My first facial experience in Seoul – Brand new Cellin clinic at Hongdae

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Finally, I’m doing a travel-related post because I have something interesting to share.

In my previous trip to Korea last year, a Korean friend asked me why I did not try any Korean beauty treatments and at that point in time, I wasn’t mentally prepared to do anything as I have not  done any sort of research. Towards the end of the trip, I ended up doing a lash lift and tint (for the first time) and I was really satisfied with the results.

This year, I thought I should get a little bit more adventurous which was why I booked an appointment at this really new clinic in Hongdae. If I’m not wrong, the clinic only opened in March 2024, so it was about 2 to 3 months old when I visited them. As to how I got to know about this clinic, the story was really random. My friend visited the building back in April 2024 and she had an appointment with a bigger and more popular brand called PPEUM which could give her a last-minute appointment online. Despite having an appointment, she still had to wait 2 to 3 hours before getting her consultation and treatment. During her long process of ‘waiting’ she saw that there were other beauty clinics in the same building and somehow her lift door opened to this new clinic and she said it looked quiet and new. She gave me the name of the clinic and I googled online and found the reviews decent and the pricing was pretty competitive. The best part was that I could make a booking via Naver without a Korean number so I would say the entire reservation process was quite seamless!

Clinic name: Cellin Clinic Hongdae

Location: Near Hongdae station, Exit 9; L7 of H-CUBE (a new building behind the Apple store)

Website: https://cellinclinic4.com/

My experience

As I took the night flight to Korea, I arrived really early in the morning at about 7-8am and since I wouldn’t be able to check-in to my accommodation until the afternoon, I thought that going for such beauty treatment was a good schedule, given that I’ll have no makeup on my face anyway. I ended up reaching the clinic earlier 30 mins before my appointment time and unfortunately, they could not serve me earlier as the consultant was serving someone else. The receptionist couldn’t really speak English but she managed to use body language and a few key words and directed me to have a seat and to self-service on the espresso machine.

The space was really clean and new and despite being the only one at the clinic, I had to wait as they only have 2 rooms for consultation – of which there was only 1 being in used that day.

I think they really time-boxed their sessions really well as I was called into the room at my appointment time (which was 12pm – not sure if they have break for lunch).

The consultant could speak really decent English and there wasn’t any time where I was left feeling confused or anything. It started off with her asking me what my concerns was. She listened patiently as I shared that there were some pigmentation and acne spots that I wanted to get rid off. She was very honest and explained to me that pigmentation/laser removal was not going to be one time ‘magic’ where it would just disappear. It was something that people have to do over 10 sessions and she hopes that I continue with the treatment even when I go back to my country (but gawd it would be too expensive). There were some promotion event going on at that point in time and she made 2 recommendations to me:

  1. Premium glow package  @ 190k – includes pico toning (80k), excel V (80k), LALA Peel (69k) [bracket is ala carte pricing]
  2. Stem Cell Potenza Package @ 390k – Potenza Pumping, Exozome, Cryo care

I asked if any was invasive and she said #2 was, but they will apply numbing cream and the moment I heard numbing cream I said hell no. My pain tolerance is really low.

After deciding that I’ll go for option 1, she also recommended me this thing called LDM which was 99k, which she say it was good to ‘cool’ the face down after all that laser.

I paid 190 + 99k = 279k in total and after 10% tax the bill was 306,900W (of which i could get back 19,000W tax refund at the airport). It was a pleasant surprise to learn that beauty treatments can receive tax refund!

Also, she told me that after treatment (even though it was not invasive), it was highly recommended to abstain from exercising, excessive sweating and alcohol for 5 days?? I was a bit taken surprised by the ‘strict’ instructions but I compiled to the alcohol-ban. I didn’t exercise but the amount I sweat just from walking around.. I’m not sure if it is considered excessive or not. PANG

So after agreeing to the amount, I handed her my passport where she processed and gave me the tax refund receipt (which I had to scan in the airport after immigration). So.. every time you see a place having a lot of 5 stars review on google maps, you do get suspicious right? My suspicions was right because right after we completed the consultation, she mention that there was a foreigner promotion whereby you can free mask pack if you leave a review on google. I’m like.. I haven’t even started the treatment you wanted me to leave a review? Although I thought that it was really bizarre, I compiled because I’m a sucker for free things and at the back of my mind, I was telling myself I could alter my rating if the experience was not a fair representation. I left my comments (the written ones) to be about my consultation being decent and that the staff could speak English and that there was no hard selling involved, plus the place looks and clean and new. I didn’t want to lie but it was such an awkward ‘review’ which didn’t mention anything about the treatment at all.

On a side note, the mask that they gave me (before I left) was really good. I tried it on the first nights and I felt a difference in my face the next day. I’m rationing the other 2 pieces left for special occasions. (they gave me a set of 3).

The treatment process

I’m not sure how facial treatments are done in your country but in mine, you usually enter a room and you lie there and they will do everything for you. This means that you can come with a full face of make-up and they will wipe it off and cleanse your face. I am not sure if the experience I had experience is the norm in Korea (for less premium places), but instead of being in one place where machines and devices are brought to you, I was the one having to move around from room to room.

After exiting the consultation room, they brought me to a locker area where I could store my belongings and change out of my shoes into their slippers.

After which, they told me to wash my own face and wait in the waiting area. I felt a little weird because normally when I go for facial treatments back in Singapore, the beautician will cleanse my face for me (to ensure that your face is free of makeup and oil before the start doing the treatment) so having to cleanse and wash my own face made me feeling a little insecure. Would I do a thorough job washing my face and do I apply toner on after I’m done? Furthermore, I did spash quite a bit of water out, leaving the table and floor a little wet but I don’t really have much experience with ‘public washing’ so I guess I’ll get better.

[Waiting area]

After I was done, they told me to take a seat at the waiting area. During my wait which took somewhere between 15 to 20 mins, I saw about 3 to 5 people moving around the clinic and waiting around. I guess that this clinic may look empty on the outside but their rooms are packed with customers who are in the treatment rooms. Some ladies were coming out of the rooms with numbing cream on their faces (asked to wait at the same area as me), so the whole process did feel like a bit of a factory style operation where we are the commodity moving from line A to line B. The majority of the customers were foreigners and I also saw a dark-skin male waiting around, I guess the desire for beauty services is for everyone and anyone who needs it.

After a wait of about 20 mins, they called for my name and led me into a room with about 5-6 ‘stations’.

Sorry for the awkward photo but I was trying to be discreet about it because the whole place was so quiet, clean and new. I don’t want to be like disrupting any flow or making things awkward.

I was asked to lie down on the bed it was slightly annoying cause the lights were shining in my eyes. If I were to compare it to the treatments I do in Singapore, usually they will turn off the lights so you will feel comfortable and at ease but this was not the case over here.

The first thing they need for me was LALA peel. It is something like exfoliation where the beautician will put some gel like thing on your face and let it set for a while before cleaning it off. It was a very fast job – maybe 10 to 15 mins max.

After it was done, I was asked to get out of the station and move into a separate room for the laser treatment. The room looks something like a dental clinic and I had to lie down and they gave me a stress ball/cushion and said I could squeeze/hug it if needed and at the moment I was like.. you mean it’s gonna be pain?

[Really bad photos but just wanted to show how the treatment rooms look like]

After I lied down, they put some black thing on my eyes to block off the laser lights and I couldn’t see anything much after that.

Shortly, a doctor came in and spoke some really simple English to me – asking me if it was my first time and that if I was in pain, I could tel him to stop. Wait, did he mention pain again? What did I sign myself up to!!

Yep so the session started – the doctor was going to do the pico-toning and Excel V treatment for me. To be honest I don’t really know the science behind these technology but basically the end goal of both was to get rid of brown spots, acne scars etc.

So.. how did I feel?

I was absolutely freaking out with the sound and smell of the laser. While the pain is bearable, I wasn’t expecting to feel the pain of my face. It feels like needles and pins attacking your face and I think you can smell it too? Furthermore, the flashes of light was so bright that I could see it through the tiny gaps of the eye cover. The whole process was probably 1.5 to 3 mins or perhaps even 5 mins but I was super nervous throughout the whole session. What if I move slightly and the eye cover drops – will I go blind? Should I tell the doctor to stop so my face can take a break or should I just let him get it over and done with?

Alright in all honesty, it really wasn’t that bad, but I was just unprepared and didn’t expect what the real thing was. Somewhere in my innocent brain was thinking that laser was something completely painless and I could just be comfortable and that’s it.

The outcome

Sadly, I’m still not comfortable with showing my face online yet so no photos.

As expected, there was no immediate effect seen the next day or the next few days but few weeks on, I do feel that my skin condition has improved. Though I can’t put much ‘evidence’ into a clear definition of improvement, I do notice that my pores are kind of reduced and that I don’t get as much blackheads on my nose? In all honesty, it could also be just be a placebo effect since I spent that money and invested that time on to it, but as long as it makes me feel good and better about myself, I guess it is money well spent?

At the same time, I’m also consciously taking more effort into my skin care routine and products. There were a couple of skincare products I bought from Korea and started using them in addition to my pre-korea regime. Thus, it would also be hard to ascertain that this ‘feel good’ factor comes solely from the beauty treatment I received.

Would I do it again?

I am in fact trying to find a local clinic that I’m willing to commit to for my pico toning sessions which could alleviate the sun spots that I want to get rid of. The issues I have with going to a place in Singapore is that they will definitely up-sell you with packages and over-sell you with treatments because there’s always something to improve. Why I prefer doing it overseas is that the treatments are often no strings attached and they can’t even up-sell you packages cause you’re not going to be there for a long time. At the same time, I’m also undecided on how much money I want to invest in beauty, given that we will all get old eventually so.. yep here’s just my INTP personality working out – the indecisiveness me trying to search for rationality in every thing.

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That’s it for my sharing. It’s been a while since I’ve written such content ><

Feel free to ask me if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to help!

*Happy weekend*

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