We asked Dr. Pimple Popper our biggest skin care questions—here are her juiciest tips
Nothing sucks us in quite like a Dr. Pimple Popper video. We have to admit, watching a giant pimple explode is super-satisfying, no matter how squeamish it might make us. But Dermatologist Sandra Lee, AKA Dr. Pimple Popper, isn’t just the queen of getting rid of acne—she’s a huge wealth of skin care knowledge.
What started out as simply posting videos on Instagram of pimple-popping and blackhead extractions has quickly grown into a TV show on TLC and a line of skin care products. We asked Dr. Sandra Lee all of your deep-rooted skin care questions like, “How can I prevent blackheads?” and “Does sleeping in my makeup really matter?”
Dr. Sandra Lee shared all of her best tips and tricks for creating a healthy skin care routine and kicking acne to the curb for good.
HelloGiggles: I’m guessing you didn’t always know you’d end up being Dr. Pimple Popper. What did you think your career would be when you were growing up?
Dr. Sandra Lee: I always liked to make my own clothes and I always liked fashion. I wanted to be a fashion designer, but that didn’t pan out, so now I just sew up people. So I still sew, but I don’t sew my own clothes anymore. My dad is a dermatologist, so that really exposed me early on to dermatology. That’s what helped me realize what a great specialty it was at an early age.
HG: Were you surprised at first by how many people loved watching your pimple-popping videos?
Dr. SL: Yes, absolutely! It was shocking to me. I had no idea. I don’t think any of us dermatologists did, otherwise somebody else would’ve done it early on. My first post back in late 2014, took me by surprise. I saw all these people who were liking it and sending it to their friends, and I thought that was really weird, so I did it again right away and it happened again. That was when I realized there’s something here—there’s something going on that people like.
HG: What does it actually take to make you squeamish or to gross you out on the job?
Dr. SL: Sometimes things can gross you out a bit, but I certainly try my best to not show it … If you don’t act like it grosses you out, then it eventually doesn’t gross you out because you’re so used to not responding to it. My staff know from me that you never say “oops” or “oh my gosh, what happened there?” because these people are awake, and you’re always aware that they’re listening to you. You don’t want them to ever feel self-conscious or embarrassed or scared. So, we’re very careful about what we say.
HG: When you have acne, or even just one pimple, it can feel so discouraging. What advice do you have for people struggling with self-esteem because of acne or other skin issues?
Dr. SL: Make sure they know that they’re not alone. Even though acne doesn’t threaten anyone’s life, it is a big threat to emotional well-being. [Acne] happens during a very formative time in your life, your teenage years, when you’re trying to figure out who you are and how you relate to others. If you have bad acne, it’s really going to affect the development of your personality.
What’s really great is that [the show] has allowed me to start my skin care line, SLMD Skincare. These are [over the counter] products that dermatologists would recommend to people if they cannot get a prescription. [People] watch our videos and they understand what [skin issues] they have, and now I’m giving them products and they understand … what the active ingredients are and how they work. And this makes them more compliant, more willing to use something, and also makes them proud because they were part of making their skin better. There’s a sense of empowerment and a sense of control.
HG: How do you—a pimple expert—deal when you get a pimple?
Dr. SL: Well I just had one a couple days ago! I put it on my Instagram story. I had a big one on my forehead and I talked to the audience about how I treat it. Dermatologists have some special tricks up our sleeves, and people who see dermatologists have this opportunity too—if you have a pimple that’s under your skin, you can inject it with a low potency steroid and it will help clear it up within a day. It will certainly decrease the severity of it.
What I recommend for people at home is to use a spot treatment. My line has a BP spot treatment lotion, and that’s something that I put on my pimples. It works in two ways: One is that it will help clear up that pimple more quickly because it’s anti-bacterial and anti-comedogenic, and it will decrease inflammation in the area.
HG: When is the right time to pop a pimple?
Dr. SL: I’m not going to tell people to pop their own pimples. I will tell you that the most ideal time is when it’s the most superficial on your skin, because the deeper you traumatize your skin, the less likely the pimple is going to resolve and there’s a higher risk you’ll have scarring. So when the pimple is like a pustule, that’s the time to maybe knick it with a sterile needle and then squeeze out the contents.
HG: If scarring does occur, what’s the best way to treat it?
Dr. SL: It depends. If it’s really true acne scarring, there’s no great way to treat it. A lot of times you can spend a lot of money on laser treatments, chemical peels, fillers, and that might not even help you—so the best thing to do is [to practice] prevention.
HG: What about blackheads? How can we avoid them and how can we get rid of them?
Dr. SL: Blackheads are a normal occurrence on our face. They tend to occur in the center of our faces, because there’s more oil or larger pores in those areas. They’re caused by debris or dead skin cells or oil collecting in our pores that turns black because it’s exposed to the air. The best way to prevent is to use acne products that contain retinal or salicylic acid. Those are included in my Acne System. Using those ingredients will help prevent and keep your pores clean.
HG: We know our diet can impact our skin, but are there any foods that really do cause breakouts?
Dr. SL: Really I think that the foods that can cause breakouts have to do with hormones that are in foods like milk. Milk has hormones that can affect our breakouts. The biggest factor that contributes to breakouts is hormones, which is why it happens most often during our teenage years, and also why it happens for women throughout their life sort of on a monthly basis—like right before their period when we really have a surge of hormones.
HG: What can we do about stress-related breakouts?
Dr. SL: Prevent your stress! Stress does not cause acne, but it can certainly make it worse. There’s a condition called neurodermatitis or acne excoriee when you scratch at your pimple, and you’re compelled to do so because that’s how you deal with your stress.
HG: What’s your number one tip for people with dry skin?
Dr. SL: Know that creams are more moisturizing than lotions. The drier your skin is, the more you want to convert to a cream. Creams are oil-based, so they’re more moisturizing, while lotions are water-based so they’re lighter. During the change of seasons, like now that it’s becoming fall, that’s when people convert to more of a cream, because the air tends to make our skin drier.
HG: Does the temperature of water you use to wash your face make a difference?
Dr. SL: Yes! Some people go from really cold to really hot to shock their pores, which I don’t advise. I think everyone should just wash their face with plain warm water. I do personally like hot water because it feels good, but I have really dry skin, so I minimize the length of my shower. The hotter the water, the more likely it’s going to dry out your skin.
HG: What’s your one tip for people with oily skin?
Dr. SL: There’s different things you can do with oily skin—it really depends on how oily you are. Using blotting papers is good. There are even prescription medications that can help. Sometimes people like to use more alcohol-based products to pull that oil from the surface of your skin. Powders are better for people with oily skin. We have a sunscreen powder that’s called UV Bounce. It’s a sunscreen, but it’s going to help wick away some of that oil on your skin.
HG: How much does makeup really affect our skin?
Dr. SL: Well, anything that we put on our skin that’s blocking your pores from breathing can promote breakouts or the development of blackheads and whiteheads. So makeup being left on for a long time, especially if it’s heavy, can promote issues. I need to wear makeup and want to wear makeup, but I certainly wash it off every day. When I’m filming and wearing heavy makeup, I trying to get it off as soon as I can. There’s no makeup that’s like “Oh you should wear this—it will be good for your skin.”
HG: For any skin type, what’s the number one habit we should incorporate into our skin care routine?
Dr. SL: Sunscreen. Most of us wear sunscreen—we put it on in the morning, but the issue is that we forget to reapply it. Sunscreen in general lasts just a couple of hours, so if you’re driving in the afternoon or walking home after work, you don’t have sunscreen on anymore. And the problem is a lot of us don’t want to reapply sunscreen because it’ll mess up our makeup. So the UV Bounce is a powder sunscreen. It’s like a touch-up sunscreen that you can put on over your makeup to feel nice and protected.
Shop the UV Bounce and more SLMD Skincare products below.
SLMD Skincare UV Bounce
SLMD Skincare Acne System Kit
This kit includes SLMD Skincare’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser, BP Lotion, Retinol Serum, and Facial Moisturizer.
SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment
Now excuse us, we’re off to watch some more Dr. Pimple Popper videos.