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Korean Women Are Protesting The K-Beauty Culture on Instagram

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A new feminist movement is sweeping Instagram, as some South Korean women are rebelling against unattainable beauty standards that have become a cultural norm in their country. The movement, called Escape the Corset, sprang up over the summer on YouTube and Twitter, and is now gaining momentum on Instagram. It’s a call to arms for women to ditch their insanely extensive skincare and makeup routines and embrace minimalism.

As the 8th largest cosmetics market in the world, South Korea represents nearly 3% of the global market. In 2017, the Korea Herald reported that most girls between the ages of 10 and 12 owned an average of three beauty products. If you’re familiar with K-Beauty, this is probably not too surprising: The whole world has become obsessed with the country’s famous multi-step routines (think: 10-12 different skincare products diligently applied twice a day). It’s also not uncommon for South Korean high schoolers to get plastic surgery for graduation, according to The Atlantic.

In response, more and more South Koreans are making their voices heard on Instagram to push back against impossible beauty expectations for women. Lipstick and long platinum blonde locks are being swapped for bare-faced complexions and dark, lived-in haircuts. They’re sloughing off layers of makeup in order to ground themselves in authenticity.

This woman wrote that she used to wear fleshy tights in winter (a.k.a., froze for the sake of dressing in a more feminine manner) and had more than 50 shades of lipstick and lip stains. She decided to swap her blonde tresses for a dark, more natural pixie cut in order to liberate herself from her culture’s beauty standards. She signs her post off with #freethecorset.

Another woman showcased her hair transformation, writing that although at first chopping her hair was scary, she wanted to give other women “courage” to rid themselves of “the corset” for good.

Hand-in-hand with the Escape the Corset movement, the Skin-Care Diet (as described by Allure), is another social revolution currently being embraced by South Koreans. The idea: By removing most skincare products from your routine, you can find out what your skin can live without and what it actually needs. This usually boils down to a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF, all free of harsh ingredients.

Instead of tossing their compacts and lipstick bullets in the garbage, South Korean women are literally crushing beauty standards by sharing images of their pulverized makeup. They’re pressing the creamy, powdery, oily contents onto paper in wild, waxy, crayon-like works of art. They’re not playing.

Paired with an image of smeared lipsticks and stains, one woman commented that her makeup collection once seemed like “meaningful consumption,” but now it’s just “garbage.” She writes that she wonders how she will spend her money going forward.

“I hated my ugly face,” wrote another woman. She shared that she even skipped school on days where her makeup wasn’t up to par. Now, she says she realizes she doesn’t have to focus so much on appearances. “I took off the mask that was ruining my life,” she wrote.

Since junior high school, this woman wore makeup daily, and reapplied lipstick every hour. Now, she’s tossing it and “the corset” away.

If wearing a full face of makeup or dedicating lots of time to your skincare routine makes you happy (and gives you confidence), that’s terrific. But if your beauty habits bring you more stress than joy, you might consider channeling these women and embracing minimalism.

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