“You have such a nice skin!”
A compliment I’ve heard quite often, and don’t mind hearing it.
I agree with the general statement: Koreans do have fairly good skins. Meaning, smooth, clean and has no trouble. And I think I know why. Well I need to thank my mum because I was born this way, but we have a secret weapon to take care of our skin. Maybe it’s because the obsession toward the beauty products and whitening cream, but obviously I’m not talking about that.
To answer your question; no, it didn’t come from Italy.
My relationship with Italy towel started early. Every weekend, the whole family went a trip to the local bathhouse. My mom, grandmother and I to women’s, and my dad and brother to men’s, and the session began.
Hot tub, cold tub, shower booths, squat shower booths (where people sit and wash, instead of stand under the shower head) and sauna are common parts of Korean bathhouse. Now you can see these in jimjilbang these days. First, we took a light shower, and jump into the hot tub usually in the middle of the bathhouse. The whole pool was free if we went early enough.
Swimming, soaking in the hot pool for a while, and several trips to sauna with my mom and grandmother, now it’s time to get to it. Italy towels on, and the battle begin.
Italy towel is basically scrubby thing (that’s how I call it in English), exfoliating glove – to be precise, that we can use for shower or bath. If you’ve been to ‘Korean spa’, you may have seen it before. It is usually in color green or yellow, shaped of a mitten. I’ve used many different kinds of scrubby things around the world, including wash clothe in America, but nothing can compare to Italy towel of Korea. It is the best way to execute exfoliation without going to an expensive spa treatment. One of the few things I miss the most during my 14 months trip last year was this piece of viscose scrubby thing.
I wasn’t strong enough to scrub my own skin when I was little. So it was a battle between three generations; my grandmother, mom, and I. They scrubbed my front and back, side to side, just like a fishmonger descaling fish. Now you can understand better why we needed squat shower booth instead of the one on the wall. Exfoliating took time, we couldn’t stand the whole time. There’s a professional exfoliator (can I say that?) in the bathhouse as well. They do the hard job for you in an exchange for small fee. Although we never used them, they are an important part of Korean bath house.
It was a painful procedure for a little kid. I blamed my mom every time she was too strong for my baby skin. But I admit, there was nothing like the fresh feeling right after a hot bath with softer baby skin.
My grandmother used to finish the ceremony by buying me hangari milk (it is banana milk, but we called it ‘jar (hangari in Korean) milk’ because of its shape). Still, I associate banana milk and bath.
After coming back from 14 months away, I started using Italy towel again, and I’ve realized how I really miss this little thing. Now we all know what’s going to be in my toiletry back for my next trip.
The wonderful world of Italy towel, care to join? It’s two for 1,000 won or less. Oh, then why the name has ‘Italy’ in it? Because the viscose fabric came from Italy in the 1960s when Italy towel was invented.