While she is better known as Dr. Pimple Popper, Sandra Lee, M.D., has been paving (or popping) her path in dermatology and esthetics for over a decade at her practice, Skin Physicians & Surgeons, in Upland, California
"My best advice is to always remain true to your clients or your patients, always make sure that they are No. 1 and they know they’re No. 1," Sandra Lee, M.D.
In 2014, Lee posted her first videos of blackhead extractions to her Instagram account (@drpimplepopper). Since then, she has amassed over 2.5 million followers each on both Instagram and YouTube, with more joining as she expands her brand to include her product line, SLMD Skincare, and other media ventures.
Skin Inc. sat down with Lee to learn her take on the future of esthetic marketing, and how “pimple popping” has changed her life.
Skin Inc. (SI): What has been the most memorable video or patient you have filmed?
Sandra Lee (SL): The videos that are memorable to my fans are probably the same for me. The reason is partly because I’ve seen [the patients] many times, and have developed a relationship with them. I think people really fall in love with them in my videos because they know that I care about this patient a lot, that we’ve developed a friendship. So that holds a special place in my heart—people who really make this worthwhile.
Sometimes it’s hard work—sometimes you work hard at something, and you make extra time to spend with somebody, and they come out here from afar and it doesn’t end up being anything special, but thankfully those are in the minority. It’s all good for me—one of the wonderful things about what I do is that when you go into dermatology, you really develop these wonderful relationships with your patients. You spend a good half an hour with them, one-on-one. I say I’m a glorified hairdresser, because with hair stylists too, you develop relationships with your patients.
SI: Would you say that you have changed as a physician?
SL: I have pretty much been the same way as a physician—if you go back to my first videos, I am pretty similar to how I am now. I think it has validated though the positive things that I do as a physician, and hopefully, just like how after going on a reality show people learn about their personality, I’ve learned a little bit about myself, and hopefully you adapt and become a better person from it.
SI: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start in medical esthetics or dermatology?
SL: My best advice is to always remain true to your clients or your patients, always make sure that they are No. 1 and they know they’re No. 1—that filming or social media is second. Make sure they are comfortable. Protect their privacy.
Sometimes it’s scary to put yourself out there, and you have to have a certain level of thick skin, but it doesn’t really bother me because I stand by what I’m doing—there are other ways to do things, but I know that what I’m doing is, at least in my mind, the best way to do something and that I’m not hurting somebody. My whole intention is to try to make things better, not to make things worse.
SI: Do you see more digital presence in the future of the industry?
SL: Absolutely. When I first started, people would look in the phone books for dermatologists, so we had to have phone book advertisements. Now everybody uses the internet.
In the future, I believe that the way that you’re going to find a doctor or a spa, or a lot of things like this in the medical esthetic field, is that they are going to expect that you have a YouTube channel or a social media page where you’re posting things that you do or who you are, showing little snippets of your work life.
SI: You are pretty busy professionally, what do you do in your free time?
SL: I edit videos! I have two kids and I have a husband—we like to travel, certainly, and I have two cats too, so I definitely can feel like I get too into what I’m doing there—pimple popping has sort of taken over my life now.
We have the skin care line that we are expanding, there is always something new that is coming up, for TV or other ideas for the internet. I guess I would say that that is sort of my hobby, too—it’s fun to watch this grow.
There are only a few of us, less than a handful, who are in medical fields who are posting and showing their lives a little bit on social media. It is fascinating to see where this is going. I imagine I keep just putting another log on the fire and watching it grow and see what it will grow to.