No, it’s not for Halloween or cosplay. Some people in China—both men and women—actually undergo cosmetic procedures for the “Elf ear” beauty trend to make their face look slimmer.
Humans have long altered their bodies to achieve a certain standard of beauty—from foot binding in China to using rings to elongate the neck in Myanmar.
Body alterations in the past have been a slow, lifelong process. But today, if one desires to alter one’s look, it's now as easy as swiping an app to make it happen.
In China, there is a growing trend among mostly Gen Zs: undergoing the “Elf ear” procedures, not to look like The Lord of the Rings’ Legolas or Arwen, but with the hope that their face would look slimmer when their ears are protruding.
In some countries, Elf ear, also known as Stahl’s ear, is a type of deformity present at birth where a third fold of cartilage is present that results in a pointed ear. This condition, though without physical symptoms associated with it, is often corrected early on via an otoplasty procedure.
The South China Morning Post recently reported that people flock to hospitals in China to get this sought-after procedure.
The rise of the beauty trend is attributed to celebrities and people who promote their post-op look on social media.
A doctor who spoke with the Post divulged that he sometimes performs six elf ear surgeries per day.
Either of the two common methods is used to get the look. One is taking cartilage from another part of the body or an artificial material and placing it behind the ear. The other is injecting the ear with hyaluronic acid.
In a Vice report, one woman spent 10,000 yuan or about P75,000 to complete the procedure.
With this, doctors warned that there are many risks involved with the procedure like infection, scarring, ears ending up asymmetrical, blood clot and skin necrosis, among others.
“I dare say that after this ‘elf ear’ frenzy, there would be an army of beauty seekers requesting to get their original ears back, just like those ‘online celebrity nose,’ ‘European-style double-fold eyelids’, etc. that once were very popular,” cosmetic surgeon Wang Jiangyun told the Post.
He also urged those who plan on getting the procedure to “be more rational about it” as young ones usually ask for the procedure on an impulse.
China’s obsession with cosmetic surgery is evident in this billion-yuan industry. According to So-Yong International, the country’s total revenue from the cosmetic surgery industry alone is expected to exceed 360 billion yuan (about P2.7 trillion) in 2023.