Dr. Pimple Popper has built an online empire out of removing various types of zits and cysts from people’s bodies, all while making it her mission to educate her fans about various skin conditions.
So it’s only natural that the doctor, whose real name is Sandra Lee, has plenty of tips to share with those looking to pop their own zits at home as safely as possible.
While she — perhaps surprisingly — doesn’t advocate for popping pimples, the dermatologist, 46, told Femail everything those who can’t keep their hands off their faces should know before squeezing those pesky zits.
Secrets: Dr. Pimple Popper shared her tips to properly pop a zit with Femail, explaining that one crucial factor is knowing when a blemish is ripe
STUDY YOUR OPTIONS
Despite her nickname, Dr. Lee, who is based in Upland, California, believes that people should ideally never pop their pimples, because doing so always comes with a risk of scarring the skin or developing an infection.
‘I think that’s what all of us dermatologists would say,’ she told Femail. ‘You shouldn’t squeeze anything on your skin, because you have a risk of scarring and you have a risk of something getting infected.
‘But no matter what, people are going to try to do it anyway. Many of us can’t keep our hands to ourselves.’
Instead of popping a zit, Dr. Lee recommends consulting a dermatologist as soon as you can feel a pimple forming.
‘They can inject a low-potency steroid that can make a pimple go away of regress in 24 hours, which is fantastic,’ she said.
‘That’s one of the perks of being a dermatologist, being able to inject your own pimples.’
KNOW THE RISKS
There is an area of the face known as the triangle of death, which extends from the top of the nose to the corner of the lips.
Some physicians have cautioned against popping zits located inside the triangle because an infection in that area could spread to the brain — but Dr. Lee isn’t overly concerned.
Zone: There is an area of the face known as the triangle of death, which extends from the top of the nose to the corner of the lips. Some have cautioned against popping zits in the area
‘The main reason we call it that is because if you get a zit and you get bacteria involved, it has a shorter distance to cross to get to the cavernous sinus,’ she said of the proverbial triangle of death.
‘That is the space right under our brain, and if there’s swelling there, it can compress other nerves, such as the nerves that allow you to be able to see, important vessels and things like that.’
While she acknowledged that people might want to pay extra attention to possible issues in those areas, Dr. Lee pointed out that ‘in this day and age, with antibiotics, you don’t really see a newsflash [saying] someone died of a pimple on their nose’.
‘So it’s not like this happens regularly,’ she added. ‘It’s just sort of a point of interest as physicians we know that that is an area where you have a closer connection to more important structures.’
WAIT UNTIL THE TIME IS RIGHT
Dr. Lee has made ‘Know when to pop and know when to stop’ her mantra, and she considers timing one of the most important factors when it comes to popping a zit.
A blemish should be as superficial as possible, on the surface on the skin, in order to be popped.
That is because the deeper a pimple is, the more likely you are to cause inflammation or scarring.
‘You know when you have a pimple and you feel it —you don’t really see it yet you know it’s starting? That’s not the time to pop a pimple because it’s not ready yet,’ Dr. Lee said.
Wise words: Dr. Lee (pictured removing a cyst from a patient’s neck) has made ‘Know when to pop and know when to stop’ her mantra
‘It has to be the most superficial on the skin, when you see a pustule — what people might call a whitehead.’
A pimple that is truly ready to pop should do so in about 30 seconds of squeezing, tops, the dermatologist explained.
‘Sometimes things are ready to squeeze. If not, stop pursuing it,’ she added.
DON’T NEGLECT THE AFTERCARE
After popping a zit, following up with a good spot treatment is essential, Dr. Lee stressed. She recommended products containing either benzoyle peroxide, a topical antobiotic, or salicylic acid.
For those who find benzoyle peroxide drying, sulfur-based treatments are more gentle on the skin, Dr. Lee said.
Knowing which types of products use on various kinds of blemishes can also help. For example, she said, benzoyle peroxide is an anti-bacterial that will help combat red pimples that feel tender to the touch.
Whiteheads and blackheads, on the other hand, are best treated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol or retin a, which clean out the ports, according to the dermatologist.
Acne medication, she said, is important in the long run, because it can ‘help minimize the breakout or even prevent a breakout in the first place’.
She has launched her own skincare line, SLMD Skincare, using ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinol and glycolic acid to help with pimples, acne, and other conditions including keratosis pilaris, which causes patches of rough bumps to develop on the skin.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Some pimples are just best left alone. Among them are cystic or nodular pimples, which occur in more severe cases of acne.
‘Sometimes they don’t even really come to a head, they’re just under there and deep and really painful,’ Dr. Lee said.
‘Those are the ones you don’t want to squeeze because you’re just going to cause more inflammation. You should really see a dermatologist to get prescription medication.’
Through her TV show and her videos, Dr. Lee, who has 4.1 million subscribers on YouTube, hopes to educate people as much as possible on various skin conditions and how to best care for their own skin.
Footage: Dr. Lee is often portrayed treating patients in her YouTube videos and in her TLC show
Knowledge: With her show and her videos, Dr. Lee hopes to educate her viewers about various skin conditions and how they can best care for their own skin
Her online persona has grown into a pimple-popping game, Pimple Pete, which will be released in October, and into a book, Put Your Best Face Forward, to be published in December.
There is also, of course, her show on TLC, Dr. Pimple Popper, which has been renewed for a second season.
‘It’s been a really wonderful ride,’ she said of her newfound fame, adding: ‘It’s taken me farther than I could ever imagine.’
While many people can barely stand to watch her pimple-popping and cyst-removal videos, she has trained herself not to feel queasy, which is also an essential part of her bedside manner as a physician.
‘You don’t want to react like you’re grossed out with a patient. They’re really vulnerable coming to see you and you don’t want to make them feel bad,’ she said.
‘It’s very important to me also because all my patients are awake and they’re talking to us. You want to make sure people are calm and they trust me and they know they’re in good hands and we’re not grossed out.’