Skinematic Spotlight: The Lord of the Rings

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After decades of enjoying J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books in print, fans can now appreciate a live action film version. The first installment, "The Fellowship of the Ring," sets the tone for the series, with epic battles between good and evil, sweeping fantastic vistas, lesions. That's right, LOTR fans--the films are notable for the degree that conditions of the skin, hair, and nails can be found on both the kind and the cruel characters.
SPOILER ALERT #1: If viewing dermatologic images from publicity photos and trailers will SPOIL your enjoyment of these movies, then proceed no further and return to another round of "Dungeons and Dragons."
SPOILER ALERT #2: Leaving a carton of milk unrefrigerated will cause the dairy product in question to spoil. We now return you to your regularly scheduled web site.
Other tips: Many of the following images are thumbnails. Click on them to view the super-sized version.

 The LOTR series centers on the need to destroy a golden ring that would provide dangerous power to the forces of evil. Speaking of rings, we at would like to retire an inappropriate lay term. "Ring worm" refers to a round scaly rash often seen in kids and those with exposure to animals. Despite this unfortunate label there are actually no worms involved. Ring worm refers to the ring-like eruption that occurs when fungus spreads in the superficial layer of the skin. Fungus rather than worms--doesn't that make you feel better? The rash is usually itchy and mildly contagious. All of Middle Earth can rejoice that anti-fungal agents, applied topically or taken in pill form, can eradicate the fungus. Clearing up this rash should not require destruction of the special ring worm ring in the fires of Mordor.

Heroic Skin
Frodo the Hobbit
The unlikely hero for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is a diminutive Hobbit called Frodo. Part of the tales' conceit is that this small, peaceful, snack-loving humanoid is not the typical image of an action hero. Hobbits are particularly known for their furry feet. Humans with fur in unwanted places undergo treatments such as waxing, electrolysis, or laser hair removal. Frodo would be a good candidate for the latter, since he has fair skin and dark foot hair. The laser energy specifically targets dark color, passing through the skin like light through Frodo's window in the quaint town of Hobbiton. But foot fur is trendy, hip, and chic for Hobbits, and fashion trends play a major role in determining what types of hair are culturally acceptable.




 Relaxing in Hobbiton...

 Taking a toke...

 ...Could eventually result in looking like this fellow, The Mouth of Sauron.
Another behavior common to both Hobbit and human culture is the use of the extremely addictive substance, tobacco. Pipe smoking, in addition to placing our hero at risk for cancer of the lung and mouth, can also promote poor wound healing and wrinkling around the lips. Just look at actor Bruce Spence as Sauron's henchman, with makeup applied to create severe facial furrows. While superficial facial lines can be minimized with collagen injections and laser resurfacing, we believe in preventative medicine. Frodo will need to be in optimum health to successfully complete his adventures. He'll have a hard time evading savage cave trolls if he's out of breath from emphysema. From a narrative point of view, Frodo's pipe addiction provides foreshadowing of his potential for temptation. So we'll allow a little artistic license, though it is a bad example for young movie-going Hobbits throughout Middle Earth. 

 On the way to Mordor, Elijah Wood...

 ...needs a pit stop for some Clearasil.

 Later, Wood is shocked to see this acne lesion was not edited out of the LOTR DVD.

 At least Dominic Monaghan's zits...

 ...Are only photographed at press junkets.
Middling acne in Middle Earth
Adult acne, as prevalent as it is, appears especially common while waging war against Orcs. Caused by genetic factors predisposing a closing of facial pores, it seems these genes occur not just in humans, but in Elves and Hobbits, too. When taken out of the serenity of the Shire, Hobbits such as Elijah Wood also develop acne cysts. Can proximity to the One True Ring be the cause? Deep inflammation can be controlled by antibiotic pills, but the rapid way to clear the inflammatory cells is not with magic, but with alchemy. Dermatologists routinely inject small amounts of dilute cortisone to flatten such lesions before the next day of filming. Perhaps air-lifting a derm doc into the mountain ranges of New Zealand was not possible, so Wood was left with a mountain peak immortalized forever on DVD. Dominic Monaghan, cast as diminutive Shire class clown 'Merry' Brandybuck, shows a similar facial topography. He is another actor with a hobbit-tual tendency to acne spots.
Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn
Danish-American actor Viggo Mortenson won the LOTR lottery to play hunky royalty-in-training Aragorn. Viggo is one of many of the film's thespians with a skin lesion. In this case, he has an injury scar on this upper lip. In other films, when Viggo is cast as a villain, the scar is highlighted to confirm that his character is a sociopath. Significantly, in LOTR, his scar is mostly hidden in a neatly trimmed beard, so his goodness is not in question. We love the name "Viggo," though it sounds to us more Hobbit than Human: "Paging Viggo Baggins, come to the Shire courtesy phone..."
Liv Tyler as Princess Arwen gets cheeky



 Faux cheek scratch

 applied with makeup

 matched by

 Real cheek scar

 left over from chicken pox
The casting of former MTV vixen Liv Tyler as an Elven princess was apparently considered controversial by fans of the books. Presumably, the actress was thought not tough enough for the role. We wonder if the presence of her actual chicken pox scars, character marks that illustrate her ability to survive disease, turned the tide. If not, adding a rugged looking cheek laceration completed the image of Elvish royalty strong enough to stand against the Ring wraiths. Dark Riders are certainly less scary than the wrath of millions of disgruntled Tolkein fans... 

 As Eowyn, Miranda Otto plays a human beauty...

 ...Who may just woo Aragorn away from Liv Tyler as Arwen.

 But will he be able to ignore her adult acne? (click for a closer look)
As Eowyn, a human hottie who burns strong enough to engulf Aragorn himself, Miranda Otto is all broken up about the massacre of fellow humans. She is also all broken out. Combination treatment, with Retin-A creams for the pores and antibiotics for her cysts may make her presentable for future mate Aragorn. Yet he doesn't seem to mind. With a scar of his own, maybe a little acne can create a sympathetic bond between the two. Or perhaps Strider has some Stridex benzoyl peroxide pads in his rucksack.

More skin from Lord of the Rings

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