Korea 101
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A Trip To Face-Factory Town (AKA Apgujeong)

Caption: “You all look so fake. God you should have gone natural, like I did”
Image source: Cosmetic brand ‘NOTS’ Promo cartoon

As I wrote in my last post, I went to the dermatologist’s two Saturdays ago with my friend Park.

We were referred to ‘O Clinic’ (I think that’s what I’m supposed to do, to give them privacy) by a friend of hers, who said that their mole-removing was just perfect and didn’t leave any scarring. Turns out, it’s one of those dermatology/plastic surgery combo clinics! Wasn’t expecting that, but hey, always fascinating to take a look inside the funhouse.

So, we checked in at the counter at 15:00, and were told to please wait someone will be with you in just a moment. So we went to sit in some of those nice puffy couches, which were almost all full, since it was Saturday. Then a plastic-looking-receptionist came to us and said:

Receptionist: So, you are Miss Park, and you are here to have some moles removed, correct?
– Me & Calculette: (in unison) Yes.
Receptionist: Right… Let me go ahead and start counting. 1, 2, 3…13. Okay, thirteen for you Miss Lee.
– Me: Okay, but I’d like to keep this one under my eyebrow, and also remove the one near my hairline, right here. Can you do that?
Receptionist: Of course (there isn’t anything we can’t do, you dumbo), and for you Miss Park, 11? Is that right?
– Calculette: That seems right.
Receptionist: Okay, so 13 for you Miss Lee, and 11 for you Miss Park. And would you like an IPL to go with that? (same tone as in: ‘Hi, would you like fries to go with that?’)
– Me & Calculette: (look at each other at her casual tone) What?
Receptionist: IPL. You both have… slight colouring on your faces.
– Me: You mean, freckles? Yes, I have freckles.
Receptionist: Yes. We can remove that, you know. Just zap them along with your moles (smiles).
– Calculette: How does that work, the process?
Receptionist: It’s simple. You can get both procedures right away today. What do you think?
– Me: (determined to nip the bud) I think I would like more time to think about that. (In Korean this really means ‘no, please shut up’)

Maybe because it was Saturday, the place was crowded and messy and full of people with funny creams and masks on their faces. Little did I know I would end up looking like them for almost an hour.

The clinic was really a quite big one, taking up one whole floor. Divided into corridors with open rooms and some closed-door consultation rooms, a locker room, some wash basins scattered about, and funny-looking machines I hope I’ll never need to use. Most treatment rooms didn’t even have doors, and people were lying on beds with ice packs on their faces, getting beamed up by machines, and in general waiting about for their turn.

The consultation rooms seemed to be reserved for those who want bigger surgeries – not itsy bitsy ones like eyelids or mole-zapping. I overheard one man saying “…so nose job next week, and the week after..” to the doctor as he left one of them. In another room, a whole family (mother, father, and young girl, probably 18-19) were huddled in together. Father and daughter waited patiently for their mother to get done with whatever she was in for. Most interesting was the Russian mother and daughter (They looked more Uzbek, but I can’t distinguish these two languages very well) who were into complain about some procedure that had gone wrong. The girl spoke in English about having come back to the clinic three times to see the doctor, and being declined to do so. The staff, in very coherent English, replied that the doctor wasn’t in, and the girl got angry and frustrated, and I really wondered what the issue was since she looked fine on her face.

As we waited for half an hour for the doctor’s consultation, we (technically, I, because C got sick from the pictures) flipped through the clinic’s “Before & After” portfolio, ranging from mole-removal, hair implants, acne treatment (these were amazing), eye surgery, breast implants, jaw surgery, and so on. The patients’ eyes are blurred out, and in the case of eye surgery prop-up, the rest of their faces. I’ve heard that the patients who model for the billboards get the whole surgery for free in exchange (I mean, yes, sure, save a few tens of million wons, but everybody will know you got something done).

The doctor was ready to see us, and she talked us down about the process – the laser cuts away the moles, and then you have to wear protective band-aids for 3 days, after which a scab will form. Once the scabs have naturally fallen out, you have to avoid sunlight as much as you can, while the layers of skin grow back and hopefully don’t become moles again (this happens easily if you let them see too much sun). For the bigger moles, the process is repeated over a few months, since cutting too deep will also cut the layer that heals back the skin. I have one mole that needs several procedures. And yes, she talked to us about IPL as soon as she was done counting the moles.

Somehow between the consultation, the photo-session, and the cashier, C and I were separated, and it really seemed like the clinic was over capacity (Naturally, nobody calls you by name, it’s “Please, Miss” or “Miss, we need your photo taken”). She got her cream applied before the photos, while I got the photos first. What a mess. Also, my cream was applied just on the moles themselves, then secured with what looked too much like kraft tape, but C basically got a cream mask with plastic wrap on top of her face. We both looked weird, so that was cool, but it was confusing.

We were told every mole would cost 10,000 KRW, but in the end they cost a lot less – at initial counting I had 13 moles, but during surgery the doctor found ten more, and just zapped them without extra charge. Calculette had about 16. I paid 130,000 and she paid 100,000. Our hypothesis is that this is the “hook” surgery, that is supposed to lead to IPL, pore reduction, and all those wonderful things the plastic women of Apgujeong get done on a regular basis (IPL starts at 200,000 per session, and usually comes in a 10-session package).

So we waited reading a Kindle (me) and napping (me) and playing Poco-Pang (Calculette). Finally, the doctor was ready. The whole process took less than ten minutes each. I went first. Because of the anesthetizing cream I didn’t feel a thing for the most part. It was like someone was carving a piece of horn next to me, in terms of sound and smell. The doctor zapped a couple of small mole she hadn’t spotted before, and those felt a bit like a pinch, but nothing so serious. Once she turned off the machine and the nurse stopped the suction, the doctor have me a mirror and said “Did we miss out anything?”, and she hadn’t, so I just left. Calculette had a couple of small ones left out, so she did an extra two-minute on the bed (because it really was not an operating table! Cushions and everything!) Anyway, feeling a little like Frankenstein albeit a less grotesque version, my face full of little craters, I watched Calculette get hers zapped, and it looked like the laser really just carved away the skin, clean, just like that.

Then I had a nurse-uniform-wearing-but-really-a-lady-in-a-pink-suit apply itty bitty bits of plaster on the craters. Until the scars form scabs and the scabs fall off, I have to wear those plasters. Yay to me looking like a termite-bitten face! Once the scabs fall off, please be careful and apply plenty of sunscreen or wear sun shields. Also, try not to sweat – so no exercise for you Misses!

And for the next week, I spent ten minutes every day and midday and evening changing plasters – these are special plasters that sort of swell when absorbing the oozing (sorry for the vivid description) watery liquid. After a week, I was told to apply ointment to help them heal, and to stop with the plasters. Some of the smaller moles didn’t even form scabs at all, and some of the bigger ones took longer to stop oozing. Some of them started itching like mad, as many scab-forming-wounds do.

Two weeks into the healing process, I look mole-less, albeit the scabs from the bigger ones, which haven’t fully formed scabs yet.

I will be going back for a follow-up in two weeks, and I hope I’ll hear and see more about this fascinating, and strange world of plastics.

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This entry was posted in: Korea 101

by

Internationally lost since 2000, Emily was born in Seoul, raised in India, and has been living and studying in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since 2014. A translator and interpreter by profession, she enjoys talking and debating just about anything.

3 Comments

  1. Myra says

    It still looks expensive to me… I have stopped counting my moles because I have so many lol

    Any information given about the laser used on your skin? It scares me a little… the side effects.

    • Emily Singh says

      Haha yes, I won’t remove any new ones unless they are huge.
      It’s just a standard laser, I think the clinic told me it was some high-tech Swiss brand.
      You have to wear special plasters for two weeks following the surgery, and it’s recommended you get the surgery in winter in order to avoid infection. I did feel some spots getting more ooze come out of them than others so I just used mild disinfectant when applying new ones.
      So far, no side effects. A couple of moles have grown back but that is quite common. It is a very minor surgery after all.

  2. Myra says

    Oh I see. Thank you for your reply 🙂 It does make me feel less nervous about doing it in my country (or in Korea if I ever go there once).

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