‘My Thirty-Eight Step Korean Cleansing Routine’ by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace

A mother and daughter become obsessed with skincare regimens and begin making YouTube beauty videos. Encouraged by their popularity and the influx of free products, they begin to push their bodies and routines to extremes. It might seem like YouTube beauty videos are a soft target for satire, but Wallace doesn’t just toss a barb or two in the direction of the consumerist’s paradise; no, she sets about ratchetting the absurdity of skincare products and standards of likeable prettiness to the point of gothic eeriness –

‘We weren’t getting the impact we wanted, YouTube viewer wise, so we upped our game.
Mum spackled plaster into her wrinkles and applied beige masonry paint.
I had my forehead surgically removed and replaced with the skull of a tiny baby bird. I’ve always felt insecure about my skull, ever since I was a toddler and I first noticed my cranium was disproportionate to my mandible.’

The story then emerges back out again, as the limits of social networking are left behind in daze of ampoule applications, as the narrative draws to its end in a kind of quiet blankness that hints, with implacability, at the fate awaiting all of our bodies, buttered and botoxed or not.

(Published on the Bath Flash Fiction Award website)