Blame it on the Keebler Cookie Elves… or Mr. Spock… or Santa’s elves… or the movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell… or the Lord of the Rings trilogy… or Avatar, but the mainstream popularity and fascination with elves has created the newest cosmetic surgery craze.

The official name of the procedure is elfin ears, which involves slitting open the top of the ear and then stitching the open portions together, folding the helix rim up into a point. The popularity of ear pointing has encouraged new procedures to be developed, creating both updated stylistic options in ear pointing while also achieving more “realistic” or “natural” looking results. The wedge removal procedure and subsequent stitching technique can be modified so the location, size, and shape differ; varying the shape of the piece removed can result in a wide range of appearances. And, new ways of performing the surgery are constantly being tweaked, from quite radical points, which are very long and pronounced, to a complete top to bottom reshaping of the ear, where the lobe is removed and the contour is reshaped to form a more subtle point. Some body modification artists will bisect each upper and lower sectionof the ear to avoid “rebounding” of the cartilage. Then, each section is folded flat and attached via sutures to the outer conch area. The outer openings are then superficially sealed without tension.

One elfin ear website claims that pointed ears not only make the face more attractive, but also enhance music. However, the vast majority of dermatologic surgeons agree that this procedure has the potential for scarring, permanent damage of ear cartilage, infection, and additional ear deformities (and feel that it’s just plain stupid), and will not perform the surgery. Plastic surgeons also agree that this procedure is typically permanent and can be very complicated to undo. What’s more, if a bad infection occurs, it can destroy the ear within days.

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Some say the look first appeared in the 1960s as a result of the TV show Star Trek, but has more recently been made famous by Liv Tyler’s elfinlook in Lord of the Rings, and the pointed ear look has also popularized in the HBO comedy Bored to Death (soon to be a major motion picture).

Ear modifiers sculpting elf ears may be all the rage among quirky young adults, but there are those who think that altering the human form to look like a fictional character is pointlessly horrifying.


  1. Canning A, Donaldson James S. Elf ears are the rage among quirky young adults. ABC News Web site. April 7, 2011. spock/story?id=13317198#.Ud8Rk0E3uGF.
  2. Elf-ear surgery: trend, and sometimes hoax. Orange County Register Web site. April 8, 2011.
  3. Elfin ears the newest cosmetic surgery craze. Huffington Post. April 7, 2011.
  4. Larratt S. Refining the ear pointing procedure. February 14, 2013.
  5. Volz M. The 7 most pointlessly horrifying plastic surgery procedures. December 8, 2009.