beauty and wellness

LOOK: What it’s like visiting a Korean aesthetic clinic for the first time

Steph Arnaldo

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LOOK: What it’s like visiting a Korean aesthetic clinic for the first time
Helmed by Korean dermatologist Dr. Cho, Hernel at BGC can help you achieve your #KBeautyGoals through a super detailed skin analysis and personalized treatments!

MANILA, Philippines – K-pop, K-food, and K-drama aside, K-beauty also has the country in a chokehold. Many dream of achieving “glass skin,” hoarding Korea’s best skincare products, or copping that dewy “no-makeup makeup look” just like their favorite K-pop idols. So, it only makes sense that a South Korean aesthetic clinic finally landed on Philippine shores!

HERNEL CLINIC. Korea’s wellness space opened its first Philippine branch in Seibo Tower. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Hernel Korean Aesthetic Clinic opened in Bonifacio Global City in late 2023, led by renowned South Korean dermatologist Dr. Young Cho, who has the credible lowdown on Korean beauty secrets and has been providing the “authentic Korean aesthetic experience” in the Philippines for over a year.

At Hernel, it’s all about the “perfect blend of innovation and tradition” set on “unlocking one’s glow with expert services.” It’s not a surgical clinic or a plastic surgery center; it’s skin and aesthetics-focused, with a myriad of non-invasive procedures and anti-aging treatments curated based on your personal needs. Hernel uses advanced technology, techniques, and machines imported from and used in South Korea.

Every experience is different

“Personalized” is the key word here – Hernel doesn’t dictate a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to beauty and wellness. Perhaps the most important step of the experience is the incredibly detailed (and brutally honest) skin consultation clients can go through before anything else. (You can also come in with your preferred choice of treatment already.)

LOBBY. On the first floor is a spacious waiting area where guests can relax on plush sofas and enjoy water or coffee before consultations. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Although named a “clinic,” Hernel is far from feeling “medical,” and is not stuffy or stiff. The BGC space exudes luxury, sophistication, and relaxation; almost like a wellness spa. Gold decor, marble accents, lavish sofas, and attentive service all add to the ambiance.

SECOND FLOOR. There are cozy waiting rooms in every level of the clinic, complete with entertainment and services brochures. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Upon my visit, I was first led to an almost bare room, where I was asked to answer some basic questions and have “before” photos of my face taken from different profiles.

PHOTO-OP ROOM. I was asked to sit down against a wall and move my face at different angles for pre-treatment pictures. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Afterwards, I was led to the Skin Analysis room, where I was asked to stick my face inside the industry-leading Janus Pro – a state-of-the-art 3D facial skin analysis machine that takes in-depth face mapping photos from all angles with three flash light sources.

JANUS PRO. The state-of-the-art skin analysis machine is directly imported from Korea and provides a thorough report on your skin health. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Results came in swiftly, displayed on a computer screen and relayed right away. I was given a disclaimer: do I want the cold, hard truth or a sugarcoated version? I opted for the former, and as a disclaimer: the results were not what I expected (or wanted them to be)!

QUICK AND PAINLESS. I was asked to close my eyes while my face was inside the machine, where bright flashes of light came in from all angles. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

It was an eye-opening reality check for me – I could uncomfortably see the 3D depth of my super visible pores and fine lines – and which areas of my face needed the most care. The map also shows which areas of my face were the oiliest, most dry, or textured. It also provided an overview of my skin type – my oily, non-pigmented skin wasn’t acne-prone nor sensitive; however, because my skin was thin, I was more susceptible to fine wrinkles.

The results revealed that I was losing elasticity in my face faster than I should be for my age (I’m 29), which meant that my skin lacked hydration, so the dryness was causing my skin to “sag.” I was told that I had a fair amount of wrinkles already, with most of them under my eyes. However, I was pleased to know that my daily sunscreen and vitamin C + niacinamide serum habits were paying off – they said my skin showed no signs of uneven skin tone, discoloration, pigmentation, or sun spots.

ESTEEMED DERMATOLOGIST. South Korea’s trusted Dr. Cho and his team of 4 doctors are at the helm of Hernel’s services and treatments. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The Janus Pro’s results are further analyzed by Dr. Cho in his clinic upstairs. During my consultation with him, he said that I needed to amp up the moisture of my skin – a concern that could still be treated with home care, thankfully. I made a mental note to stock up on collagen and hyaluronic acid serums, apply moisturizer also during the day, and maybe start adding retinol to my daily skin care routine.

Based on my skin analysis and the apparent lack of elasticity, Dr. Cho recommended Hernel’s Microwave Treatment – a non-invasive multi-tasking machine that painlessly and safely targets skin tightening, cellulite, and fat reduction using microwave technology (and no, it doesn’t sting too bad).

Treat(ment) yourself!

In one room, Hernel’s skin specialist first cleansed my face and steamed it, allowing my pores to open up gently (this process alone was relaxing). Next, I was led to the Microwave Treatment room, where I sat comfortably on a reclining chair and was assessed by one of their senior aestheticians (who also shares her honest feedback and tells you where and why you need treatment).

PRE-TREATMENT ROOM. Facials and treatments that don’t require machines are done in this room, such as cleansing and steaming. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

The Microwave machine comes with two kinds of hand pieces, the 7mm and 3mm. The 7mm handpiece produces a low and buzzing energy of heat (just like the microwave we use for food) as it targets the outer fat layer to help melt the fats. The 3mm handpiece targets the SMAS layer (Superficial Musculoaponeurotic System) that helps with lifting and tightening once it gets heated.

MICROWAVE ROOM. Hernel’s Microwave treatment is done here, while guests are reclined on the chair. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

With a high tolerance for discomfort, I found the heat level quite relaxing – the heat increases in periods, but only with your permission. If it’s too uncomfortable, you can always say so. The hand piece is rotated on the facial areas that need lifting, and facial oil is regularly applied to your skin to make the motions more fluid. Overall, the process lasted 30 minutes or so, and was relatively painless (I even found myself drifting to sleep at one point).

Off the bat, I did notice slight rejuvenated differences in my face afterwards – although my skin was slightly reddish and raw due to the heat, my eyebrow/forehead area were seemingly more raised and some areas of my face felt more lifted and defined. The grand results are not immediate, so the specialist recommended that I come back every two weeks to see it through (I only tried one session, but if I had the budget, I would love to do so). At the end of the day, it’s up to you!

The last step was Red Light Therapy, where I laid under a portable machine that helps to calm down the post-procedure redness using low-level wavelengths of red light.

RED LIGHT THERAPY. Typically used to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions, RTL helps to soothe post-op redness on the skin. Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Hernel offers various other Korean aesthetic non-invasive treatments and Seoul-inspired beauty services, done by trusted K-beauty experts that aim to “bring a touch of Seoul to Manila.” Dr. Cho brings Filipinos procedures extremely popular in Korea, like collagen therapies, thread treatments, lasers, skin boosters, HIFU Laser, fillers, Botox, skin toning, rejuvenation, skin brightening, and more.

Fun fact: Filipinos can even enjoy the “Jennie Whitening Program,” a 12-week program inspired by the beauty regimen followed by Jennie Kim of BLACKPINK at a different beauty clinic in Korea. 

Hearing the harsh truth about my skin age was a bit jarring at first, but alas, prevention is better than the cure! Armed with new knowledge, at least I now know which skin concerns I need to focus on as I work on my anti-aging skincare routine. Hernel encourages guests to see beauty as a “holistic self-care practice,” and not a one-and-done instant solution. If you have a big beauty budget to spare, there’s no harm in checking in on your skin!

Hernel Korean Aesthetic Clinic is located at Ground Floor, Seibu Tower, 6th Ave Corner 24th St, BGC. For more information, you can check out Hernel on Instagram. –

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.