Elf ears are a hot topic in China, but the bizarre plastic surgery trend is turning some heads. Deemed a new way to slim your face and become more attractive, women are getting their ears cosmetically enhanced. Doctors are pushing the ears forward to simulate an “elf ear,” though you won’t be seeing any flying eagles or gray wizards in these parts.

Body modifications are not a new concept, but anything that seems “creepy” will always spark conversations. “Elfing,” or the cosmetic elf ear trend, is definitely not a new concept, but the surge in China is causing a bit of an outcry. So what is it about this procedure that is freaking people out?

The plastic surgery market in China is huge, tripling from 2015 to 2019, and continues to grow yearly. The latest crazy is having one’s ears modified to look like those of an elf, like in Lord of the Rings for example. The surgery is meant to make your ears look pointed and longer, like those of fictional elves in movies and books. But for men and women in China, the procedure means something else entirely. Some believe that the “plumping” or “enlarging” of ears “make faces look slimmer and, therefore, more attractive.”

The pictures going viral don’t look like these people are getting fantasy-style elf ears. The procedure brings the ears forward and away from the head. But like all other cosmetic procedures, the “elf ears” plastic surgery comes with some risks.

The “elf ear” plastic surgery trend is freaking out critics. Credit: NY Post

“The first is infection around the ear after surgery, which is very tricky to treat; the second is embolism caused by injecting hyaluronic acid into blood vessels, which may be fatal,” Dr. Liu Yufeng, chief physician of the plastic surgery division at the Second Hospital of Nanjing, told Vice. Hyaluronic acid can usually be found in dermal fillers. “Protruding ears were always a form of ear deformity that required treatment, but now they’re a beauty trend,” Dr. Liu Yufeng continued.

And like many other plastic surgery trends this will also pass. Wang Jiangyun, a cosmetic surgeon at the Third People’s Hospital in Zhengzhou, tells South China Morning Post, “I dare to say that after this ‘elf ear’ frenzy, there would be an army of beauty seekers requesting to get their original ears back.”

Many women in China want to achieve “perfect” beauty. In 2017, China surpassed Brazil in becoming the second-largest plastic surgery market in the world, with the United States taking first place.

“On Chinese microblogging site Weibo, a Chinese hashtag that translates to “elf ears plastic surgery,” has garnered over 700 million views,” Vice writes. Beauty vloggers on the site are posting their results. Some are even showing non-invasive, non-permanent, DIY ways to “elf” your ears. Another discussion began to trend on the site, reaching almost 200 million views and interactions: “What do you think of social appearance anxiety progressing to involve the ears?”

“There’s no need to tell young girls that only protruding ears are considered beautiful,” wrote a Weibo user. “They’re just ears, if they can hold up your eyeglass frames, they’re good enough!”

“I’m shocked that someone complimented my protruding ears as elf ears,” another Weibo user shared, adding that their childhood nickname “Big Ears” was a source of annoyance growing up.