Pimple popping videos aren’t weird

Graphic by Jessica Mouton

Graphic by Jessica Mouton

Pimples are gross. There are millions of dollars spent every year trying to get rid of them with makeup, surgery or diets. They really are treated as humanity’s greatest shame, but why are we obsessed with pimple popping videos? They’re a massive market on Youtube, and channels like Dr. Pimple Popper have over six million subscribers. Sandra Lee, who runs the channel, also has her own show on TLC, which was just recently announced a fourth season last December.

I’m one of the weirdos who enjoy watching them, and I can’t explain it. I’ll watch them to go to sleep, sometimes first thing in the morning and every once in a while, while I’m eating (if it’s a clean pop). I started off being violently opposed to the idea. My family would literally gather around my mom’s iPad to watch their favorite pops.

“This is disgusting; I’d never enjoy that,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately, I did.

To help prove that I and millions of other people aren’t weird, I found Abigail Cline, M.D, Ph.D., of Wake Forest School of Medicine, who has interesting things to say about it. Firstly, it’s satisfying to pop your own pimples, because it feels like you’re in control. Watching other people’s pop theirs gives the same hit of dopamine, without the horrible marks you leave on yourself. 

Another big reason is the disgust factor. For the same reason we watch horror movies, humans weirdly enjoy stuff that is gross.

“The concept of benign masochism illustrates how humans are attracted to experiences that produce undesirable emotions, such as disgust,” Cline says. “Benign masochism also makes scary movies appealing, research shows.”

Cline also had reasons as to why people don’t enjoy watching these videos and it goes back to ancient times. Studies have shown that we are disgusted by other people’s oozing skin as a defense mechanism for infectious diseases. Infectious diseases still affect us as recently as this year with the coronavirus, but it is not nearly as bad as being on the same continent as someone sick enough to give you the plague. 

I think the reason I like them is that they’re satisfying. In the same way, certain noises sound good or the way people slice soap, I also love to watch those videos until the end. It’s especially satisfying for me to watch something that isn’t supposed to be there get removed. Watching Lee remove a giant cyst or growth from someone and then sew up their skin like it never happened makes me feel good. It feels like watching that scene in Toy Story 2 where the man fixes Woody. 

Am I still weird? Yes, but it isn’t because I watch pimple popping videos. If you’re still on the fence, watch this video of the most satisfying pops ever. Hopefully, it changes your mind!