Skinematic Spotlight: The Lord of the Rings

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Orlando Bloom as an Elf with facial acne from hormones in bloom
We at are constantly reminded of adult acne's commonality. Yet even we are surprised to see it turning up on an elf! As weapons master Legolas, Orlando Bloom does not appear to be the master of his pores. Stress and genetic factors predispose to acne flares, and attempting to combat evil Orcs, Trolls, Ring wraiths, and tax collectors would rank highly on the stress-o-meter. Humans with facial acne have a large armamentarium to win the battle of the boil, including Retin-A creams, antibiotics, microdermabrasion, and even a vitamin A derivative called Accutane. Perhaps it's time to set up a dermatology clinic in the Elf kingdom of Lothlorian.
White haired Gandalf, wrinkled with wisdom
Because teenagers have disposable income and are apt to see their favorite movies more than once, much of Hollywood's production is directed to this market. Action heroes are therefore usually youthful. The wizard Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen) is an obvious departure from that trend. With age-associated deep furrows, grayed mane, bags under the eyes, and a bulbous nose suggestive of long term rosacea, Gandalf cannot compete with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, or Bruce Willis. Here, his aged skin reinforces the mentor role that he will play for Frodo and the Fellowship. FYI, the large nose was likely added with makeup. Most aging actors would rather undergo plastic surgery to shrink a drooping nose and eradicate sagging eyelids rather than really appear wizardly wizened!
Sean Bean as Boromir
As the other human character in the Fellowship, actor Sean Bean also shows scarring, here seen just over his eye. Boromir is somewhat conflicted about the goals of the group, and by showing his scarring, the filmmakers enhance that perception. Internet sources reveal that Bean's scar is the result of being "beaned" by a little known actor named Harrison Ford while filming "Patriot Games." Given Ford's major chin scar, perhaps this was just an initiation into the cinematic super star club. Bean's real facial scarring is not nearly as dramatic as the scarring created by makeup as James Bond's rival in "Goldeneye."
Bean and several of the other members of the Fellowship also share a skin lesion created specifically for the movies. Bean, McKellen, Wood, and Elven actor Orlando Bloom are among those that underwent tattooing to commemorate their completion of the principal shooting. They chose the Elvish symbol for "nine," for the total number of characters of the Fellowship. Reports that Frodo also got a "Britney Spears loves my furry fanny" tattoo were unconfirmed...
 Cate Blanchett as fair skinned role model Galadriel
In addition to Hobbits, the "Rings" cast is populated by several other races. Cate Blanchett stars as Galadriel, one of a group of benevolent elves. She provides Frodo with emotional support to continue his adventure. We humans can learn from Blanchett as well. Wisely, the actress is one of many who proudly appears fair-skinned. Rather than lay out in the sun, attempting to tan, Blanchett insures many years of looking youthful rather than developing the scaly leathery skin of the Orcs.
Elves, like Hobbits, have pointy ears, a shape maintained by firm cartilage in the ear's tip. The upper part of the ear is particularly prone to sun damage which can eventually lead to non-melanoma skin cancer. Sun protection for the ears is crucial, in the form of sun block creams, wide hats, and shrouding hoods if you live on Middle Earth. Injuring these pointy ears may also result in an inflammation of cartilage that similarly annoys humans. Called "chondrodermatitis," (literally cartilage-skin-inflammation), minor trauma to the ear can cause a tender, swollen lump to develop. After skin cancer has been ruled out with a biopsy, injection of small amounts of dilute cortisone or even surgically removing the inflamed cartilage restores the ear to a blemish-free state. How commonly chondrodermatitis bothers Elves, or for that matter the Vulcans of "Star Trek," remains an intriguing mystery.
Does Hugo Weaving need some hair weaving to repair his scalp's Matrix?



 Weaving as balding hero in "LOTR"

 Weaving as balding zero in "The Matrix"
What a difference a race makes. When Australian actor Hugo Weaving plays helpful elf Elrond, his receding scalp line is heroic. When Weaving stars in "The Matrix," his hair loss (alopecia) indicates a malevolent character. Elven balding does not appear to share the stigma of human hair loss. We have much to learn from these fantasy races, fellow earthlings...
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli the warty Dwarf
While elves are pestered by pimples, Dwarves are plagued by warts. On earth, we co-exist with the pesky virus HPV (human papilloma virus), different strains of which infect various types of skin (foot, face, groin, etc.) Do Dwarves suffer from dwarf papilloma virus, or DPV? Do they wait in long lines at the DMV? Do they spray Dwarf crops with DDT? Tolkien's tomes are lengthy, yet they obviously still leave out a lot of important information. We wish that there were an insecticide like DDT effective for all warts. Some infections eventually respond to topical immune boosting topical treatments like imiquimod (Aldara). Until a vaccine is developed, the anti-wart battle will continue with frozen liquid nitrogen, electrocautery, laser, or perhaps a precisely targeted Dwarf's axe.

More skin from Lord of the Rings

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