Dr. Pimple Popper thinks she’s normalizing skin issues. Sandra Lee, MD, a Southern California-based dermatologist and known as Dr. Pimple Popper to her fans, has found a unique but expansive and dedicated audience for her series of pus-exploding videos.
In some instances, Lee offers her pimple, blackhead, cyst, lipoma-squeezing services for free in exchange for filming the procedure and uploading it to her social media accounts. Her videos, which many find simultaneously revolting and eerily satisfying, have garnered her over 3.2 million YouTube subscribers and 2.6 million followers on Instagram. During these skin excavations, Dr. Lee maintains a friendly and humorous rapport with her patients and gives the skin conditions names like “the black hole” and “momma squishy.” Sometimes her videos are accompanied by artfully titled songs, like Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me) and French Montana’s “Pop That.”
To Dr. Lee’s fans, her videos deliver some kind of inexplicable bliss. Some of have compared the images of drooling pus to the experience of yanking up weeds, riding a rollercoaster, watching a shooting star, or giving birth.
In an article for Jezebel, journalist Sarah Harris questioned if Dr. Lee’s popping-and-documenting practices are ethical. “I don’t think any of my patients are grotesque and I never treat them like I think they are gross or disgusting,” Lee wrote in an email to Harris. “I never want them to feel embarrassed by the conditions that they have. In fact, I’m normalizing human skin issues, and creating dialogue around it.”
However, the American Academy of Dermatology’s code of ethics states that dermatologists must “not impose coercive conditions of treatment, including but not limited to requiring patients to…waive other basic rights, such as privacy or free speech, as a condition of treatment.”
Hassan Galadari, MD, called one of the top dermatologists in Dubai, feels like Dr. Lee’s videos might exist for shock value purposes. “You’re not educating,” Galardi told Harris. “You’re not showcasing what dermatologists do. You’re self-promoting. And you’re sabotaging the specialty.”