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The Dermies: Wild

The Dermies: Wild

By Dr. Joel Schlessinger

While I wanted to start out with a movie for The Dermies that was nominated for Best Picture, I had to begin with "Wild." This movie was nominated in the category of Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon) and in the category of Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern). There were just too many great dermatologic aspects of this movie to not put it first, although there are other movies that I will review that also are a dermatologist's dream.

In this movie, Witherspoon plays the part of Cheryl Strayed, who hikes more than 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. The movie was incredible, but as a dermatologist, I found myself worrying about Cheryl’s skin. She doesn't appear to apply sunscreen during the movie. Granted, the movie takes place in 1995 and sunscreens weren't as good at that time as they are now, but still it would have been helpful for her future skin had she applied sunscreen every 2-3 hours. Carrying sunscreen would have increased the heavy load she was carrying, but from my standpoint, it would have been worth it. I hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Rainier, and I can assure you, EltaMD sunscreen was in my backpack at all times.

The good news is that there are now clothes with UPF (a form of sun protection) that Cheryl could have worn and wouldn't have increased her load. Also, Cheryl didn't wear a hat or sunglasses. This raises a dermatology warning flag as hats are essential coverage and ocular melanoma can result from poor eye protection.

There are many other fascinating dermatology aspects about this movie, ranging from blisters on the feet and hands, to bruises from the hike. There was also a particularly awful case of boot toe in the beginning, with a toenail that Cheryl removed due to ill-fitting boots. The nail probably should have not been removed as the strong keratin in the nail protects the underside and without a nail, there is zero protection. Instead, I would’ve liked to see her take duct tape and wrap her toe. As for the blisters, Cheryl doesn't seem to have any moleskin with her, and it is always a great idea to take moleskin along when you hike.

As I watched it, I kept thinking about FixMySkin 1% Hydrocortisone Balm, the product that my son and I invented in 2010. Had this product been around it during the time, it would have been fantastic for Cheryl to use on her abraded and dry skin. She could have even put it in her pocket and saved weight in her pack.

During the movie, Cheryl gets a tattoo of a horse on her arm to match her soon-to-be divorced husband's tattoo. This is an unusual thing for me to see, as most of the time tattoos for an ex-husband or ex-wife are ones that I am lasering off. In the case of this tattoo, it would be very easy to laser off as it is predominantly one color. If the tattoo was green, it would be much harder to remove.

Cheryl does many risky things in this movie, including recreational drug use, casual sex, and, of course, a presumed lack of sunscreen. However, it is important to point out that tattoos are also risky. The needles can be contaminated and they have a potential to transmit hepatitis.

At one point in the movie, Cheryl comes to a town and wanders into a beauty store. She is carrying a massive backpack with all of her camping gear. She looks into a mirror and applies some very red lipstick. She seems pleased with how she looks until the salesperson approaches Cheryl and realizes she is very dirty and fatigued. She mentions to Cheryl how important it is for a woman to be aware of her skin and personal hygiene, but she doesn't offer to help her buy the lipstick or anything else in the store. Cheryl mentions that she is definitely working on her personal hygiene and leaves the store.

While I was shocked at how rudely the salesperson spoke to Cheryl, I was also shocked that she applied the lipstick from the sample. That it is something that we don't do in our store, LovelySkin, as it can lead to the transmission of viruses and colds. Instead, we use a cotton bud to spread lipstick. Our staff would throw away the lipstick if they saw something like this happen in our store.  

In another scene, Cheryl is at a camping site where a worker is trying to help her lessen her backpack load for her journey. The first thing the worker notices her deodorant. She decides to toss the deodorant and makes a comment that her underarm smell is the least of her bodily worries. Although deodorant may not be important to Cheryl, I do believe antiperspirants should play a huge role in most people’s regimens.

Although it seems that Cheryl spends a lot of time under sun exposure, especially in the Mojave Desert where the movie begins, Cheryl's skin doesn't tan. This probably means that she did wear sunscreen or that she used some sort of sun protection while hiking. I think her chances for the Best Actress Award are very good as she was clever to protect her skin under extreme exposure, and of course, Reese Witherspoon is a superb actress! My vote for Best Actress goes to Reese Witherspoon for her beautiful skin and great portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in "Wild."



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