here’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch after a long day at work with a glass of wine and a good book that you’ve tossed to the side because you got sucked down a rabbit hole of watching pimple-popping videos on YouTube and Instagram. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Why do we revel in the close-up release of goo from other people’s pores? What compels us to hit play on “Blackhead Extraction!” and then do it again on “Whitehead Extraction!” and then one more time on “Gold Mine of Milia!”?
I suppose not everyone gets a thrill from the squeeze, but it has certainly turned into a phenomenon.
Where my pimple popping peeps at?! You’re out there. You might be ashamed of your love of icky videos, but it’s time to give that all up. It’s perfectly natural to get a kick out of comedones extractions.
First of all, while growing up all our mothers told us to stop picking at our faces, it’s actually an extremely normal thing to do. As neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin explained to Refinery29, “From an evolutionary-biology standpoint, we want to remove things from our skin because they could be parasites or infections.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
It’s the deep squeezing that can mess us up under the surface of the skin. That’s what we should probably leave to the professionals.
And that we do. Dr. Sandra Lee (you probably know her as “Dr. Pimple Popper”) has created an entire social media empire based on sharing videos that show her patients’ zit extractions, or as I like to call them, “zitractions.”
Lee told Refinery29, “I think watching popping is similar to seeing a scary movie or riding a roller coaster for some. You get a rush of euphoria and excitement.” And she’s so right. Dr. Berlin described it as “a cycle of anxiety or arousal before the act and a sense of relief after,” which is exactly how I feel when I’m watching Halloween or riding the Superman coaster.
The act of watching pimple-popping videos that have that build up and then satisfying release “activates the experience that typically comes with a real kind of danger while actually being protected from the harmful effects typically associated with those situations.”
These wise words come from Daniel Kelly, assistant professor and author of Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust.
But if that’s the case, if this is a biological response and it’s an easy, harm-free way to feel good, why do some people love watching this stuff while others are totally repulsed?