Even if you are not looking for them, it is almost impossible to search online for skin care products without mentioning Videos of Pimple Popper . Dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD, of FAAD, FAACS, has reached the deep, pus-filled heart of the strangely-yet-satisfying video world directly. Lee realized that she had found a gold mine – if it could say that about bacteria and dead skin cells. Her fans, who affectionately call her "popaholics," can not get enough of her viral extraction videos, which have made more than 10 billion views on YouTube alone in less than a decade. With over three million followers on Instagram and a successful reality show on TLC, she has become one of the most famous dermatologists in the world.
Dr. Lee's videos usually start with close-ups of her patient's skin showing obvious symptoms such as blackheads, cysts, or pimples. It can be difficult to look away if Dr. Lee's gloved fingers begin to massage the area around her patient's blemish to lure out anything under the skin. Often, medical tools are used, sometimes cutting occurs, and finally, anything under the skin comes to the surface. The whole process basically goes from zero to 60 in less than a minute.
Lee on her new book, her skincare advice, and why the world is so fascinated by her work as a dermatologist] SELF: Why do you think your popping videos are so popular?
Dr. Lee: What matters is that it makes people happy! Some people feel that it is a cleansing thing, as if they are releasing something that should not be there. For some people it's like a roller coaster ride or a horror movie – there's a rush of endorphins that you look at and then you see how they are loosened up and in the end feel happy.
] People also tell me that this is a level of ASMR – [they]hear the sound of my voice and it is very relaxing for them.
There is no way that this would last, if that were just righteous and gross and disgusting.
Are there any disadvantages in uploading pimple-bang-videos-fame? For example, do people more pop their own pimples and accidentally scar themselves?
No, I actually believe [my videos] help people [decide] go in and have things seen. People will definitely get pimples. I try to teach people how to do it right.
Or you may not have to remove cysts, for example. You do not really have to remove everything I cover here. it is not medically necessary or they are not life threatening. However, the fact is that an inflamed cyst can be the most painful thing ever and leave a scar. I think some people are trying to remove their cysts before [it gets to] because they now know they are watching [my] videos.
Now that your popping videos are so famous, how many percent of your patients come to you to look for extractions
This has changed the demographics of my world. We definitely get really big pops – things that I once saw in a blue moon are happening weekly now. We get a lot of people from around the world, which is amazing because there are [are] thousands of dermatologists between me and their place of residence and they choose me. I am very humble and flattering.
What is the approval process for patients appearing on your YouTube and social media videos?
We ask the patient if he is willing to allow an employee to film an intervention. and we strive to make the video / audio as anonymous as possible. Almost everyone agrees, and in fact, people now travel from afar in the hope that their trial will be recorded and posted on our social media.
You are signing a consent form that authorizes us to use the videos / photos on our social media, etc.
How do you prevent your videos from becoming too exploitative?
Our patients know and understand that we keep our videos as anonymous as possible and delete identifying names from the audio. We also do not show full-frame videos or photos, and obscure identifying areas like the entire face and even tattoos with surgical drapes, etc. this and in fact many require us to record them on video. If a private, sensitive, embarrassing area grows, if the patient is underage or very emotionally sensitive, or if I feel that he is in any way embarrassed that his condition will be published (anonymously) on social media, then I will do not do it.
I am very protective of my patients and I always want to say that I put them first and foremost in safety and anonymity, especially others. Patients also understand that I would like to remove them if they decide at some point in the future that they no longer want to see their videos in my social media or on YouTube.
I think the vast majority of people are excited about the opportunity to educate others, and it is important to show the world that there are many skin diseases that are not contagious, that people are not evaluated for because of these diseases and, overall, this probably increases tolerance and lowers the judgment of others.
How did the fame on the internet affect your everyday life?
What interests me is that people recognize me by my voice. With [my show on] TLC they now know my face, but before they recognized me by my voice. It's hard for me to get used to it. I do not think I'm someone who should be treated as a celebrity in any way. It's a bit uncomfortable to be out in the world, having a drink with friends or going to the beach because you feel like you're being watched.
But the nicest thing is that there are so many future Dr Pimple Poppers – and I especially like to meet young women who may not know what they want to do in their lives. But they see that I am a surgeon, a doctor, and that I speak like them. They feel that they can do what I do, and I'm really proud to have a positive influence. I also love the little pimple poppers – these are the cutest things ever. So, let's talk about skincare: what are some of the common types of pimples?
As far as pimples are concerned, pretty much bring them into our lives. We get them mostly in our teens, and that's because of our hormones – that's really the main reason why we get acne. Our hormones sometimes go through a bit and that increases the oil production in our face, and then we tend to break out the most.
You could divide pimples into three stages: First, blackheads and whiteheads, which we call call comedones – [they] are the building blocks for acne. When these blackheads and whiteheads are clogged, it causes bacterial infection and we may get so-called inflammatory papules, which we all refer to as the Vesuvius we can have in the nose – that's a pimple or even a pustule. The third stage, which is the most severe stage of acne, is when you can have cysts and nodules. When you get to this third stage, this is the stage we, as dermatologists, care most about. It is not life threatening, but when you are in this third stage, there is a higher risk of scarring, which may be permanent. Not everyone goes through all stages, thank God.
What pimples can someone have at home and which ones should we just leave alone?
I will be like all dermatologists and say that I take nothing! But the problem is [that] I still feel obliged to tell you how to do it because I know many of us are going to do it anyway.
A blackhead is easier to pop – it's not that you should pop it, but it's easier. It causes less trauma and less risk of infection and scarring. It's an open pore, so it's dark, it's really open to the surface of the skin. As a rule, even a small pressure on the pages with a comedone extractor or even with the fingers can express a blackhead.
Whiteheads are slightly different because they have a thin layer of skin (which is why they are white)) and they are exposed to the air. This makes it a bit harder because you actually have to "break" the skin and then into the style of "No, do not break that!" Comes. If you are really aggressive with your own skin, you can really damage it. The deeper you traumatize your skin, the greater the risk of getting a scar. (Editor's note: You should know the following before trying to remove a pimple at home .)
Since you already share so much medical knowledge about social media, you've decided to write a book to write about your experiences?
I always wanted to write a book. My dad (who is also a dermatologist) likes to read, which has inspired me to do the same. He grew up poor and stared sadly at books in stores and said, "One day I will buy books." When I grew up, I went to a bookstore every weekend and stayed there for hours.
I have always loved books, but the bigger reason [I wrote a book] is that the opportunity presented itself. I have this social media presence and get so many questions that I try to answer in this book. [But] It was difficult for me to write this because I wanted it to be as complete as possible.
I answer questions from people who want to be dermatologists, how to have good bed behavior, or how to get into dermatology. I answer questions from "Popaholics", people who only have questions about things that pop out of my skin. I answer questions from people, how I got here, what happened, how I was in that position.
And I also answer questions as a dermatologist: What is this disease I have? What is this skin condition? What is Hidradenitis suppurativa ? How do I treat my acne ? I also do a lot [cosmetic procedures] so people have questions about liposuction, botox or filler. It was hard to [write] because I'm not a writer by nature but a doctor – but I'm also a perfectionist.
You have such a large following – how do you determine the best uses for pedagogical purposes?
The most important thing – and why I wanted to do that in the beginning – is to get dermatology into the masses. I think most people can not see a dermatologist – they have no access to one, they have no money or [have] no insurance reasons. So people have a skin problem and do not know what it is.
There is no access to correct information, and I have tried to correct it. Now people know the difference between a blackhead and a whitehead or a cyst and a lipoma, or they know what those bumps are on their arms, or they see someone with hidradenitis suppurativa, and now they can seek treatment. Everything is related to it – the TLC show, this book, the social media – all of this is related to this goal. It is hard though! I have a lot of balls in the air. Many cysts in the air.
Show Your Best Face: The Ultimate Guide to Skin Care From Acne to Anti-Aging is now available.
This interview has been edited and compressed.