Women In Korea Are Destroying Their Make‑Up To Protest Sexist Beauty Standards


Oct 31, 2018


Korean beauty trends were all over social media in 2018 — from the ‘glass skin’ routine and bubble tea sleeping packs, to cartoon animal face masks, and a ‘beauty filter’ cream (think Instagram filter but for your face). But this latest trend is unlike anything we’ve seen from South Korea. Amid their own #MeToo movement, women all over the country are destroying their make-up to protest unrealistic beauty standards. The trend, called ‘Escape the corset,’ involves women posting videos on social media where they cut their hair short, gather their all their cosmetics, and smash them — these women are literally smashing the patriarchy. It’s cathartic to watch.

South Korea’s beauty industry is worth over $10 billion, and according to Euromonitor, it’s the 8th largest cosmetics market in the world. On average, people living there spend up to 100,000 won (approx. Rs. 6,500) per month on cosmetic products. The country is also known as the plastic surgery capital of the world, with the most popular surgeries for skin whitening, nose jobs, and double-eyelid surgery. Estimates that show one in three women between the ages of 19- 29 have gone under the knife. And if you’ve ever watched one of those Korean skincare routine videos,  you’ll know that the 10-step process to looking flawless would require waking up at dawn to work through the entire routine.

Here’s the thing — beauty is labor. And to expect women to spend time, money, and energy, to peel dead skin off their face, make sure their make-up is meticulous, and pretend that they just woke up like that, simply to suit some idealized version of beauty? Well, that’s going to piss people off.


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Women have posted videos of themselves emptying out nail polish, eyeshadow, and foundation, onto white sheets. An instagram post showed a woman giving her discarded lipsticks and eyeliners the finger, while she asked, “Why did I smear these chemicals on my face?” And Lina Bae, a beauty blogger, racked up more than 5 million views for her video “I am not pretty” where she shows her make-up routine, with comments people have told her superimposed. “Your bare face is a terror to my eyes, lol,” and “I would kill myself if I were her” flash on the screen, before Bae takes all her make-up off and says, “I am not pretty but it is fine. You’re special the way you are.”  

‘Escape the corset’ is part of a larger movement in South Korea that is fighting against spy-cam porn, harassment, and a #MeToo movement that has already resulted in high-profile predators being taken down.


Written By Nadia Nooreyezdan

Nadia Nooreyezdan is The Swaddle’s culture editor. Since graduating from Columbia Journalism School, she spends her time thinking about aliens, cyborgs, and social justice sci-fi. She’s also working on a memoir about her family’s journey from Iran to India.


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