Local Obsessions

More Than a Pretty Face: The Best Beauty Services in Seoul

by Alicia Yoon
A makeover midway at Jenny House. All photos by Alicia Yoon.

Skincare-obsessed Alicia Yoon tries, tests, and sources the best Korean and Japanese beauty products for her online boutique . The Seoul native put together a mega guide to looking good, feeling better, eating well, and walking it off in South Korea's capital. Part 1 is all about pampering services. Just reading makes us want to disrobe.

SEOUL – I grew up in Seoul and visit every summer and winter to spend time with my family. There’s always something new to explore and something interesting to discover. It's a magical city.

To say that South Korea's capital is a fashion and beauty mecca is an understatement. It's a pampering playground where people have no qualms about spending top dollar on top-shelf cosmetics. It's also a city of big nights out — but everyone wants to look good in the morning.

These days, I also go to Seoul to hunt around for new products to feature on , my online beauty portal. I've racked up a whirlwind tour of food, culture, beauty, and fashion that can act as a primer for your next trip to this incredible city. But first: relax.

Best Spa for a Facial and Massage

In a city filled with spas,  shines brightest. When European beauty organizations host esthetician compeitions in Seoul, this spa wins all the awards in the categories of technique, hygiene, efficacy, and customized solutions. Shangpree, an iconic spa established twenty years ago, is seen as Seoul’s "model spa" for perfectly delivered facials and massages. Certified estheticians train for three years within the Shangpree system before ever being allowed to deliver a single facial. Step into one of their seven classy venues and step out with visibly invigorated and refined skin.

Mira Jang Nail Art

Mira Jang makes it happen.

Best Spot for a Manicure

Mira Jang at The Nail Studio (Sinsa-dong 655-15 2F, Gangnam-ku) rose to the top echelons of nail artistry, doing manicures for designers, celebrities, and appearing on TV. She opened up a chic and cozy nail studio for discerning clientele looking for polishes that matches their style and skin tone. I always leave with beautifully shaped and colored nails that somehow make my hands look radiant and youthful. 

Best Medi-Spa for Intensive Skin Care

’s founder, Dr. Choi, is known among the pickiest clientele for being one of the best dermatologists in Korea. Even the most stubborn acne scarring somehow vanishes after a few visits here. If you’re looking for a more intensive facial treatment that involves devices and lasers, this medi-spa is hard to beat.

Prima Hotel Spa

Serenity bath at Prima.

Best Korean Bathhouse

At , you alternate dips in hot, cold, herbal, and hinoki (lemon-ginger scented Japanese wood) stone baths that are designed to improve circulation and overall health. Request a full body scrub. You will be shocked by what they slough off. My favorite part is bathing in serenity outdoors in a hot hinoki pool. Afterwards, go upstairs and enjoy Korean food and freshly squeezed juices that are supposedly good for the skin. Be warned: No bathing suits allowed in these non co-ed facilities.

Best Styling Salon

A bevy of the most influential makeup artists, hairstylists, and stylists co-mingle with their celebrity clientele at . While one can’t help but notice the heavy concentration of the glamor, it's not just about the scene. Animated conversations about the latest looks can be heard over upbeat runway music. Beauty trends are launched here, as many of the artists are contracted by network studios and dictate what celebrities should look like on air.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Best Day Ever: Seoul
Get the Goods: Asia Major
InstaTrip: Asia A-Go-Go

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