I Got a Korean Beauty Facial and It Was Unlike Anything I’ve Ever Experienced

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi

A couple months ago, I did a double-take in the midst of one of my daily Instagram scrolls, pausing on this photo of Allure beauty editor Sable Yong:

I paused because she was GLOWING, first of all, but more specifically because the attributed source of her glow was none other than Silver Mirror Facial Bar, a place I’d been wanting to try for eons due to its unique concept: customized, relatively affordable (priced from $80) facial treatments inspired by Korean skincare philosophy.

“How was this place?” I direct messaged Sable.

“It’s my favorite, hands-down,” she replied. “Imagine getting skincare treatments from SCIENTISTS. It’s that high-tech and cool.”

It sounded like a dream, but I was a bit skeptical. I’ve had some really bad experiences with facials in the past because my skin is relatively sensitive and doesn’t necessarily benefit from a one-size-fits-all treatment. I’ve also found that a lot of places lean on the “frilly” aspects of facials (spa music, lemon water) to compensate for the lack of actual skincare expertise. Needless to say, I was curious how the scientific approach I associate with Korean skincare would translate in a facial, and eager to give it a go.

My concerns were almost immediately assuaged when I arrived at Silver Mirror and the first thing my aesthetician Kristina said was, “Our treatments are pretty no-frills. We’re very results-driven.” Hallelujah.

I looked around and was intrigued by what I saw: the treatment rooms were open (separated by curtains), the treatment chairs were reminiscent of those you might find at a dentist and the shelves were stocked with many of my favorite brands and products.

The setup may have looked no-frills at first glance, but frankly, the facial was anything but — not in the usual sense of “frilliness,” though. There were no massages. Zero cucumbers. Not a single Enya track. Instead, there was a series of what I can honestly say were the COOLEST and most high-tech beauty treatments I have ever experienced.

After an enzymatic foaming cleanse, exfoliating papaya treatment and minor extractions — during which I was told that my cheeks were a bit dehydrated and that’s probably why my T-zone was clogged — the real fun began. Kristina used a high-frequency wand to zap away all the bacteria left over from the extractions on the surface of my skin. It didn’t hurt at all! It was like a friendly fly was buzzing all over my face.

Then, she applied a cold conducting gel all over and zapped me with another device called PureLift. This thing was so weird and cool. You know how your eyelid twitches sometimes when you’re tired? It made my whole face do that. Apparently it gives your facial muscles a workout — like barre class for your cheeks — and makes everything look plumper and firmer.

After that, Kristina concocted a vitamin cocktail of five different serums and patted them into my face while blasting me with a super-dose of hyaluronic acid and vitamin-enriched oxygen, during which my skin felt like the inside of a dove’s wing. She put some gauze over my face and wrapped me up in a hot towel to help the serums soak in. Mmmmm.

The next step was probably my favorite: a tea tree jelly mask. Kristina asked me if she could paint it over my lips, too, because “it would be super hydrating.” “Duh,” I replied. I was metaphorical putty in her hands while she put literal putty on my face. The mask went on like a goo and hardened into a congealed gel. It felt like a cool and clammy face cave. I never wanted to leave. (Although now that I’ve seen the photo, it’s good that I did).

Though the mask step was my favorite, the following step made me feel like an astronaut, which is definitely worth celebrating. Kristina put a machine over my face that looks kind of like those trays you use to bring wine into the bath or something, except it flashed red and blue light like my very own private disco party. “It’s LED light therapy,” Kristina explained. “NASA developed it to heal astronaut’s wounds in space, and they discovered that different lights had different effects. Blue light is typically used to kill acne-causing bacteria, while red light can speed up healing and stimulate collagen.”

After my facial, I took a selfie right when I walked outside because I needed to document how amazing my skin looked and felt. I wasn’t red or blotchy at all, like I often have been after previous facials. I only had one tiny dot on my forehead where a pimple had been extracted, but it faded less than half an hour later.

I took another selfie a few days later because I was still coasting on whatever magic Kristina worked upon me, plus a bit of a tan from walking around in the sun. I’m not wearing any makeup except mascara in this photo and I think my skin looks PRETTY GREAT:

Fully enamored with my experience, I reached out to the co-founder of Silver Mirror, Cindy Kim (who also co-founded Korean beauty startup Peach & Lily), to find out more about what makes Silver Mirror’s treatments so uniquely effective.

“In Korea, facials are extremely affordable, easy to access, no-fluff, and packed with incredible products and technologies,” she said. “They are meant to supplement your at-home routine and are very much a part of a regular skincare lifestyle. We created Silver Mirror to be a skincare destination where people can learn about their skin from experts, receive results-driven facial treatments to directly address their concerns, and understand what products to use and how to take care of their skin at home to continue that progress and improvement.”

The list of high-end machines and cosmeceutical products the salon uses is exhaustive: microdermabrasion, hydra-dermabrasion, light chemical peels, advanced LED therapy, high frequency, derma-rolling, electrical muscle stimulation and specialty masks, all customized to your skin and its progress. “The time I spent in Korea and working in Korean skincare always has me anticipating the next big thing. I go back to Korea one to two times a year and spend a lot of time testing out what is being used in facials there,” said Kim. “There’s always a new mask, peel or injection to discover!”

I took this to mean I should probably make another appointment soon to experience whatever cutting-edge treatment Silver Mirror decides to feature next. Until then, I’ll be over here taking selfies.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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