Beauty Trends

5 Aesthetic Treatments to Avoid

03 July 2024



In a world of ever changing microtrends, there is no lack of aesthetic trends that persuade viewers to pursue a younger looking aesthetic. An op-ed in the New York Times in January 2024 discussed the anxiety surrounding Gen Z’s fear of growing and looking older. It is no surprise that AI filters on Instagram and TikTok and endless news of celebrities seeking (and undoing) their cosmetic treatment have contributed to the social pressure to look younger.


In some instances, the quest for younger looking faces is taken to an extreme; and the sense of aesthetics and the risks are highly questionable IMO for these aesthetic treatments. Here are 5 popular aesthetic treatments that I do not recommend.


Related blogpost:

5 Beauty Industry Scandals & Controversies


Elf ear fillers are thought to elongate and sharpen the face. Images from Xiaohongshu.


1. Elf Ears

If you’re into Legolas and Elf-ian aesthetics, you might be pleased to find that the elf ear look is popular in China. Elf ears are part of the chunyu (纯欲) aesthetic that is trending in China; and it involves 5-10ml of dermal fillers into various parts of each ear to rotate and support the ear. The elf ear look is also said to make one’s face look smaller, slimmer and younger looking.


Screenshot credit: New York Post


The cartilage of the ear has a very delicate vascular supply through small blood vessels. Elf ear filler injections have a high risk of compressing on the blood vessels, which can result in a deformity known as cauliflower ears.

Scalp filler injections. Images from Xiaohongshu.


2. Scalp fillers 

In China, softer facial contours are preferred; vis a vis angular, hollow facial aesthetics preferred in the West. In China, the “tou bao lian” aesthetic- which literally means a larger upper face- is a popular look on Chinese social media. To achieve a fuller upper face; large amounts of fillers are injected into the hairline and temples to add volume. Scalp fillers are also used to lift the forehead by creating a pulling force on the forehead. Other than possibly looking like an overfilled flowerhorn fish, hair loss as a complication of scalp fillers has been reported1-3.


Related blogpost:

Telltale Signs of Too Much Filler Injections



3. Whitening drips

A preference for fairer and lighter skin is prevalent in many of the world, particularly in Asia. This obsession for whiter skin in Asia has fuelled a demand for skin lightening or bleaching treatments. Therapies that aim to lighten the skin range from whitening creams, oral medications to intravenous (IV) drips.


These treatments are highly controversial; but that has not deterred many users from seeking whitening IV drips. However, skin bleaching drips are not backed by evidence for effectiveness and safety; and these IV whitening drips are banned in countries such as Singapore and the USA. Some countries allow the administration of these IV drips, but there is no consensus or regulation on the ingredients and doses in these drips.


Image credit: New York Times


A common ingredient in IV whitening drips is glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that is thought to lighten the skin colour. As I’ve explained in detail in this blogpost Skin Bleaching and Whitening Drips glutathione drips have resulted in complications like thyroid, kidney and liver dysfunction.


Images credit: TikTok;

4. Keratopigmentation

Coloured irises are a thing and a relatively new treatment has emerged to allow one to permanently change the colour of their iris is trending in Europe and the US. Corneal tattooing or keratopigmentation, is gaining traction, with users paying $12000 to change the colour of their eyes4.


Statement from American Academy of Ophthalmology


Keratopigmentation involves making a cut on the cornea using a blade or laser5. A pigment is then placed into the cornea to change the colour of the eye5. The colour change of the eye is permanent. In 2024, keratopigmentation made the headlines in the US news for its popularity. As its popularity grew, so did reports of complications of keratopigmentation emerged. A Spanish study estimated that the rate of complications for keratopigmentation srugery was 12.8%6! Some of the reported complications included corneal infections, dye leakage and visual field limitations5,6, prompting the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO) to issue a warning about the risks and complications of keratopigmentation7.


Images credit: Xiaohongshu


5. M lips

Lip fillers have always been popular; although the trends for lip shapes have come and go (butterfly lips, volcano lips, keyhole lips…the list goes on). Currently in Asia, M shaped lips are the lip shape du jour. Asian celebrities spotting M shaped lips include Thai superstar Bright Vachirawit, Korean actress Yoon Eun-hye, and Chinese actress Angela Baby. Their upper lips resemble the shape of the letter M, hence their name. While the shape and size of these celebrities’ look good on them; this look will not suit everyone. With lip enhancement, it is pertinent to look for an experienced doctor to avoid an overfilled fish pout.


Related blogposts:

Lip Fillers Explained

What is the controversy behind Butterfly Lips?

Telltale Signs of Too Much Filler Injections


Getting aesthetic treatments and surgery requires a personalised approach; and following trends isn’t necessarily a good idea. Besides aesthetically unpleasing outcomes, complications and overfilled faces are some of the risks; and some controversial treatments may not be worth the risk. Remember, less is more with aesthetic work- the best results are when you can retain your individuality while looking subtly refreshed and lifted. What are your thoughts on these viral aesthetic treatments?



1. Vascular Compromise and Alopecia After Hyaluronic Acid Filler Injection in Temple Region. Li and Zhang. J Craniofac Surg. 2023 Mar-Apr; 34(2): e128–e129.

2. Hyaluronic acid-induced alopecia: a novel complication. Gan et al. Dermatol Surg. 2013 Nov;39(11):1724-5.

3. Reversible Alopecia with Localized Scalp Necrosis After Accidental Embolization of the Parietal Artery with Hyaluronic Acid. Yang et al. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2017 Jun;41(3):695-699.


5. Keratopigmentation: a comprehensive review. Hasani et al. Eye (Lond). 2020 Jun;34(6):1039-1046.

6. Keratopigmentation with micronised mineral pigments: complications and outcomes in a series of 234 eyes. Alio et al. Br J Ophthalmol. 2018 Jun;102(6):742-747.




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