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Faces of evil: Skin conditions of the worst movie villains

While The Incredible Hulk's nemesis, The Abomination, didn't make it into the list of top 10 villains of film, like many of them, he has some skin issues -- including baldness and skin discoloration -- say researchers from the University of Texas. Films can prejudice the public against nice people who suffer from skin problems, they said. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Warty noses, deep wrinkles, discoloration and facial scars -- if everyone had as many skin problems as movie villains, dermatologists would be booked out years in advance.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, looked closely at images of the American Film Institute's 10 greatest film villains and heroes of all time and documented everything from facial warts and hair loss to scars and wrinkles to see which group suffered from more dermatological problems. It's easy to guess which group won out in their study, published in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology.

"What we did see in this study is that Hollywood film villains have a higher incidence of skin disease than film heroes," study author Dr. Julia Croley, a resident physician in dermatology, told CBS News. She said these images have the unfortunate effect of associating skin disease with being evil.

It's not a fair portrayal, Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS News.

"It doesn't translate to real life. It's an exaggeration. There's zero correlation in real life to what you see in the movies," Day said, adding that she has the sweetest patients who suffer from life-altering skin issues such as cancer scarring on the face.

Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter's balding head is accentuated by his terrifying mask. Strong Heart/Demme Production, Orion

Skin problem: Alopecia (hair loss)

The psychopathic villain of "Silence of the Lambs," the 64th Academy Awards Best Picture winner, suffers from alopecia, or hair loss, which is "accentuated by the strap of a mask that pulls back his hair and distorts the appearance of his face," write the authors of the study.

Darth Vader

Darth Vader was played by U.K. bodybuilder-actor David Prowse in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980). Beneath his mask, the movie character was disfigured. Lucasfilm

Skin problems: Scars on cheek and scalp, deep skin creases, hyperpigmentation, balding

Darth Vader's skin is a testament to his violent life. The face and whole head of the famous villain of the "Star Wars" movies are so scarred and discolored that he's cloaked in black from head to toe to hide his deformities -- a stark contrast to the flawless, fair skin and hair of the movie's young hero Luke Skywalker.

Although some movie heroes also have scars, researchers say there's a difference: "The scars on heroes are not so disfiguring. Also, the type of scar is different. Villains' scars tend to be more pitted, more disfiguring and on the lips, things that deform the lips. Heroes' scars are more often on the chest or areas that show heroism," Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS News.

Wicked Witch of the West

Margaret Hamilton in the role of Miss Gulch, the Wicked Witch of the West, in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). Virgil Apger, Getty Images

Skin problem: Facial wart

Even if you've never seen "The Wizard of Oz," you can guess from one glimpse of the Wicked Witch of the West's greenish skin and facial wart that she's up to no good.

Mr. Potter

Lionel Barrymore played cold-hearted banker Mr. Potter in 1947's "It's a Wonderful Life." It's a Wonderful Life

Skin problem: Balding

The villain in the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life," the greedy and malicious banker Mr. Potter, suffers from androgenic alopecia, male pattern baldness. "A white-collar villain, Mr Potter's androgenic alopecia gives him an air of moral corruption," the study observes. Potter's facial features are in contrast with smooth-skinned, kind-eyed Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey, the down-on-his-luck young father and husband who's rewarded in the end.

Regan MacNeil

Linda Blair made a scary name for herself in the horror movie industry after starring as a possessed teenager in "The Exorcist" (1973). Graphic scenes feature her with a scarred and discolored face. WARNER BROS.

Skin problems: Lacerations, scars, dark circles around the eyes.

The horror film "The Exorcist" features a disfigured child, Regan MacNeil, played by Linda Blair, who has facial lacerations and scars and dark circles under her eyes. "Only after Regan plays with a Ouija board and becomes possessed by a demon do the dermatologic findings become apparent," write the authors of the JAMA Dermatology study. Study author Dr. Julie Croley said the negative portrayal of skin conditions in films has sparked controversy and some advocacy groups are fighting back.

The Wicked Queen

In the 1938 animated Walt Disney film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the wicked queen suffered from multiple skin problems. Walt Disney Productions

Skin problems: Rhynophyma (a large, bulbous, ruddy nose), deep wrinkles, nose warts and dark eye circles

Every day the Wicked Queen in Walt Disney's 1938 animated classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" asks her mirror, "Who is the fairest one of all?" Youthful, flawless-skinned Snow White always wins out over the evil queen, who "embodies the old hag villain stereotype," say dermatology experts from the University of Texas.

Other villainous looks

Paul Bettany played the evil monk Silas in "The Da Vinci Code" (2006). Columbia Pictures

Skin problem: Albinism

Although none of the American Film Institute's top 10 movie villains suffered from it, albinism is a recurring condition in evil film characters, such as the murderous monk Silas in "The Da Vinci Code."

"From 1960 to 2006, there were a total of 68 films featuring the 'evil albino' stereotype," the study reports. Several other top movie villains have "gray-hued complexions and other abnormal skin colors." The stereotype of albinos as evil dates back thousands of years, and common conceptions of vampires and other "pallid undead creatures" may have also influenced this view.

The study author, Dr. Julia Croley, told CBS News, "Some advocacy groups have formed to act back. The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation has been one of the forerunners working to fight the portrayal of people with albinism as bad."

For patients, there are emotional challenges that come along with stigmatizing conditions such as albinism and balding, Croley said. "Those are perpetuated in part by the way they're depicted in films."

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