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Taking an Enzyme Bath (or How to Cure Jet Lag)

Korean bathhouses or jimjilbang have been around in New York and LA for sometime now. These communal bathhouses offer a variety of dipping pools, saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms, massage therapies and even cafes, with enough activities to take up a full day of blissed-out relaxation.

Lately Korean jimjilbangs have taken it to the next level with a slew of new treatments. When we heard about the enzyme bath at Spa Lei, we had to try it out. Only a few hours after arriving in Seoul, we dragged our jetlagged bodies to Spa Lei. We did the requisite course of dry saunas powered by crystals and bamboo salts, then a wholesome meal and even some TV-watching, sprawled out in the viewing room with an iced dessert. Only then did we enter the enzyme bath lounge. 5 minutes later, we looked like this.


The enzyme bath lounge had two huge wooden tubs filled with enzymes, which looked like…well, dirt, and the room was kept dark and moist to keep an ideal environment and ph for the enzymes to thrive. Enzyme baths are very popular in Japan for its therapeutic benefits, especially in colder regions such as Hokkaido, and were actually offered to participants during the first Winter Olympics in Japan.

A human body-shaped portion of the dirt was scooped away and once we settled into the tub (sans clothing, except for a pair of disposable undergarments and protective headwrap), the enzymes were spread back over us, until we were fully tucked in. A pleasant warmth radiated from the enzymes. Amazingly enough, the tubs are actually never heated – the heat generation is caused by the natural fermentation process of active enzymes. The heat improves circulation while the reaction of enzymes on skin help to exfoliate and detoxify. Flavored teas and cool water towels for the forehead were offered periodically to keep us hydrated.

Spa Lei’s enzyme bath is run by the lovely Ms. Kang, who explained she ‘feeds’ the enzymes a diet of dry rice bran and tills the enzymes every day to keep them active. Interestingly enough, she also turns on music every night to help them thrive – apparently enzymes like classical music, but not rock. (This reminded us of Creme de la Mer’s story of how it’s founder played music to sea kelp, a key ingredient of its formulas.)

Ingredient stories aside, what we do know is that 30 minutes later we emerged from the tubs, relaxed yet energized. The remaining enzymes that clung to our skin was vigorously brushed off, revealing skin that looked and felt smoother. And best of all, our jet lag was remarkably improved. While this was probably a combination of the enzyme bath, and some much needed relaxation and nourishment, among the dozens of transpacific trips we’ve taken over the past few years, this was the record for fastest jet lag turnaround.

Our glowing skin post treatment can also be attributed to the fact that enzymes are used often in skincare for exfoliating, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory purposes. Bromelain (from the pineapple) or papain (papaya) are often used to break down and speed up the removal of dead skin cells, while lipase enzymes can function to minimize inflammation and neutralize free radicals. Since enzyme baths aren’t readily available, our alternative recommendation for a quick glow is Dr. Oracle’s The Snow Queen Powder Cleanser – a powder-to-foam cleanser that contains bromelain and papain for a gently exfoliating and effective cleanse. Dr. Oracle’s chemists also formulated these ingredients in a powder format to create the right environment to preserve the efficacy of the enzymes in the formula.

So the verdict on enzymes and enzyme baths? Glow Recipe approved!

Get your glow on,

The Glow Recipe Team

We were not paid or perked to do this post. All reviews are our objective thoughts.  

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