The Real Reason You Love Watching Pimple Popping Videos

Dr. Pimple Popper explains why you just can’t turn away.

pimple popping videos woman acnephoto credit: shutterstock

It sounds gross but pimple popping videos are actually popular. (Admit it, you’ve watched one or two, haven’t you?) We asked experts, including the woman behind the craze—Dr. Pimple Popper herself—dermatologist Sandra Lee, what it is about these icky videos that pull people in.

They’re helpful

Whatever the impulse is to watch, there’s no question the videos are popular: Dr. Lee has 2.5 million social media followers and more than 1 billion views of her videos. Some experts ascribe the fascination to taboo: “Don’t pop that pimple,” we’re told over and over by experts, which makes watching a pimple popping video a guilty pleasure. But Dr. Lee believes there’s more to it: Watching the videos seems to help people resist the urge to go at their own skin. “People who have a tendency to pick at their own skin when they are stressed say that watching my videos really helps them to keep their hands off their own skin,” she explains. (Dr. Lee is also behind the SLMD skincare line.) By the way, you might want to check out these home remedies for acne.

They’re primal

Our fascination with pimple-popping videos seems to tap into our primal urge to remove things from our body that we perceive as dangerous, explains Hersha Diaz, a licensed clinical psychologist. Although we know on an intellectual level that a pimple doesn’t present an actual life-or-death struggle, on a subconscious level, we absorb the spectacle of “man versus zit” as being about survival. “Once the potential ‘source of harm’ is removed,” Dr. Diaz explains, “we feel a sense of relief and the ‘feel-good’ chemical dopamine is released.” Don’t believe these myths about your pores.

Speaking of dopamine…

Both Dr. Lee and Dr. Diaz note that the videos have a tendency to calm the viewer. Even those with clinically-diagnosed issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic attacks, and insomnia, report feeling more relaxed and content after witnessing a pimple-popping video. Especially for people with OCD, notes Dr. Lee, the videos may provide a “sense of completion, of cleansing.” These are the 15 best foods to eat for glowing skin and healthy hair.

The ASMR effect

ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a feeling of euphoria that comes from certain types of repetitive sensory experiences. Dr. Lee notes that some people report feeling a bit of a “rush” from watching her videos, which she says could be attributable to witnessing “what can come out of the skin of a regular, normal, healthy human being,” or to the calming quality of Dr. Lee’s voice as she methodically performs the process. “Believe it or not, my videos are bedtime lullabies to many.”

Sharing is caring

“We may be inclined to share these videos with our friends and family as a way to communicate and share information,” Dr. Diaz adds. It’s a way of connecting, whether we’re on the giving or the receiving end. There’s pleasure in “sharing the sense of relief and enjoyment.” Here’s why adult acne may be on the rise.

Why we’re hooked

This isn’t the only gross-out spectacle that draws people in, of course—just think of horror movies, for example. According to therapist Christie Tcharkhoutian, disgusting things trigger at least two conflicting desires: To turn away, and the desire to freeze (similar to our fight or flight impulses). Being trapped between repulsion and curiosity is compelling, and it keeps us coming back for more. Next, check out the 20 worst pieces of health advice on the internet.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest