Of all the bizarre elements of human psychology exposed to the world by the invention of the internet, the rise of the pimple-popping video has to be one of the most bizarre — and amazing. Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, otherwise known as "Dr. Pimple Popper," is one of Youtube's breakout stars thanks to her clips of pimples, cysts, blackheads and other skin nasties that she prods, pokes, and clears with plastic gloves and professional devices. Her most popular videos have views into the millions, and she's only one of a cluster of pimple popping media available. Why in the world are we so fascinated by pimple popping videos? As with most things, science has an answer.
The psychology behind the popularity of pimple-popping spectacles is more complex than it seems, and there isn't one definitive explanation that rationalizes the entire experience. Our fascination with watching the pus explosions of others seems to be due to a combination of neural dopamine and tension release, the lure of the forbidden, cultural ideas of disgust, and socially evolved concepts of grooming and intimacy. Surprisingly, scientists have proved rather reluctant to study the legions of pimple popping fans in detail, so all of these ideas remain hypothetical. (Maybe they're simply too busy watching Dr. Lee's videos themselves — and getting one of her pimple-popping surgical devices, which are available for purchase, to take home.)