The incredible niche success of Dr Pimple Popper says something about the internet.
It combines an intriguingly gross habit people enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, faces up close and person with their magnifying mirror, and broadcasts it on social media, for anyone and everyone to see.
For the unacquainted, Dr Pimple Popper (whose real name is Dr Sandra Lee) is a California-based dermatologist who rose to fame by creating extraction videos in which she removes her client’s blackheads, pimples and skin lumps and bumps.
It’s disgusting, you cannot look away, and somehow she has achieved a level of internet fame previously only reserved for felines, puppies and cute babies.
Her Instagram (@drpimplepopper) has 2.7 million followers has even spawned its own Youtube channel (with an even bigger following of 3.5 million subscribers). She also has a well rating TV show on US Channel TLC.
Speaking to Kelsey Castañon of Refinery 29, Dr Sandra says that the idea – to film her popping pimples and place it on the internet, first came to her after she came across amateur videos of people popping pimples in their backyards.
“I thought, I pop pimples all day. I’m a surgeon, so I can surgically excise things that pop out of the skin and try to video tape it. I could be their queen,” she said… and that’s exactly what happened.
PS, there’s a brand new NSFW skincare trend we need to talk about. Post continues after audio.
Despite this, not everyone was a fan. Dr Sandra noted that one of the initial difficulties she experienced was that her posts would get taken down and deemed “not appropriate” by Instagram and YouTube.
However, randomly, it was none other than Selena Gomez who helped save her, when the pop star dubbed Dr Pimple Popper as the “most creative person on Instagram,” in an interview with the CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systom. After that, the doctor had no more issues with the social media platforms.
Also particularly surprising is the cost of an extraction.
It turns out Dr. Pimple Popper’s clientele will offer up $500-$600 USD ($780 AUD) per session, as they’re “not medically necessary and are not covered by insurance,” she says.
However, she does give away procedures to patients who grant her permission to film their faces and extractions, waiving the fee.
“I would just ask, ‘Do you want me to remove these blackheads for you? I won’t bill you, if you don’t mind me anonymously videotaping it.'” Naturally, everybody said yes, and she had more than enough ‘talent’ for her videos.
“I was able to create these videos, people were able to watch and enjoy them, and the patients were benefiting because they wouldn’t have to pay for something that bothered them,” she said.
“It was a win-win-win.”
And it certainly is, especially for her fans. While we can’t exactly put our finger on how her videos so perfectly teeter on the line between “this is disgusting” and “we can’t stop watching,” Dr Sandra explains that it’s all about the simple things – ultimately, she says, her videos give people the sense that everything is going to be okay. And we all need to hear that.