April 7, 2011— -- The photos are pointedly striking - young adults who have intentionally cut their ears to appear like those of elves or Star Trek's Mr. Spock.
The surgery is painful and irreversible. It's one body modification change, unlike a tattoo or a piercing, that you can't take back.
The unique and delicate procedure can leave you looking like one of Santa's elves. Numerous photos online show aficionados who appear to be thrilled with the results.
But once it's done, it's tough to turn back.
"It was just something I thought would be fascinating," said Jordan Houtz, who underwent surgery for her elf ears. "I wouldn't go as far as saying Trekie, but definitely Lord of the Rings -- all the sci-fi kind of stuff. It just fits my personality."
The "look" has been around since the 1960s television show, "Star Trek," and has also been made famous by Liv Tyler's elfin look in "Lord of the Rings." They've also made for some good comedy in HBO's, "Bored to Death."
Some young adults, especially on the West Coast, are actually going under the knife for real to have pointed ears, according to online reports.
Steve Haworth, a body modification artist from Tempe, Ariz., performs the procedure. He slices the top of the cartilage and then sews it back together in a point.
"There's a lot of people out there who have an inner vision of themselves and they want to express that to the world around them," said Haworth. "I'm very happy to be an artist that can provide that kind of work."
Raised in a family that manufactured and invented medical devices used in eye surgeries and plastic surgeries gave Haworth ideas for alternate forms of modifications. He only performs his art on those over 18, he says.
The ear-pointing trend came to light in the most unlikely place -- AARP, The Magazine for readers who are over 50.
"The trend goes back a few years," said Leslie Quander Wooldridge, a 28-year-old associate editor who writes AARP's column, "Ah, Youth."
"When I did my research I found that body artists are doing it, like they were splitting tongues a few years ago," she said.
"Good Morning America" found many comments in online forums that were flip about the seriousness of the procedure.
"I want to have elf ears too.. but I'm not sure in what season to do it...cause in the winter I'm always wearing a cap/beanie and I guess it would hurt," said one.
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But another who had the procedure complained about the excruciating pain, especially when trying to sleep, to avoid lying on the healing ear.
Houtz said she had thought about it for about 18 months before undergoing the procedure. "It's something once you have, it's there forever," he said.
One man who purports to be a New York City cosmetic surgeon online claims that the technique can actually "improve the experience of listening to music."
His fans say that pointed ears work more like an animal ear and focus sound better.
But doctors "GMA" talked to warn that sculpting cartilage is dangerous.
"The real risks are one - major deformity of the ear, which is very easy to have happen and two, infection of the ear," said Dr. Arthur W. Perry, author of "Straight Talk About Cosmetic Surgery." "And if infection occurs, it can destroy the ear within days."
"It's very difficult and often it's not possible to fully reconstruct a nice-looking ear," he said.