Addicted to the pop: Explore the world of pimple popping

There’s been an interesting phenomenon occurring over the past few years and if you haven’t heard about it, prepare to be grossed out, fascinated, or a little bit of both.

Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee has become famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for bringing millions of viewers into her world of pimple popping.

Known as “Dr. Pimple Popper” across television, YouTube, and social media, Lee’s videos have over three billion views of almost every squeeze, pop, squirt, and extraction that can occur on human skin.

So, what is all the hype about? While some people may abhor the thought of various substances being squeezed out of the human body, millions find it not only interesting, but therapeutic as well.

Dr. Eric Storch, a psychologist with Baylor College of Medicine and an avid fan of Lee’s videos, says there are psychological and biological explanations as to why some people are downright addicted to watching “the pop.”

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“From a biological perspective, humans are prepared to get rid of things that are uncomfortable or could be regarded as dangerous. Lee often treats patients that have significant, although usually non-life-threatening, growths that severely impact their day-to-day lives,” he said. “Witnessing an abnormal condition become normalized appeals to an overall human experience.”

With a quick peruse through the comments on Lee’s social media pages, one will see many individuals touting her videos and clips as relaxing and cathartic. Storch agrees that those who find comfort in watching Dr. Pimple Popper can feel a great reduction in stress and anxiety.

The build-up of tension while watching procedures such as lipoma removal or blackhead extractions is instantly released when a “pop” occurs, which activates parts of the brain that seek reward or stress reduction. When those with anxiety are triggered, they seek safety behaviors, which motivate them to ease their discomfort, i.e., watching hours of cyst removals.

Additionally, while performing her pimple-popping magic, Lee often chats with her patients to ease the jitters that can occur during a medical procedure that involves needles. Through these conversations, the viewers get a chance to know these patients and their situations.

“This is a humane aspect of the show to which the audience can relate. Maybe the viewer has suffered from or been ostracized because of an abnormality, and they can feel a sense of hope watching others find normalcy again.”

Whether you’re a fan of Lee’s or not, there is no doubt that the pimple-popping frenzy has impacted millions of viewers.

Dr. Storch is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behviorial Sciences at Baylor.

-By Melissa Tucker

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