Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of dermatological procedures. Proceed at your own risk.
Up to 80% of people ages 11 to 30 experience acne at least one point in their lives. It’s more common among teens because acne is caused by too much sebum, the natural oil found on hair and skin, and sebum is affected by hormones, which change a lot throughout puberty. So if you worried a lot over acne in high school—maybe even as an adult—you’re not alone.
Perhaps that’s why it’s such a common yet understated joy to stand in front of a mirror and pop those annoying zits to oblivion—until they turn into more permanent scars, that is. (Don’t worry, we’re all entitled to our guilty pleasures, and we’ve all dealt with our fair share of blemishes anyway.) Here lies the massive appeal of Dr. Sandra Lee’s content. Famously known as Dr. Pimple Popper on the internet, Sandra is the celebrity dermatologist who has infamously captivated millions of viewers with clips of procedures where she busts open bumps, presses on pustules, and coaxes out cysts till they’re drained and deflated. Her success has even led to her own TV show of the same name, which is now on its eighth season (that’s a lot of pus!).
Capitalizing on ick
For anyone who’s ever done it (who hasn’t?), the act of popping a pimple can provide a feeling of release or relief, similar to how one might feel after scratching an itch. When the pimple is popped, the accumulated pus and oil are removed from the skin, which can provide a sense of satisfaction and completion.
Additionally, some people may find the visual aspect of pimple popping videos interesting or even therapeutic. Watching the process of removing a pimple can be a form of visual stimulation or even relaxation for some individuals. Some may also feel a sense of satisfaction from seeing the transformation of the skin from blemished to clear.
And while the reasons pimple popping videos can be satisfying to some people do stack up, we still acknowledge that they’re not for everyone. After all, they’re also hinged on shock factor. Shock factor can be important in making content because it captures people’s attention and provokes a strong emotional response. Content creators often aim to elicit reactions from their audiences, whether it’s laughter, sadness, anger, or surprise, because these can increase engagement and drive viewership. This can be especially important in a crowded media landscape where there are many competing sources of content vying for people’s attention.
Sandra utilizes this well not just through the very nature of her content, but also her choice of titles, thumbnail previews, and more recently, with the rise of TikTok and Instagram reels, trendy music. Her videos contain all the ingredients of the perfect clickbait-worthy content, except for one thing—they aren’t.
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Content that relies on intriguing subject matter to attract viewers can sometimes be exploitative or unethical, and can even promote harmful behavior, but Sandra is able to put the “value” in “shock value.” Content creators have a responsibility to be mindful of the impact their content can have on their audiences, and Sandra is fully aware of this. Before each Youtube video, she makes it a point to state that her videos are for education purposes and are “not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.” In short, they’re not meant to be tried at home alone, without the help of a licensed expert. Attempting to do so can lead to skin damage, infection, scarring, and more serious complications.
A medfluencer oozing with appeal—and compassion
Outside the implications of DIY pimple popping or maybe watching enough videos to make you lose your appetite come lunchtime, the Dr. Pimple Popper channel proves it’s not just for views when it benefits the patients it features in more ways than one. Sandra goes beyond compensating them with free or discounted treatments. Her program shows how her expertise can help people through debilitating conditions by giving them lasting relief and a new lease on life.
The real point of Dr. Pimple Popper is that outer blemishes, much like beauty, are only skin deep. While pus-filled blisters or scaly psoriasis are embarrassing to those who have them and upsetting to those who don’t understand, they’re nothing to be ashamed of. The lighthearted and empathetic way Sandra addresses her procedures is important in promoting greater acceptance towards them. This alone presents a key facet of health communications, as it not only spreads awareness on certain conditions, but also encourages those who might have them to seek the treatment they need.
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M2.0 Communications is a PR company that specializes in business, technology, and lifestyle communication. We offer a range of services including public relations, reputation management, influencer management, and video production to help brands tell compelling and meaningful stories.