opinion . Beauty

South Korean Women Are Destroying Their Makeup

...in rebellion of their society's harsh beauty standards

K-culture has taken the world by storm in just half a decade. From makeup and skincare to music and movies, South Korea's pop culture has become both inspirational and aspirational on global territories. And along with this phenomenon comes the reality that South Korea has adopted a strict beauty standard now considered as the norm.

As onlookers, and even patrons of K-beauty, we may have our own opinions about their restrictive practices when it comes to outward appearance in general. But as it seemed like these societal tenets are more of a cultural phenomenon than an issue, we decided to accept it as it is. It was even considered liberating that South Korea's cosmetic surgery industry continues to thrive and that a third of their population has openly gone under the knife, with both considered as facts without prejudice — that is until South Korean women began speaking up about the harsh reality surrounding their culture's perception of beauty in a movement. Known as "escaping the corset", this movement is named as such to correlate how society is driving women towards surgical alterations, similar to how corsets are used to shape women to fit a homogeneous ideal. 

Many women have embraced going makeup-free and even gone as far as chopping their locks in support of the movement. Some shared videos on Instagram and Twitter trashing their makeup products in protest against the pressure put upon them by their culture's unrealistic beauty standards. One woman shared in a now deleted post a photo of destroyed products along with the words, "I liked pretty things. I wanted to be pretty. I hated my ugly face." She further shared that not getting her makeup right would often prevent her from leaving the house, making her feel depressed and fueling her low self-esteem. Until one day she realised that it was getting out of hand. She ended her post with: "I took off the mask that plagued me and ruined my life." 

YouTuber Lina Bae also created a video titled 'I Am Not Pretty', with the description box lined with the words, "Since I am a girl, I am enforced [sic] to follow rules, but if I don't want to, I will not wear that corset. That is all about the ideals of the non-corset movement". The video featured her doing her makeup on camera with criticisms about her bare face from the comments section of her videos flashing on-screen. Some of them were 'You use foundation up so fast because of your big face' and 'Her eye wrinkles are so gross' to cite a few. She then ends the video by wiping it all off, putting on her glasses, and flashing the message, "I am not pretty, but it is fine. Don't hurt yourself because of others. Don't compare yourself to media standards. You are special the way you are. "

Speaking of glasses and media standards, even MBC news anchor and former beauty queen Lim Hyeon-ju caused quite a stir among the public when she decided to wear glasses on-air. Some questioned her choice of going against the more 'acceptable' approach of wearing fake lashes and contact lenses while others applauded her for using it to make a statement about the country's 'ridiculous' expectations about beauty, considering that 70% of their population aged under 30 suffer nearsightedness. To clarify, wearing glasses should not be considered groundbreaking at all, but even so, it was frowned upon and not customary especially in service industries. On a positive note, Lim's actions inspired the airline Jeju Air to encourage their cabin crew to feel free to wear eyeglasses moving forward. Many hope that this small yet bold move will spark a larger conversation regarding the matter. 

But beyond real women, influencers, and some personalities taking a stand on this new phenomenon, we have yet to hear from the country's idols and celebrities. It is well-known amongst K-drama and K-pop fans how strict the entertainment industry can be when it comes to their own set of ideals as to what makes a 'sellable' personality, so it is still vague whether hallyu stars would come forward in the future to give their two cents on this growing movement. As we wait for this to happen, let us give you ours. 

As a Community driven by our love for makeup and skincare, it is worth noting that there can definitely be a balance between succumbing to this area of consumerism and having a positive self-perception and empowerment. We have previously made statements about putting a stop to both makeup and bare-faced shaming as we believe that whatever a woman's preference is when it comes to her appearance should be entirely up to her own choice as long as it empowers her. The decision to follow a 10-step skincare routine or the total dismissal of such practice should never be a straining point. Because in reality, there is no one standard or practice or method enough to encompass all appearances. While we may not encourage smashing all your palettes and pans to show your conviction, we still believe it is a brave move to spark a conversation about change.

Bottom line is, whether you choose to indulge in makeup or skincare or just none at all, your perception of beauty — for yourself and towards others — should be a matter of free will.