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“Elf Ears” Are The New Cosmetic Surgery Trend In China

A woman before and after getting dermal fillers for “elf ears.” | Image: VICE/Time Plastic & Cosmetology Hospital

A cosmetic surgery that changes people’s ears to appear more “elf-like” is reportedly the latest trend in in China.

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According to South China Morning Post, the cosmetic surgery, which makes the ears more pointed and protrude upwards and outwards from the head, is believed to give the overall face a slimmer and younger appearance.

The procedure is popular with both men and women and can generally be done in one of two ways: Taking cartilage from another part of the body and placing it behind the ear to make the ear protrude or injecting the ear with hyaluronic acid.

A saleswoman at Shanghai-based Mylike Medical Cosmetic, a major domestic surgery service provider in the city, told the South China Morning Post that demand for the procedure is so high that that customers have to line up to get the surgery.

Elf Ears

A woman before and after the elf ears procedure | Image: South China Morning Post/Artwork

Yu Wenlin, a doctor specialising in otoplasty at Gaoshang Medical Cosmetic Center in Guangzhou, said told the news outlet that he sometimes performs up to six elf ear surgeries a day.

“I only realised that actually many young people, mostly post 2000s, were looking for ways to make ‘elf ears’ after I helped one online celebrity do it at the beginning of last year. Then more and more people came to me after that,” he said.

Wenlin added that the elf ears surgery achieves something between what is medically called a Stahl’s ear and a protruding ear.

A Stahl’s ear deformity consists of an extra cartilage fold in the scapha portion of the ear, which results in a pointed ear shape. A protruding ear is one that sticks out more than 2cm from the side of the head. According to the Post, a protruding ear is traditionally considered a symbol of good luck in China.

VICE reported that on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, a Chinese hashtag that translates to “elf ears plastic surgery” has garnered over 700 million views.

However, the elf ears procedure is not without risks.

“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,” Liu Yufeng, chief physician of the plastic surgery division at the Second Hospital of Nanjing, told VICE.

Yufeng added that injecting large amounts of hyaluronic acid into the ear may also cause pronounced and prolonged swelling and pain, since there are many nerve endings in the ear.

Speaking with The Post, Wang Jiangyun, a cosmetic surgeon at The Third People’s Hospital in Zhengzhou, in central China’s Henan province, warned that there can be risks of infection, cicatrices, and ears ending up asymmetrical when adding extra cartilage, and infection, allergic, blood clot and skin necrosis when using hyaluronic acid.

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