I had the sauna, warm bath, and cold dip routine when I was in Budapest and after four hours of that I was just gooey I was so relaxed. I could really use this. If anyone knows of one in the DC area, let me know!!!


There is a huge jimjilbang in Centreville (so, DC suburbs) called Spa World that is totally worth the drive!


Oh awesome!!!!!! Thank you so much!!!! I'm on the Maryland side, but Centreville is doable.


The body scrub is totally worth it, too. (Yes, Conan went to Wi Spa in LA.) It's completely invigorating (not your typical relaxing, calming massage, for sure), but your skin feels like a baby's afterwards.


His sketch was hilarious and he seemed so traumatized, but all I could think of it was how good it must feel in the end!