I Went to the Disney World of Spasby Cherry D. My Fashion Style
It's no secret that Americans (everyone at Allure included) practically drool over the many beauty innovations that hail from Korea. It's the country that brought us BB creams, cushion compacts, and ten-step skin-care routines. My latest Korean-beauty obsession? Spa Castle. If you can't tell by the name, it's not your average spa. It's an experience. And I tried it.
Allow me to set the scene: Spa Castle is a four-level, 100,000-square-foot facility in College Point, New York (there's also one in Carrollton, Texas). Founded in 2007 by Steve Chon, it merges Korean, Japanese, German, and American spa practices in one massive location that accommodates up to 2,200 customers.
I went there with a friend to behold this majestical place in the flesh. Here's what I learned from the experience.
Most people go to Spa Castle to experience the facility itself. It has seven sauna rooms, five spa pools, and even a food court full of Korean delicacies to help you "regenerate" after you sweat everything out, says Stephanie Chon, Spa Castle's executive director of operations.
My friend and I spent the first 30 minutes just exploring the four floors. It felt like a spa-themed section of Disney World. There was a little river running through the middle of the second floor, and it was surrounded by tiny little sauna rooms that looked like huts. One was the Color Therapy room, where you press a button that changes the color of the light as you sit in the heat. Did the purple light suddenly make me more creative? Um, I don't think so.
Some people spend all day (or even all week) there. While I did spend over an hour in one of the "sleeping rooms," I was ready to leave after a few hours. Chon says the average amount of time a person will spend there is five hours. But some people stay all day. In fact, one person ended up staying at the Texas location for an entire week—it's open 24 hours a day.
You're probably gonna bathe with a bunch of strangers. You're required to soak in the spa's superhot mineral-infused baths before getting a Korean body scrub (it helps prepare your skin for the treatment). And you're required to be completely nude. So if (like me) you bring a friend along for your trip to Spa Castle, prepare to become very close, very quickly.
My experience with the baths went something like this: My friend and I walked into the room with the baths in our robes, and we were immediately scolded by a Spa Castle employee, who told us to remove the robes and take a shower before getting in the baths. All right. A little disoriented, we both followed the orders.
After we survived all of the public nakedness, it was time for our treatments. Once we'd soaked for a good 10 to 15 minutes, we were ready to be scrubbed. A lady (oddly wearing a sexy, sheer black bra and panties) instructed me to lie, buck-naked, on a plastic massage bed. She then started to scrub me with a very coarse, textured glove and a tub of soap that looks very similar to Ivory liquid. The scrubbing was rough, but it was strangely satisfying. And I've never been more exfoliated in my life. It's been three days, and my skin is still crazy smooth.
You will shed a ton of skin. As I watched my dead skin roll off of me (it was dark gray and very creepy), I felt a sense of liberation and renewal (and also a little bit of disgust: Have I really gone all these years walking around with all this this extra dead skin on me?). The whole process took about 30 minutes. Then she washed my hair and gave me one of the best massages I've ever had.
If you're a germophobe, this probably isn't the place for you. Chon assured me that the water in the baths is changed every single day. But for a germophobe like me, Spa Castle was somewhat stressful. First of all, you must be barefoot at all times. Yes, even in the bathroom. I kept walking around on my tiptoes, worried that I was going to step in a puddle of something gross. But I did notice that the place was immaculately clean. Every time I went to the bathroom, I noticed that a staff member was in there cleaning up. I also felt superweird hanging out in the bath completely naked. There's just something about wearing a bikini bottom that makes me feel like there's a barrier between germs and my body. But the water in the bath was a very warm—104 degrees—hot enough to kill off bacteria (or at least that's what I told myself).
If you're ready to go outside your comfort zone, you should try it. Even with all my germophobe concerns and awkward bath moments, I found myself texting my friend the next day, still thinking about it. It was an unforgettable experience.
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