(Trade paper)
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From 2014 to 2018, South Korean cosmetics exports quadrupled from 1.6 billion to 6.3 billion. With the help of YouTube and Instagram influencers, Korean beauty's multi-step skincare regimens, snail-slime facials, and selfie-ready face masks have catapulted into global consciousness and raked in billions. The K-wave captures imaginations worldwide by promising a kind of mesmerizing perfection, aspirational middle class lifestyles, and a sense of fun. These cultural exports, like face creams packaged to look like milkshakes or penguins or cacti, work together to fascinate us, champion consumerism and invite us to indulge. And yet, there is a dark side to this story. In South Korea, not meeting the aesthetic norm will cost you. Women are frowned upon, at best, or openly harassed by strangers if they so much as duck downstairs to the convenience store without makeup on. South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world, because 'your face is your fortune,' and determines not just