Skinematic Spotlight: The Lord of the Rings

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Just look at actor Bernard Hill as King Theoden. How would you like to be cast as the depressed do-nothing king of Rohan? One who is so clueless that he can't recognize that Saruman and fellow adversary Grima Wormtongue are even the least bit threatening?  Theoden has none of the glamour of the heroic Fellowship characters.  None of the frenzied fury of a ghastly guy like the Gollum.  Is it any surprise that actor Hill's forehead is as furrowed as the skyline of Edoras?  At least something's impressive about Theoden.  Could he benefit from Botox treatments to relax these facial muscles?  Sure.  Should he?  Probably not.  Otherwise he might lose one of his few distinguishing characteristics.  Next he might pop some prescription Prozac, start smiling cheerfully, and spoil the whole narrative.

With help from grimy Grima Wormtongue, Theoden goes from grumpy to dumpy
And if Theoden had things to frown about before, now look at him. A little dark magic, aided and abetted by supposed friend Grima Wormtongue (see below), and we've got the mother of all bad skin days. Director Peter Jackson and his makeup wizards made an intriguing choice with this character. The wrinkles, stringy hair and droopy eyelids suggest the traditional changes of the evil overlord known as Age. But the yellow tint and bumpy consistency are a pattern well known to dermatologists. Years of sun exposure can cause changes in elastin fibers, the component that gives skin natural stretchiness. Abnormally clumped fibers are known as solar elastosis, and create this rough yellow tone. With all the fair skinned folk in New Zealand, getting extreme amounts of sun exposure, the film makers didn't have to look far for examples of this distinctive look. Or maybe this is just an homage to the sun damaged Emperor from the Star Wars franchise. Since there is no good treatment for solar elastosis, prevention is the way to destroy this ring, with sun avoidance and prudent use of sun blocks. And if you are the King of Rohan, one should also avoid Grima and any of the other members of the Wormtongue clan.

Eomer's face gives the "Two Towers" a double (!) meaning.
Karl Urban as the warrior Eomer with Two Towering Moles
As a warrior in the disillusioned tribe of Rohan, Karl Urban portrays Eomer, nephew of Theoden, brother of Eowyn for those of you who lost your crib sheets. Note this actor's large facial nevi (moles). Often facial moles, unlike moles on the body, arise with pigment cells located deep in the skin. Thus, the lesions are light in color and raised. Over time, this type of mole typically becomes more elevated, emulating the titular Two towers. Removal is may only be necessary if the lesions are in areas of friction, whether from helmet, chain mail, or suit of armor.
Moles aside, look at Eomer's garish sun burn. True, times are tough in Rohan, but what is he thinking? Hasn't he looked at his uncle's sun damage lately? The helmet's not a bad form of sun block, but it could use a wider brim to cast more shade. These days, we can also use metals to shield our skin from ultra violent rays (pun intended). Titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and zinc oxide are all metal ions used in physical sun blocks, reflecting both UVB and UVA rays from the skin. Eomer mistakenly trusts Grima Wormtongue's advice, but he should consider adopting Grima's healthily fair skinned look.

Trees have skin (bark?) problems too.
Another set of "TT's" new characters are the Ents, including this paternal plant, the Ent-tity called Tree Beard. Yes, it's another of J.R.R. Tolkien's feats of creative naming, as this fellow appears to be a tree...with a beard. He has a prominent bulbous nose suggestive of a medical condition called rhinophyma. Usually the result of having an acne condition called rosacea, it often takes decades of untreated inflammation to cause such swelling. An example of a less wooden actor with rhinophyma is comedian (and Gimli look-alike) W. C. Fields.
Other conditions can also create such a sizable schnozz. An autoimmune condition called lupus erythematosis results in swelling and redness in sun exposed areas such as the nose and cheeks. Lupus vulgaris is a vulgar type of tuberculosis infection that can make a snout bulbous and red. Finally, the mere use of close fitting eyeglass frames that pinch the bridge of the nose can also make for a plump proboscis. In humans, determining the source of inflammation is required to select an appropriate treatment. For Ents, we recommend whittling with a solid chisel, sand paper the surface, and apply the appropriate sealant for a long lasting finish. Oh, what do we know about wood working? We're barking up the wrong tree. We're stumped. Time to leaf this subject...
And now for a musical interlude...
The soundtrack to the "Fellowship" features mellow tunes by chanteuse Enya. Unlike many singers, Enya shows no obvious skin conditions. Of note, her post modern musak is probably played in more spas and salons during massages and facial treatments than any other artist. This makes sense--would a facial be as soothing if hip hopper Ice Cube were rapping to a hard rock beat? And what about the surviving members of Led Zeppelin? They crooned about the Gollum and Mordor while Enya was an infant toodling on the kazoo. Facials usually are not harmful, but their scientifically proven benefit has not been rigorously studied. So those of you who are sold on the need for monthly (or even weekly) facials: let the buyer beware. And all of the expensive herbal products sold by aestheticians that allegedly fix wrinkles, pores, and discoloration? They may be as much a fantasy as a world populated by Elves, Hobbits, and Dwarves.

Had enough heroic skin? How about a visit to Mordor to see some evil skin???

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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