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Spa Therapy

Irvine's new I•Spa will detox your body, mind and soul.


I•Spa is open seven days 8 a.m. to midnight.
Adult admission for use of the sauna and
Jjimjilbang is $25; for sauna only is $15.
Treatments range from $25 for a 25-minute
scrub (men) or $30 for 35 minutes (women)
to $60 for 60 minutes of acupressure and
$130 for a 120-minute Gold Scrub Massage.
Most treatment prices include cost of
admission and full use of facility. The spa is
located at 2332 Barranca Pkwy., Irvine.
949.260.9988 :: ispaus.com

Orange County’s biggest beauty secret isn’t tucked away in a cozy two-room salon in Laguna Beach or San Clemente. It is, in fact, a 30,000-square-foot Korean mega-spa in Irvine within sight of The District at Tustin Legacy. At I•Spa, it’s not about the light touch or soothing vibe. It’s naked (literally) and a little rough (in a very good way) – and totally worth it.

A comforting balance of cleanliness, open space and traditional Korean décor, the sauna and spa center opened in February to provide guests with authentic services immersed in luxury and quality.

The expansive spa is complete with a men’s and women’s section and a co-ed Jjimjilbang, which includes several themed rooms – Fire Room, Sudatorium, Salt Room, Forest Room, and Ice Room – relaxation areas, a Korean food court, an Internet Café for kids, barbershop, and Four Seasons private meeting rooms available by reservation.

The use of hot and cold are a large part of the spa concept. General Manager Connie Nam explains that the varying temperatures help blood circulation and skin. The Sudatorium, which is the hottest of all the rooms, can help detox the body in just a few minutes – which is all most people can stand. The Ice Room, on the other hand, helps cool down heated muscles. Nam says guests will often alternate back and forth between the hot and cold rooms for added detoxification and weight loss.

There’s enough to do in the Jjimjilbang all by itself – for just $25 an adult can have full use of this area plus the sauna – without even stepping foot into the rest of the spa. But of course, one cannot visit a Korean spa without getting a scrub. While the Jjimjilbang requires use of the provided pink or blue spa uniform, the sauna is the less clothed side. To use one of the tubs, guests must first shower and remove all of their clothes.

Despite my reservations, almost as soon as I left my garments in the provided locker and stood under one of the open shower stalls, I relaxed. I had a “we are all one” kind of feeling, as I tested out the tubs (cold, hot and warm) and checked out the steam rooms, and felt my shyness slip away. My tension hadn’t completely dissipated, however, since I am well aware of the almost mythological legend of the Korean spa, using brute force and vigorous scrubbing to whip the skin and muscles into shape.

So when my therapist walked out in the black bra-and-panty set that is the therapist uniform on the women’s side, I felt a small twinge of panic. As I walked into the wet treatment section, with cubicle-like treatment areas, each including a single, pink vinyl treatment table, a large garbage bin full of warm water and towels, assorted buckets, and what appeared to be a dish containing vegetables (it turned out to be for the cucumber mask), I could feel my anxiety rise. When my therapist spoke to me in broken English, while signaling to lie facedown, I briefly pondered the idea of running. But given that I wouldn’t get very far in my unclothed and very slippery state, I did as the Romans do – or in this case, the Koreans.

The 80-minute Scrub Massage ($70, including admission) turned out to be one of the best experiences of my spa life. The scrub was vigorous, yes, and painful at times. But the therapist was very aware of going too strong and it all probably looked worse than it was. As I saw the layers of my skin peel off, I could feel a reinvigoration in my circulatory system akin to a good workout. Saturated by buckets of warm water while alternately heated by very hot towels and intensely scrubbed, I felt a gentle sort of peace take over. And by the time the therapist sent me back to the showers so we could proceed to the massage, I was euphoric. The massage seemed to hit every muscle in my body intently and relentlessly. She sat on my back, dug her knees in my glutes and her elbows under my shoulders. She karate chopped my legs and dug deep into my neck. It was intense. It was great.

When it was all over, I literally left in a daze – but a very happy one. And as I changed back into my clothes and headed to the beauty area near the lockers to dry my hair, I thought about when to return.

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