Do you remember where you were when you discovered Dr. Pimple Popper for the first time? I certainly do. I was in the living room of my parents’ house three years ago, innocently heading down the rabbit hole of skincare YouTube. Out of desperation, I was educating myself on the different types of pimples so I could better understand my own, when it suddenly happened. Before I knew it, YouTube’s autoplay feature thrusted me from what was probably a review on Differin gel to something called a “dilated pore of winer.” I was...intrigued, to say the least. So I watched...and watched...and watched.
Before stumbling onto Dr. Pimple Popper’s videos, I literally had Z-E-R-O knowledge of advanced dermatology. Hell, I didn’t even have true knowledge of what cysts were, let alone lipomas or sticky steatocystomas! So as I watched her videos, I was horrified. Disgusted, maybe! But for some reason...I couldn’t look away. Watching Dr. Pimple Popper was like Beyond Scared Straight, scaring me into treating my skincare routine with respect. And as it turns out, I wasn’t alone!
Dr. Pimple Popper, also known as Dr. Sandra Lee, has gained a whopping 5.6 million followers on her YouTube channel alone since then, becoming a skincare celebrity in her own right. Since that dilated pore of winer video broke the internet (33 mil views and counting, by the way), Dr. Lee’s star has ascended.
Now, people might know Dr. Lee as America’s favorite cyst whisperer. She’s got her own TLC show (Dr. Pimple Popper), her own skincare line (SLMD skincare), and, of course, her devoted set of fans who lovingly call themselves popaholics. So naturally, we had to speak to the queen herself to get alllll the tea on her favorite topics—pimples and skincare! Y’all are in for a treat.
Cosmo: What inspired you to come out with a line of skincare products?
Dr. Lee: I found myself with this platform of people around the world who were interested in what I had to say, and they trust me. I get all these questions about acne and general skincare issues, so I realized that I could create a line that would have very similar products to what dermatologists would recommend to our own patients but, of course, not prescription level.
Would you consider yourself to be a popaholic?
You may be shocked to hear this...but I myself am not a true popaholic! I know fans love to watch me extract them, so I love it for that reason. When I watch a video of people in their garage popping bumps with paper towels, it grosses me out. I’m like, “Don’t send that to me, I can’t even look at it!” I wanna throw up. I get all anxious and my heart starts beating and I start sweating, actually.
What are your favorite type of bumps to pop? Cysts, lipomas, blackheads?
I like the giant blackheads that slip out entirely intact, like the pore of winer. I don’t think I get the same deep satisfaction that the viewers do though. I get more thrilled because I know this is going to make so many people happy.
Do you get a surge of relief or a feeling of excitement when you complete an extraction?
No, not really. I remove something that’s not supposed to be there and make it better and back to normal, but it’s just part of my job. I’m happy that I can make this person feel better about themselves and get rid of a bump they didn’t want.
What’s the worst pimple pop or extraction you’ve ever had to perform? Has anything ever grossed you out?
For me, the worst kinds of pimples are the ones that get on you. I wear a splash mask, but it always happens when I don’t wear the splash mask. Sometimes I think I can play that game, and then I get cyst in my hair and feel like showering every time I turn my head. Or if it gets on my arm, I joke and say, “It’s like acid, I can feel it!” I don’t really get grossed out, and I think it’s partly being trained to not act like you are. I want to be respectful to my patients.
How do you come up with such unique ways to describe your pimple pops?
Well, I just run out of descriptions! I do that because I want to make light of things too, because if I don’t say anything, that can freak the patient out. It}s a lot harder for the patient to be nervous when I’m joking around.
What is your personal favorite product from your skincare line and why?
I love my cleansing wipes. My fave before that was the Neutrogena wipes, which are pretty popular, but I feel like my wipes get makeup off better and they don’t dry up. I personally like the glycolic and salicylic acid cleansers too. I’m super excited about UV Bounce, my new powdered sunscreen that just came out. It’s a game changer in terms of sun protection for people!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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