We've all heard that the whole only-teenagers-get-acne thing is a big ol' myth. But here's the shocker:
We've all heard that the whole only-teenagers-get-acne thing is a big ol' myth. But here's the shocker: Adults are now the majority of acne patients! And two-thirds of those adults are female. This might explain the wild popularity of Dr. Pimple Popper, a.k.a. Sandra Lee, M.D., a dermatologist in Upland, California.
Since October 2014, Lee's been bringing acne to the forefront with her viral videos, and last year she launched an acne-focused skin-care line, SLMD. But she didn't set out to become famous for popping pimples. "It started with showing people what I do, like surgeries, skin cancer, and acne," she says.
"There was a noticeable jump in interest when I posted a blackhead video." She did a little more digging and discovered Reddit's Popping subreddit, an online community of people who enjoy watching (and posting) videos of pimples and cysts being burst. That's when Lee realized that people love this stuff.
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There's actually a scientific explanation for it. Watching goo spew from someone's face is gross, but it can also be sort of satisfying. "There's some kind of relief by proxy," says Dean McKay, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York City who studies disgust. "If you see a pimple on someone's face and it gets popped, it's an opportunity to imagine that your pimple gets popped." Plus, these videos show skin being cleansed (in a really dramatic fashion). That leaves you, the viewer, with a sense of purity, says McKay, which can both feel gratifying and alleviate stress.
Thanks to this effect, it's no wonder Lee has over 3 million subscribers on YouTube and 2.6 million Instagram followers.
Watching also beats the DIY route, since popping your own zits has gotten a resounding "no" from derms since the beginning of time—and Lee agrees. "I don't recommend that anyone pop a pimple herself, because you risk inflammation, bleeding, infection, brown spots, red spots, and permanent scarring," she says.
Still, she knows that, in spite of those risks, Popaholics (as her fans are called) might take matters into their own hands, so she offers this method: "It's best to pop it when it's close to the surface of the skin, since you're not traumatizing the skin as deeply, which can increase your risk of scarring.
"She also stresses the importance of using clean hands—and stopping the squeezing after 15 to 30 seconds.
"People who like to pop will think, Maybe there's more, and then it'll be 10 times the size that it was," Lee explains.
Learn everything you could ever want to know about adult acne:
Beyond making an office appointment, it's tough to get personalized acne advice from Lee. She simply can't keep up with all the questions—hundreds per week—she gets on various social media platforms. ("I need a bot," she says.) So we're bringing her to you, both as our adult-acne pro on WomensHealthMag.com and in upcoming issues of the magazine. Check out her advice on dealing with super-oily skin here, and how she says you should treat bacne here.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!