Dr. Sandra Lee is a California based dermatologist who began posting YouTube videos in 2010 to document small dermatologic procedures. Her videos captured people’s attention to the bizarrely fascinating world of dermatology, and in 2014 she started posting to Instagram. The snippets of her cyst extracting, acne popping, blackhead removal, and visually striking procedures has created an almost cult following. Videos and links are shared on Instagram, Twitter, reddit, YouTube, and just about every other social media platform. @drpimplepopper has about 5 million followers, whom she fondly refers to as “popaholics,”almost 5 thousand posts, and over 1.5 billion views.
Originally intended to enlighten the public about various skin conditions, Dr. Lee says many people tune in for the educational aspect.
“People love to learn about their skin, why these growths happen, how they are removed…. I hear so often from people about how they watch my videos and then aspire to become dermatologists or other skincare specialists,” Dr. Lee says.
And then there’s the other half of viewers who love to watch simply because it’s disgusting. It’s an entertainment rubber neck: you just can’t look away. Devoted viewers describe a sense of therapeutic release and dopamin hit while watching Dr. Lee. The viral fascination with the disgusting, “oh my god, you HAVE to look at this!’ nature of her videos has propelled the board certified physician into stardom.
Dr. Lee’s videos, which have been shared internationally, have generated millions of dollars. In July 2018, the first season of Dr. Pimple Popper aired on TLC. The show features both regular people and celebrities who allow the graphic details of their procedures to be filmed and usually end with a tearful explanation of how Dr. Lee changed their lives. It quickly became one of the top rated cable shows for women 25-54 years old, and season 2 began airing in January 2019. Capitalizing on her success, Dr. Lee started SLMD, her own skin care line, The Pretty Pimple, a digital blog post site created to give people quick access to skin care education, and various clothing articles and trinkets labeled with clever puns like “Zit Happens” and “Popaholics Anonymous.” Due to her eye opening content, memes hit the internet immediately.
Dr. Lee has also appeared in multiple magazines and talk shows and also published a book doing what she originally intended to: promoting her skincare line and spreading tips and advice on caring for your body. With the viral fascination of the gross and increased awareness of skincare importance, it doesn’t look like Dr. Lee is going anywhere soon.