Do YOU enjoy pimple popping videos? Blame it on evolution

Do YOU enjoy pimple popping videos? Neuroscientist explains how evolution is to blame for our love of the disgusting clips

  • Lumps in skin could be parasites so people are evolved to want to get them out
  • Because of this some people’s brains get pleasure from seeing the removals
  • Spot-popping and ear wax removal videos have large online followings 

It’s normal for people to be engrossed and amazed by videos of pimples being popped and spots being squeezed, a neuroscientist has explained. 

The internet obsession is popular because some people have evolved to get pleasure from bumps being removed from the skin, according to an expert.

Videos like those made by dermatologist Sandra Lee – aka Dr Pimple Popper – are common on social media, and the Californian doctor even has her own TV show.

And while oozing pus and grotesque lumps divide audiences into those who love it and those who hate it, there is real science behind the fascination.

Neuroscientist Heather Berlin, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says it is all down to people’s need to stay healthy and get possibly dangerous things out of their bodies. 

Sandra Lee, aka Dr Pimple Popper, is a dermatologist and online sensation because of her hundreds of videos of her treating people’s problem skin – Dr Lee says she is ‘fascinated’ that people watch it

As well as Dr Pimple Popper, whose YouTube channel boasts more than four million subscribers, there is the Wax Whisperer – an audiologist called Neel Raithatha who films wax being removed from inside people’s ears. 

There are numerous Instagram accounts dedicated to bursting spots and social media site Reddit has a section called ‘Popping’ with over 150,000 subscribers.

And Dr Berlin says the fascination makes sense from a scientific point of view.

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She told the Washington Post:  ‘Evolutionarily speaking, it’s normal behavior to want to remove bumps from your skin.’

Because those bumps could be parasites or other unwanted visitors, people have developed to make removing them pleasurable, Dr Berlin said.

She added it stimulates part of the brain which reacts to dopamine – a reward chemical – and gives people ‘a little hit of pleasure’.

Not everybody enjoys the videos 

However, not everybody feels the same and some people are disgusted by the videos because a different area of the brain is activated – but it is not clear why people feel different ways.  

Dr Lee, whose new show Dr Pimple Popper airs on US channel TLC and drew 2.4 million viewers for its premiere, calls her fans ‘popaholics’.

She told the Washington Post: ‘It’s fascinating to me why people love this stuff.’

Her story dives more into the backstory of her patients, something which is missing from her short YouTube clips. 

‘It’s so interesting to me that this is all sort of starting on the grotesque,’ Dr Lee added. ‘Or something that is shocking or gross to so many people, but it ends up being a happy story.

‘Some people are obsessed with popping’ 

‘I knew not everybody likes popping.

‘I think you get the opposite ends of the spectrum – people who are obsessed with it and people who are disgusted by it. 

‘But that’s how it grew, too, because either way, people would tag their friends to show them and that’s how it got bigger.’

Skin issues dealt with by Dr Lee range from problematic blackheads to fluid-filled cysts to huge fatty tumours called lipomas.

All her videos are filmed in her clinic where she treats people in a sterile environment with professional tools – she initially posted one video online to give a glimpse into her working life, but soon people couldn’t get enough of them.

She now has a channel of hundreds of clips from the past eight years. 

Television channel worried about putting off viewers 

But TV programmers were unsure about the show.

President of TLC, Howard Lee, added: ‘We didn’t know whether what Dr Lee does for a living would turn off viewers.

‘We watch what she’s doing and some of it may be too graphic for some members of our audience and we were very well aware of that. 

‘Maybe there’s a factor where some viewers are just turned off by it and yet, oddly, the other half of the audience is compelled by it.’


Online spot-popping sensation Dr Pimple Popper has taken her stomach-churning videos to a new level in her new TV show. 

Sandra Lee, a dermatologist in California, removed a huge lump of fat from the neck of a woman who had been suffering with the growth for three years.

The squishy swelling on the woman’s right shoulder had to be removed with surgery because it would not stop growing.

Melissa, 30, from Sioux Falls in South Dakota, had been wearing hoodies all the time to cover up the massive lump, but could not cope with it any more. 

Dr Pimple Popper told Melissa she had a large lipoma on her shoulder, and after the dermatologist decided the lump was not dangerous, she sliced it open and pulled out  the fatty tissue

The growth turned out to be a lipoma – a non-cancerous fatty lump which grows underneath the skin.

Dr Pimple Popper then removed the lipoma by slicing open Melissa’s skin with a scalpel and pulling out the fat with her hands.

Melissa had her shoulder numbed with local anaesthetic but was kept awake and laid still for the procedure.

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