Witchy Skin

Evil female characters have skin issues too:  Welcome to Witchy Skin!

Sagging jowls.  A prominent nose.  Circles under the eyes as dark as night. A brow furrowed in a permanent scowl.  A protruding flesh-toned facial lump, garnished with wiry hairs. Under prosthetic makeup, Anjelica Huston displays the style choices of Hollywood’s anti-glam villainess:  The Witch.

Insight, experience, wisdom.  This is not how many movies depict elderly women.  Rather than acting as mentors, these bitter creatures work to spoil the lives of young heroes and heroines. Emerging from the smoke-filled shadows, the role of these crones is to frighten audiences.  Even in Shakespeare’s day, wrinkled hags cackled and spoke of curses over bubbling cauldrons.

The transformation in "Snow White" of Queen to Crone shows the dermatological features of witches.  Typically, they represent changes associated with age.  Post adolescence, cartilage of the ears, chin and nose grow over time.  Lips, full early on, shrink with advancing years. 

Comparing Ursula the Sea Witch with the look of Ariel the Little Mermaid shows that with age, the skin loses elasticity, creating jowls, under-eye bags and double chins. The eyes, so prominent in young women, proportionally lose their dominance.

And what of the raised bump that adorns the countenance of a sorceress?   Whether on the nose or chin, this smooth-surfaced nodule is routinely referred to as a witch’s “wart.”


Check out these whoppers on Susan Sarandon in "Enchanted."  Certainly distracting, but are they warts? Warts, caused by viruses, are usually seen in children and young adults, whose naïve immune systems aren’t yet prepped to prevent these pesky pathogens.  In reality, the witch’s less than appealing accessory is actually a maturing mole.
See how Miss Gulch's shift to the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz" doesn't just involve a bright green hue. She has also grown a moley mole. Pigment cells in non-cancerous moles gradually drift deeper into the dermis.  Over the years, deliciously discrete dark beauty marks are replaced by lumpy bumps. Dangling hairs, a normal feature of benign moles, add to the overall (anti) aesthetic. In witches, these usually are placed on the nose and chin, accentuating the features associated with aging.

The cosmetic industry thrives on people wanting to maintain a youthful look. Botox, the bacterial by-product that is brewed in a pharmaceutical cauldron, reduces furrows, like those seen on Meryl Streep in "Into the Woods."  Injectable fillers ease the creases that have cropped up from sun exposure and the active face. 

Nanny McPhee, who volunteers to help a Victorian family, starts the film with the nose and moles of a typical witch.  The producers increased the hag factor by adding a snaggle tooth and a less than fetching unibrow.  Lumpy moles can be surgically removed, a la Sarah Jessica Parker’s now banished chin bump.

After helping the family, McPhee is gradually transformed, magically becoming the attractive actress under the makeup: Emma Thompson.


Fillers are not used to plump up noses or ears, the features that dominate the older face.  Instead, lips are injected to mimic the “bee-stung” appearance of a young Angelina Jolie. Eye makeup is used to replicate the full orbs of the fetching Disney princesses, like Giselle in "Enchanted." Conservative plastic surgery and laser treatments can reverse many of the signs of aging.  In a world obsessed with youth, cosmetic treatments can seem like a magic spell.

But this spell can also become a curse.  Overuse of fillers, the too-flat expressionless appearance of extensive use of Botox, radical surgery can result in an unnatural plastic appearance. Joan Rivers brought plastic surgery out of the closet, but may have scared the public away from cosmetic treatments because of her continued cosmetic overhauls.
Instead, conservative cosmetic work can be used to reduce the age-related changes, without drawing attention to itself. Hollywood and Broadway actress, Jackie Hoffman, is shown in witch mode as Grandma Addams in the "Addams Family" musical.  In the documentary "Take My Nose...Please!" Hoffman considers conservative plastic surgery.
If a treatment appears “done,” then maybe too much has been done.   Here Sarandon,  free of the witch look in "Enchanted," has the appearance of aging gracefully.  She may have had work done, but the changes are subtle, not distracting.  It is also crucial to recognize that there is value in wisdom and maturity.  Aging doesn’t have to mean malevolence. Despite Hollywood’s message, real world experience and knowledge have value that is more than skin deep.

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