Harry Potter and the Textbook of Dermatology
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Welcome, muggles, to the tome that won't be an Amazon.com best seller. Why not? Because "The Hogwarts Textbook of Dermatology" is a non-profit spoof, that's why! The little-known fact is that all wizards are trained in the finer points of supernatural skin care. Potions and spells to create or correct problem pores are core curriculum for Hogwarts horde. Doubt us? The school is named Hog-Warts, isn't it? Let us share with you a discreet view of dermatology, Potter-style...

"Harry Potter and the Forehead Scar"


Potter's magical hairstyle hides the fact that he's...

...Scarred and proud

Ah, grade school. A time when the world is fresh, human potential seems infinite, and any slight deviation from the norm means endless vicious teasing from your relentless peers. But young wizard Harry Potter is resilient. Even with a small defect, other kids might feel ostracized a la the pale, bald dude from "Powder." Not so, Potter. When he unabashedly reveals the lightning scar under his fashionable bangs, his colleague blurts out: "Cool."  In the book versions, Harry Potter's lightning-shaped forehead scar is central, while the film version slides it to the side. Since Potter's forehead is usually covered by hair, moving the scar presumably saved the producers big money on makeup costs. They must have worried whether the franchise would break even financially. We guess their crystal ball was down with a computer virus.


Can you spot the matinee idol in the making?



 Who's hotter? Potter is blemish-free and perfectly proportioned on the Knight bus...

 ...Unlike this acne-ridden conductor...

 ...or the bus comedian, a deformed Shrunken Head.

Other than Harry's scar, the kid is doing all right, skin-wise. Unlike other adolescents, actor Daniel Radcliffe appears pimple-free and is gradually turning into a hunk for the pre-teen set. What makes handsome-ness? Many factors contribute to an attractive appearance, and magic has little to do with them. A clear complexion is desirable as a signal of lack of disease. Even though acne is not contagious, the red bumps and draining pustules suggest a spreadable infection. On the Knight bus, Potter's clear countenance is contrasted with an acne-covered conductor, Stan Shunpike. Volcanic zits just don't conjure up cuteness. Symmetry also plays a role in good looks, which is why Harry's even, balanced features are more visually appealing than the deformed and asymmetric image of the Shrunken Head. Don't get us wrong--we are not suggesting that every facial flaw requires correction for happiness and self-esteem. Mr. Shrunken Head seems perfectly happy as is. No extreme makeovers for Shrunkie.


 The sun block brigade:

Professor Snape

 Draco Malfoy

 Lucius Malfoy

 Ron Weasley

In the 21st century, one would think that we had moved beyond the notion that tanned skin is to die for. Actually, if a fair skinned muggle sustains sequential sunburns and develops melanoma, a bronzed body is to die for. Though Harry is no George Hamilton, the Potter flicks occasionally imply that pale skin seems sinister. When Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) intimidates, he shown with creepy white makeup. And while father and son Malfoy aren't technically examples of albinism (note the dark eyebrows), they certainly invoke Hollywood stereotypes that fair skin is foul. We hope that Rupert Grint as Potter pal Ron Weasley doesn't get the wrong idea and try to tan. With skin as fair as his, there is no hope for a "sun-kissed" look. Sun slapped is more like it. We suggest he continue to slap on some sun screen and a wide brimmed warlock hat so ultraviolet rays don't shorten his young career...

Hagrid has huge hair

 Like dermatologists, wizards-in-training learn the mythic power of skin, hair, and nails. And no one in the Potter saga has quite the hair-raising capacity of Hogwarts groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). Facial hair presents issues beyond mere follicular fashion. On one hand, beards are beneficial. There is no risk of shaving too close--few furry-faced fellows fear ingrown hairs. For those stuck with scars from acne or other injuries, facial hair acts as crafty camouflage. Thick beards also provide decent sun protection. The problem with goatees, soul patches, van dykes, mutton chops, handlebar moustachios, and full on Grizzly Adams era forestation arises in those prone to the dastardly dandruff-like dilemma known as seborrhea. The risk of men developing psoriasis-style red, flaky, scaly areas increases in areas of facial hair. Fortunately for those sold on shaggy cheeks, regular use of dandruff shampoos, cortisone lotions and foams, and novel interventions like non-cortisone creams (pimecrolimus or Elidel) can calm the itchy inflammation.

The media have long found beards beneficial. Other than Hagrid, check out these other happy hairy heroes:

 Rupert from "Survivor"

 ZZ top


 Oz' Cowardly Lion

 Shrek's buddy Donkey

Facial Surgery 101





 Professor Lupin is a cut above.

 Too bad his scrapes are poorly oriented.

 Hermione, on the other hand,

 ...has wound care down to a science.

For all his knowledge of the arcane arts, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), needs some advice on wound care. Especially how to optimize the direction of facial scrapes. For doctors trained in facial surgery, a key component of elective procedures is to minimize scarring. So if a skin cancer or mole is removed, the line of the excision should be hidden in the normal facial contours. Lupin's scrapes cross these contours, standing out to the eye. Of course, one can't control injury. Yet where are the bandages and antibiotic ointment? He needs some advice from Hermione. As an expert in the use of potions, salves, and poultices, she wisely covers her abraded hand with a clean dressing. Her facial cut is not allowed to sag and scar, but is rather closed with the decidedly medical (as opposed to magical) steri strip tape. She realizes the importance of rapid healing whether at Hogwarts or in Hollywood. Now if they could find an effective treatment for Quidditch broom burn...


Which scholar has more sensible spectacles?

 Emma Thompson makes a bold fashion statement with her eyewear.

 But at what cost? Note the frames pressing on the nasal bridge.

 As Dumbledore, Michael Gambon's reading glasses...

 ...are safely perched on small pads.

Can eyeglass frames cause skin problems? They can if they press too tight. As Professor Trelawney, Emma Thompson garners giggles from her goofy goggles. But these glasses may have an effect that's not so funny. Frames that press down on the bridge of the nose can reduce the drainage of lymph fluid from the nasal tip. Over months and years, the nose can swell, blood vessels can dilate and overgrow, ultimately resembling the red nose of actor W.C. Fields. In this case, since the glasses are the cause, not the acne condition rosacea, the problem is called pseudo-rhinophyma. Sounds more dangerous than a deranged Dementor, but the solution is simple. Switching to frames that are lifted off the skin with small pads allows appropriate drainage and reverses the changes. As Professor Dumbledore, Michael Gambon has significantly more normal skin than his previous role as a psoriasis patient. And the pads of his frames will keep his nose looking swell rather than swollen.


A Prisoner's skin: unwashed hair, and tantalizing tattoos.

New to the Potter franchise, actor Gary Oldman is a return visitor to the Halls of Skinema. As the Azkabanese Prisoner, Oldman gets off easy. One of his previous roles featured less-than-glamorous human chew marks. Here, Oldman only has to endure a bad hair cut and a slew of tattoos. Perhaps inspired by his character's name, Sirius Black, all his tatts appear ebony in tone. Black happens to be the color of body art that responds best to tattoo removal. We're serious: black. If in movies, bad skin is a sign of frayed moral fiber, maybe Sirius Black is not so evil after all. Is there a character with worse skin that might represent a greater villain? Do rats eat cheese?

 Actually, there is this freaky fellow, the pesky personage known as Peter Pettigrew. Don't worry, we have no intention of revealing any spoilers about this rodent-like rascal. Vermin such as he don't deserve to be dissected. In the novel, he is described as having "grubby skin." It seems the makeup designers took "grubby" to mean "warty." In our world, warts are not typically a sign of evil, merely a marker for infection with one of the strains of HPV, human papilloma virus.


 Wart treatments have traditionally involved destroying the unsightly bumps, though vaccines for particular viral strains are in development. While we wait, imiquimod (Aldara) can be used: a topical cream that stimulates an immune system response against the virus. Treatment can take months and the cream can cause skin irritation. A simple, universally effective cure would be truly magical. For warts, that is. We are not aware of any cure for rats like Pettigrew.




© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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