Flying to Asia to explore beauty ideals may be Jessica Simpson’s thing, but you can do it in Chicago, too.
We spent the better part of this past Saturday tucked away in the unassuming, far-flung Korean day spa, Paradise Sauna. At the urging of our friend Adryanna, who had visited a Korean spa while in, well, Korea, the three of us made our way (El, bus, walk a block) to Albany Park. That’s not to say it took much prodding to get us to go; it’s gotten warmer and everyone’s showing more skin, so it was a logical time to give ours some attention. Plus, who isn’t down for some pampering now and then?
“Pampering,” however, isn’t quite the service Paradise Sauna aiming to provide, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it is a spa with complimentary towels and robes, and facilities like a nap room, it’s more about getting down to business and whipping your skin into shape at a modest price. A day’s use of the steam saunas, whirlpools and cold and hot tubs are included in the $18 base price (plus a $2 key deposit), and services include scrubs and massages, which start at $30 and $40, respectively, for 30 minutes.
The scrub is a must, and for both of us, it was a first. We each took turns lying on a table in the bathhouse while a very nice but stern, middle-aged Korean woman in a black bra and panties set to work systematically buffing us with what looked like a Brillo pad (of course it wasn’t) on each hand.
For those who have never experienced a Korean body scrub, especially at Paradise Sauna, there are a few things you should know. First, leave your bathing suit at home. This is a bathhouse, after all. (Don’t worry, women’s and men’s facilities are separate.) But do bring flip flops or other waterproof sandals to wear in the pools and on the pool deck. They provide towels and some shampoo at Paradise, but you might want to bring your own.
Before using any facilities, you must shower and thoroughly clean yourself. Before a scrub, sit in the whirlpool for an hour or so, to soften your skin so it’s less painful and more like a massage. The scrubber at Paradise doesn’t speak English, and while it’s not necessary to talk, it’s helpful to know what’s going on. She starts at the feet and works her way up. You’ll start on your back and turn four times: first onto your right side, then onto your stomach, your left side and finally back to a face-up position. The scrubber will let you know when to turn with a brusque “turn!” and tap of the table (or your calf).
We feel like new people, and with a layer of our skin gone, we kind of are. “Once a week!” the scrubber recommends, in order to keep skin healthy and glowing.
This no-frills spa is clean and basic, but like any bathhouse, isn’t for the overly self-conscious. To fully experience the facilities, which you’ll probably share with a handful of other Korean grandmas, middle-aged Caucasian ladies and younger Asian women (all of whom aren’t looking and don’t care, same as you), leave your inhibitions (and your clothes) in the locker room.
Paradise Sauna, 2910 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago. (773) 588-3304.
–Tara and Karina for TKGO