At Imperial Health Spa, this is how you get summer-ready skin:
Step 1: Get naked.
Step 2: Lie down on a wet, vinyl-covered table as a middle-aged, bra-and-panties-clad woman vigorously sloughs off dead debris from every cranny of your body with Brillo-pad-like scrubbing mitts.
Step 3: Walk out of the room feeling slightly traumatized, but also relaxed and refreshed.
Step 4: Feel how smooth you are and wonder, "Where has this place been all my life?"
The age-old scrubbing ritual is the prized service at this gleaming Korean wonderspa that anchors a Fullerton strip mall. People of all ages, sizes, shapes and colors come to get squeaky-clean and unravel life's worries in the many pools, lounge areas and "therapeutic rooms" that fill the 32,000-square-foot space designed to look like a Roman cathedral.
While a notch fancier than most standard Korean jimjilbangs (traditional bathhouses) in Los Angeles, this isn't Burke-Williams. You won't find plush robes, cucumber water and Enya playing in the background. But for a $20 entrance fee, no one seems to mind. Walk into the marble-floored lobby, grab your locker keys (Koreans consider shoes to be filthy, so they're stored away from all other belongings) and veer into the gender-separated changing quarters. Then strip away—all the way down to your plastic ID bracelet. (Swimsuits are allowed, but you rarely see them.) Don't bother sucking it in. Nobody's a supermodel, and nobody's paying attention. It's quite liberating.
Enter a bright room with shiny marble walls, saunas and mini-pools that range from hot to really hot to ooh-that's-cold. The spa recommends you alternate between the three to rev up blood flow. For those looking for a DIY scrubdown, there are rows of metal spigots, stools and sponges.
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Next, slip on the spa-issued shorts-and-tee set (hot pink for ladies, mustard yellow for men) and head to the co-ed area, an oasis of black-leather reclining chairs mostly occupied by men reading newspapers, televisions set on Korean channels and a maze of saunas, all built with natural elements that promise an array of specific health benefits, from increasing brain activity to preventing osteoporosis. One room features sandbox-like beds filled with tiny balls of clay heated with infrared rays. Another has walls made of salt bricks. There's a jade room that glimmers and an ice room that looks—and feels—like an igloo. In addition to the $30 scrub, the house specialty, Imperial Health Spa offers standard spa services such as facials and Swedish and deep-tissue massages, all reasonably priced.
After a long day of sweating out the toxins, renourish at the spa restaurant. No froufrou menu of carrot sticks and wheatgrass shots here: From a handmade noodle soup to spicy rice cakes to kimchi fried rice, the dishes are hearty and hit the spot.
You'll walk out feeling satisfied and glowing. Hello, summer!