Key Takeaways From The Article:
- Step-by-step beginner guide to your first Korean bathhouse experience.
- Learn Korean bathhouse etiquettes
- The benefits of hot and cold bathing therapy
Do you remember the viral video of Conan O'Brien visiting a Korean Bathhouse (aka Jimjilbang) with Steven Yeun? Seeing Conan getting so red after that extreme exfoliating experience was just so hilarious AF but as Korean ourselves, we grew up with having aggressive scrub works. If you’re new to the Korean bathhouse tradition and want to visit one of them for the first time, here’s a step-by-step guide from the Riley House founders for an incredible first-time experience.
Bathing Like a PRO
Before heading over to a Korean public bathhouse, make sure to prepare your own skincare, body care, and hair care products with you. You’ll be free to use plenty of towels as you want. If you forgot to bring your toiletries, they are available at the reception desk but let’s try to be more environmentally friendly!
2. Get In Total Nakedness
The rule of thumb in the Korean bathhouse is getting totally nude. Yes, not a single piece of clothes is allowed on your body. Thankfully the bathhouses are not co-ed like the naked beaches in Europe. This is super normal for Koreans so even if you seem like a beginner, nobody would really care.
3. Take A Light Shower
Once you finally entered the bathhouse (in total nakedness), take a light shower before getting soaked in the bath. This is one of the most important etiquettes because of hygienic reasons. The bath is for everyone to share so you want to make sure your body is nice and clean before hopping into the tub.
4. Get Soaked In The Bath
Ready to get soaked? There are so many types of bathing pools in the Korean bathhouse: sea salt baths, herbal baths, mineral baths, and the list goes on. Get soaked in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. If you have long hair, make sure to tie your hair back or wrap your hair in a towel when taking bath to prevent hair from falling out in the bathing pool.
After your body is all warmed up from the bath, it’s time to shampoo your hair. Pro tip: bring a shower cap with you to cover the hair after applying a hair mask. The steam in the bathhouse will help open the hair cuticle to boost the benefits of the product to penetrate deeper.
6. Time For Scrubbing
While your hair is wrapped up in a shower cap, now is the time to scrub every inch of your body. Your dead skin is already for husking after the bath so begin scrubbing the body with the famous green scrubbing cloths. It’s best to use an exfoliating soap while scrubbing but you’ll still see the small strips of dead skin even if you don’t have one.
If you don’t know where to start, there are professional scrubbers called “seshinsa” that will help you out instead (there is an add-on fee). You only need to lay down on the massage table and the rest is on them. It may be painful at first, but your whole body will feel like a baby’s butt after the experience. After you peeled off all the dead skin, rinse off your hair.
7. Time For Sauna
Some people end the bath right here, but if you want to relax and detox a bit more, use a hot sauna. Pro tip: Make sure to wrap your face in a towel soaked in cold water when getting into the sauna to prevent the heat from directly affecting the face. The hot heat can take away the moisture that can drop the elasticity level of your skin. Also, the rule is to cap your time in the sauna for only up to 15 minutes. The longer you stay in the hot heat, the higher the risk of dehydration.
8. Cold Water Therapy
There are great effects to “hot sauna cold plunge”. Getting in a cold pool or even sprinkling cold water on the body after a sauna improves blood flow and energized the body. Cold therapy can also help with stomach pain, back pain, and nerve pain. If you want to get completely soaked in cold water stay in the cold pool for 20 seconds and repeat the hot sauna.
9. Replenish Your Body With Beverages
After the super relaxing bathing therapy, your body will crave hydration after the bath and the most popular beverage for Koreans is banana-flavored milk. Nobody really knows who started it but it’s been around for a long time. Koreans would even recall memories from the public bathhouse when they drink banana milk!
Another common drink is in fact, vinegar. Don't panic! It's not like the ones you use in food but rater fruity vinegar that you dilute in water. Think of it as a Korean style kombucha! The most popular flavors are persimmon and mandarin orange.