I had a facial at one of the best spas in Korea and here’s what I learned
I was totally new to facials when I decided to try a facial in the city of skincare, Seoul. Seriously, if I wanted to pop my facial cherry, where else than in the capital of skincare and all things beauty? And where else than at Shangpree? Read on for my Shanpree Spa Facial experience and review!
Shangpree has been around for over 20 years, has been dubbed a “model” spa, and its estheticians are required to train for three years until they’re allowed to touch a customer’s face. They also have an amazing line of skincare products.
I had read about Katharine’s visit with them, and at the same time googled around for “best spa in Seoul”. I wanted to find a place in the Myeongdong area, because that’s where we would be staying. Honestly, there was only one contender (Sulwhasoo Spa), and Shangpree won. It looked more approachable (I can be intimidated by very upscale places) and it was a bit cheaper as well. When I emailed them, I received a very nice reply to all my questions.
What won me over, though, was their commitment to get it right right from the start – I wanted to book a certain facial I was curious about. Miji from Shangpree answered very kindly that they mix and match facials due to their customers’ needs, and that I would get a special consultation beforehand to determine what my skin might need.
My Shanpree Spa Facial experience and review
I arrived very curious and excited (and a bit nervous) at Shangpree Spa. It’s on the third floor of a regular house in the Myeongdong area. I was met by Miji who knew immediately who I was, gave me a glass of iced tea and chatted a bit with me before the consultation. She asked about my skin concerns, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we decided on the S-Energy Treatment for me to combat stress and signs of aging.
Cleansing, first mask and a massage
In the cozy, dimly lit treatment room I changed into a provided gown, lay on the bed and then the treatment begun. I still have a bad conscience because I was wearing a full face of makeup with my heroine make waterproof mascara that takes a lot of muscle and cleansing oil to remove. It took my lovely and gentle esthetician about 10 minutes (approximately. I didn’t have a watch.), and I wanted to apologize the whole time. She used the wonderfully gentle Shangpree Cleansing Gel and S-Energy Toner and applied a soothing sheet mask with algae extract to my face.
During this time, I got a foot and leg message with a device that works like a blown-up blood pressure sleeve (it’s proper name is leg air pressure massager). Astonishingly relaxing and just the thing when you’ve been running around Seoul for three days prior! I was left to marinate in that relaxing mask and while the machine merrily pumped away, and some ambience music was playing (with a smattering of street noises and voices from the neighbouring apartments).
Face massage, cleanse and mask
At this point I was a bit doubtful about the whole thing. While everything was quite relaxing, I was paying quite a lot of money to lie alone in a room with a machine and a sheet mask. I could totally have that at home, right? (If I could rope my SO into doing the massage, that is.)
But then the exciting part started. Shangpree uses a snazzy ionic device for the following sebum and dead skin removal. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable. It’s rather like a slim glass wand that’s pressed firmly on your skin and is moved around. (I realised that my esthetician only used it on my T-Zone.) After that, I got to view all that excess sebum and dead skin floating around in a little bowl. Ugh.
Face and neck massage
She then applied the S-Energy Youth Activating Ampoule (which felt lovely and soothing) and I got a very light facial massage. Before the massage, Miji came back to the room to inform me that my esthetician had noticed that my skin was very stressed and sensitive. In conclusion, she wanted to switch from the green snail and spirulina rubber mask to the more soothing gold one. It’s supposed to target both moisture retention and lessening impurities. She also informed me that my facial massage would be lighter due to that.
It was amazing. The massage never felt uncomfortable, but soothing and strangely, relaxing but invigorating. I loved it.
The gold rubber or modeling mask felt cool and soft on my face. Again, the esthetician left and I could relax with it on my face. This time, I enjoyed it much more. Especially when another esthetician came in and gave me a neck and décolletage massage that removed a lot of tension from my shoulders and neck.
“My” esthetician removed the mask, and applied moisturiser and eye cream. I looked into the mirror. Amazing! I’m quite used to my skin reacting badly even at gentle touches. (My skin gets red even when I just apply a heavier moisturiser that has to be spread around more firmly!). But my skin looked calm. Calmer than in a long time, actually. Of course it was also quite glowy (that’ll come naturally with skin slathered in products), but I couldn’t get how even and uniform my skin tone was and how plump my skin looked.
And the most amazing thing was that this effect lasted for about two days.
Costs and effect
So, was the whole experience worth 130.000 Won (about 104€)? Because that’s the thing about facials. When they just slap on some products and leave you to “relax”, you can do the whole shebang at home for significantly less money. While I didn’t find the ambience at the Shangpree Spa especially luxe (my personal aesthetic runs more towards bright with clear lines, while Shangpree is about wood and gold), I think the kind of holistic approach of a paired body and facial massage with stellar skincare products is the way to go. And you can’t truly argue about the effect on my skin which I found amazing. I also liked how they tailored the facial exactly to me, even changing it in the middle to accommodate my skin’s needs.
I also learned something about my skin in the process. During the initial talk with Miji I pegged my skin as combination, but not overly reactive. The esthetician’s though thought that my skin is, in fact, easily irritated and sensitive. We both found the reason for that in both traveling and pollution. She advised me to use more sheet masks to pamper my skin and let it calm down regularly.
I also learned that its not only the application of a truly stellar product that’s the reason for great skin, but also the prep that only an esthetician can do. (Like the gentle removal of dead skin cells to allow the products penetrate the skin properly). Also, the massage is a big contributing factor to youthful looking skin after a treatment.
Finally, I learned that I like facials, and like being in the hands of a specialist. I wish Seoul wasn’t that far away… If I could, I’d go monthly!
The fine print
Shangpree has six spas in Seoul, where you can also buy their products. You can also buy their products at Harrods in London, and online at Peach & Lily. They’re in the US, but ship worldwide. I also found their products at various Korean online shops before – try to google around a bit.
If you want to book a spa treatment, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They speak and write English, so don’t worry about the language barrier. (Not all estheticians do, though. I would’ve loved to pepper mine with questions about the process and products, but it’s maybe for the best that I couldn’t… I could properly enjoy my treatment!)