They say you have to suffer for the sake of beauty.
But sitting through a 90-minute South Korean facial with its endless theatre of pummelling, prodding and needling, with some sheep placenta and disco lighting thrown in for good measure is taking things to a new level.
Amazingly it’s popular, even with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian who swear the process gives them a flawless complexion known as ‘glass’ skin.
We’ve already seen K-pop, thanks to Psy and his bizarre gyrations to Gangnam Style.
Now it is the multi-billion pound K-beauty that’s invading the British high street as people rush to get a flawless facial sheen prized by South Koreans, now rated as world leaders for beauty treatments.
I still find the old three step method – cleansing, toning and moisturising – a chore, so how would I get on with the extraordinary ten stage plus process now judged necessary for the celebrity glow?
Could the facial, which costs between £100 and £350 help this exhausted mother-of-one get ready for Christmas Gangnam style?
Amy Oliver tries the new treatment that is said to be the secret behind Beyonce, Jennifer and Kim Kardashian’s complexions
Left: Amy pictured before the facial at the Harley Street clinic. Right: Amy after the 12 step beauty treatment
Apparently Beyonce swears by the Korean treatment which is responsible for her ‘glass skin’
Step one – Double Cleanse
If there is one thing Koreans never do, it’s go to bed with a face full of make-up. Jess, my therapist at the Medilift Clinic on London’s Harley Street cleanses my face with Antioxidant Lightening Cleanser Scbi cleanser (£90), which contains stem cells extracted from, of all things, sheep placenta.
Luckily, the smell of the kiwi extract trumps any farmyard odour. The South Koreans love stem cell based products due to their rejuvenating powers.
Step two – Exfoliate
To get good skin you need to ‘stimulate it’, Jess says, as she slaps on vitamin-enriched cream by Revive and then ‘massages’ my face with an exfoliation and oxygenating wand. It’s excruciating, like scraping 60-grit sandpaper across my face. ‘You look like a tomato,’ Ian the photographer says, helpfully. Jess then uses a medical-grade, radio frequency wand.
This, she says, really works on ‘lifting, tightening and reawakening’ the collagen in my skin.
Boots sell a lower frequency version of the wand for £99 should you want to carry on the torture at home.
Amy said that one of the creams that contained stem cells taken from sheep placenta smelled like a farmyard
She had Antioxidant Lightening Cleanser Scbi cleanser applied to her face. According to the beautician, Koreans use a lot of stem cell based products
The beautician used a medical-grade, radio frequency wand to lift, tighten and reawaken the collagen in the skin
Amy described the exfoliating massage as ‘excruciating’, like scraping 60-grit sandpaper across her face
Step three – Micro needling
Jess uses a DermaPen wand with 12 tiny needles going at a rate of more than 1,000 pricks per second around my mouth and eyes. This, she says, enables the serum to really sink in and work its magic. I feel like a lemon drizzle cake, but surprisingly, it doesn’t hurt, possibly because Jess has only set the depth to 0.25mm. I hope never to experience its deepest level of 2.5mls.
Step four – Sheet mask
Instagram has been awash with the likes of Trinny Woodall and P-Diddy, or ‘Brother Love’ as he’s now known, raving about the benefits of sheet masks, another K-beauty secret. Jess applies the Scbi Vegan Stem Cell sheet mask (£70 for four), loved by Bella Hadid and the Victoria’s Secret models, which is infused with vegan stem cells – taken from an apple. This, she says, is the closest thing to the sheep’s placenta, a ‘fact’ I’m still scratching my head about.
In ordinary face masks the product dries quickly, but the moisture can’t escape under a mask. It feels cold and refreshing and is supposed to give an instant pre-party glow. Thankfully this mask is paper, rather than ocean-killing plastic.
Scbi Vegan Stem Cell sheet mask is loved by Bella Hadid and the Victoria’s Secret models, which is infused with vegan stem cells – taken from an apple
Step five – LED lighting
With the mask still on, Jess places a plastic box over my head and switches the LED lights to red. It looks as though I’m in a Kubrick-esque disco nightmare, but in fact the wavelengths of light are supposed to deeply penetrate the skin.
Kourtney Kardashian was recently seen under blue light to treat her acne, but Jess suggests red light for me because it’s anti-aging and collagen boosting.
Amy has red light treatment which is said to boost collagen and be anti aging
Step six – Filler-like serum without the needle
The Medilift Clinic is the only one in the UK licensed to use Sculplla, a Korean treatment, which gives filler-like results without the needle. Jess applies the potion, which contains Poly L Lactic acid – the same ingredient in some fillers – with a syringe.
Thanks to the micro needling it sinks into the holes and dries like Latex to my face. For a less effective, but more affordable, home-remedy the Koreans smear whipped up egg whites onto their skin.
Jess then applies a clear, hydrogen-infused mask. The two react which gives the filler-like results. After what seems like an eternity, Jess pulls away the mask from my by-now very angry-looking face.
It makes a wince-inducing noise like Selotape being ripped from its reel. I can feel my face tightening almost immediately. It will continue to tighten over the next few days. The effects of one treatment can last for six weeks.
According to the beautician who performed the treatment, Koreans never go to sleep with their make up on
The Medilift Clinic is the only one in the UK that uses this Korean treatment, which gives filler-like results without the needle
Step seven – Stem cell concentrate serum
Jess pats Scbi’s Stem Cell Beauty Pure Concentrate Serum (£350.00) into my face. Alas, there is no kiwi extract to mask the undeniable smell of sheep wee. Thankfully, the collection of the placenta is cruelty free. It’s offered to the sheep to eat first before being collected for beauty products.
Step eight – Serum
Jess then applies Stem Cell Daily Gold Serum (£200), which contains real gold and yet more sheep’s placenta stem cells. Gold is good for oxygenating the skin, she says.
Step nine – Eye cream
I’m willing to try anything to eradicate the dark circles under my eyes thanks to 15 months of broken sleep – even smearing afterbirth under them. Jess says the Stem Cell Eye Firming Cream (£150.00) will firm and plump.
A clear, hydrogen-infused mask is applied. Which reacts to the other products to give filler-like results
Step 10 – Moisturise
Next, Jess applies a Stem Cell moisturiser (£150), massaging it into my skin in wide circles.
Putting moisture back into the skin is a key plank of the Korean way, Jess says. ‘It plumps and is anti-aging.’ The cream contains hyaluronic acid which acts like a sponge holding vast amounts of water in the skin.
Step 11 – Sunscreen
The South Koreans are obsessed with keeping their skin looking youthful so religiously apply an SPF. Jess applies a post-treatment repair cream with SPF 50 to finish off and protect the skin after having the treatments.
The sheet mask dries quickly, but the moisture can’t escape under a mask. It gives a pre-party glow
Step 12 – Oxygen
The last step is to blast my face with pure, medical grade oxygen and a bespoke cocktail of peptides. Jess suggests I go for rejuvenation and growth.
It feels a bit like a wet mist but is wonderfully cooling.
Clinic owner, Louisa Gill says she tried every oxygen facial on the market before deciding that medical grade gas was the only one with effective results. ‘It boosts the cells and brings the life back into them, it closes up big pores and seals everything that Jess has done,’ she says. Celebrities swear by this method. Madonna has previously confessed to keeping oxygen tanks in every home to help plump and hydrate her skin.
Amy described the oxygen facial made from a cocktail of bespoke peptides as cooling
Amy found that the day after she was given compliments from her colleagues and said her skin looks fresher and dewier
Twelve steps and two-and-a-half hours later we have finally finished. My skin is angrier than John McEnroe, but it looks fresher and dewier. Jess explains the filler-like Scullpa will continue to tighten my face so I should be party ready in the next couple of days. The next day I get compliments. Even my colleagues – cynical, hardened hacks – have to admit I look fresher and younger.
But finding the time for a regular ten-step treatment would involve some rather fierce rescheduling.
The Medilift Bespoke Facial from £100 to £350.