Truly nerve “wrecking”: acid ear treatments, extreme leg slimming surgery and other beauty trends criticized by netizens
Published: May 23, 2021 07:18 PM
A woman gets a hyaluronic acid injection at Soyoung, a plastic surgery hospital in Beijing. Photo: Li Xuanmin/GT

A woman gets a hyaluronic acid injection at Soyoung, a plastic surgery hospital in Beijing. Photo: Li Xuanmin/GT

"Elf's ear," a name given to a newly emerging beauty trend introduced by beauty-obsessed gurus on Chinese online platforms such as Sina Weibo, has recently become the target of criticism for promoting unhealthy standards of beauty and increasing women's anxiety about their appearance. It seems that netizens have finally had enough of these types of "beauty" trends as they are calling for an end to it, and other extreme methods.

The "elf's ear" trend involves having hyaluronic acid injected into one's ears. The acid causes the tissues of the ear to become plumper, thereby making the ears more prominent and as a result making one's face seem subtly smaller. 

A photo shows the result of the elf's ear trend Photo: Sina Weibo

A photo shows the result of the "elf's ear" trend Photo: Sina Weibo

As eerie as this may sound, another practice that has gone viral is even odder. Called "nerve blocking leg slimming," it involves deliberately damaging certain nerves in the calf so the connected muscles atrophy and thereby make one's entire leg look slimmer. 

"The cuts are two to three centimeters long… you need to wear tight leggings after the surgery to keep your legs in shape," posted one netizen on Sina Weibo who underwent the surgery. 

Such unusual beauty trends have not only been called "distorted self-destructive beauty pursuits" by unbelieving netizens, they have also intimidated plastic surgery fans, making them realize that people's obsession with beauty has driven them to one extreme after another while also promoting social anxiety about people's looks. 

"I underwent hyaluronic acid treatment for my nose and chin five or six years ago. I never imagined it would have now moved to the ears. I did it because many of my friends were doing it at that time and it made me feel confident, particularly at work, where 'looking good' is a requirement," Meng Yun, a 29-year-old flight attendant, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Unlike Meng, who sees such aesthetic treatments as beneficial tools to create a socially agreeable image, some people hate them because they feel such trends as "morbid" and rooted in socially defined beauty standards that lack respect for individual differences and put pressure on those who are different.  

"We are brainwashed by images of idol girls and the beautiful bodies of supermodels and ignore those who are not 'up to standard.' Even more horrible things can happen if we do not protest against this. The 'not-up-to-standard' people will not just be ignored but will also be bullied by society. There are already hints of this; for example, ordinary-looking girls are getting fewer interview opportunities for some jobs," Zhu, a feminist and an expert in social equality, told the Global Times on Sunday.  

Netizens also noted that in addition to the "mental damage" caused by these trends, they can also be physically life threatening.  

"The hyaluronic acid injection into my chin didn't worry me until one time it made my chin swell up and become so red that it looked like I had gotten infected or had a fever," said Meng. 

"It hurt so bad."  

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