Bone-setting: The new face of Korea

Bone-setting: The new face of Korea

Forget "petite surgeries" and Botox. Bone-setting is the newest popular Korean aesthetic treatment

Ever wonder how Korean celebrities have such tiny faces?

Sure, plastic surgery and good genes may account for a great deal, but in Korea, an increasing number of celebrities (and non-celebs) are flocking to aesthetic treatment clinics that feature alternative methods of therapy. 

Yakson House, a traditional Korean aesthetic company started in 1979, specializes in health, face and body care with a twist. 

The House offers "bone therapy," a method of "remodeling" the face and body through alternative massage techniques geared to re-align your bone structure to its original, symmetrical shape. 

Instead of feeling like a straightforward massage or a chiropractic therapy, the feeling that one gets from each session is that your bones are being "set" all over your body. 

Be warned, it's not for those who desire immediate and dramatic results. Nor is it for those who fear pain. 

Custom setting

The House claims to "fix" bodies that have become deformed through bad posture and misuse, and offers programs customized for particular needs. 

The "Unequal Face Care" program, which costs 2,400,000 (approximately US$2,256) for eight sessions, is the most basic.

"아프면 '아'하고 표현을 해주셔야 합니다. 가만히 참고 계시면 더 힘들어요," 관리사 한 분이 충고해주었다.

Each session in the program involves two hours of therapy, and contrary to what one might expect of a "Face Care" program, the treatment encompasses full on care on the calves, thighs, stomach, back, neck and finally the face. 

Although the treatments can be quite painful, it's the type of "refreshing pain" (think boiling baths) that Koreans love. 

The treatments have become so popular that the House has branched out not only in Korea, but also overseas. The Cheongdam-dong Yakson House is the original branch. There are currently 69 branches in Seoul, Gyeonggi, Changwon, Daejeon, Busan, Gwangju provinces and Jeju Island

The first overseas Yakson House opened in 2009 in Shinjuku, Japan. There are also branches in the Philippines and the United States. 

Interestingly, the popularity of the programs vary according to customers' nationalities. 

"In particular, Japanese like Unequal Face Care, while Filipinos are interested in the care for the lower part of body and American people like Lifting Programs," says Kim Hyoun-sook, the director of Education at Yakson House. 

Kim says Japanese women comprise the largest percentage of foreign visitors, and among the 23 different types of programs offered by Yakson House, the most popular one among Koreans is "Face Reduction Care."

"It is possible to experience the reduction effects as much as 10 percent," says Yakson House public relations manager Choi Hyun-Seong. 

Waxing skeptical? 

"In the event that there is no effect, or customers are not satisfied with it, we provide the services until the 10% reduction effects are experienced,” says Choi confidently. 

The guarantee system of providing additional free service until satisfied also applies to the "Curved Legs Care" program (500,000-600,000 for 10 sessions) which is geared towards making your knees and ankle bones meet, and also to the "Pelvis Care" program (500,000 for 10 sessions), geared to make your hips and pelvis symmetrical.

Spreading the word

Yakson runs an academy in Seoul, and offers educational programs for therapists from all over the world who come to learn Yakson's bone therapy techniques. 

The techniques are based on guidelines set forth by Julius Wolff, an orthopedic surgeon in Germany, who theorized that calcium absorption rates increase according to the more shocks your bones receive. 

한국에서 가장 인기가 있는 프로그램은 작은 얼굴 만들기 프로그램."During the bone therapy process, calcium absorption rates become higher and blood circulation is improved, and so it has a beautifying effect," says Kim. "It's the same kind of effect that swimming is good for the bones because of the water pressure."

They must be doing something right, as the word keeps spreading and more and more Hallyu celebrities, including Koo Hara and Yoo Ah-in, sign up for treatments.

"Hopefully, bone therapy will be known to the world, and more foreigners will visit Korea, experience it, learn it and spread it to other nations," says Kim. 

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

Read more about Rachel Sang-hee Han