American dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee has gained worldwide recognition for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in her office on a daily basis under her pseudonym ‘Dr. Pimple Popper’.

Meant to be educational, and sometimes slightly stomach-turning, Dr. Lee is an expert when it comes to skincare and also when it comes to removing any unwanted matter from the skin.

Emirates Woman exclusively interviewed Dr. Lee to find out all her secrets for treating acne and addressing any other skin-related issues. 

Tell us a little bit about how your passion for skincare turned into a career path?

I came upon this career path as I was surrounded by dermatology my entire life – the writing was kind of on the wall because my father was a dermatologist as well. I grew up helping file charts and checking out skincare samples like they were makeup. I think many people who pursue medicine and go to medical school don’t realize what amazing speciality dermatology is until it’s too late and I feel lucky that I was exposed to it early on and knew it was more than just “pimple popping”. It’s a complicated and fascinating speciality. 

Dr. Pimple Popper

What’s the best overnight spot treatment recommendation?

Spot treatments are a GREAT way to individually target stubborn pimples that pop up! For inflammatory pimples (those red, big, painful ones – papules and pustules). The best option would be to go for a spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide. For non-inflammatory pimples (blackheads and whiteheads), go for one with Salicylic Acid.

Are there any specific foods that cause acne? If so, should they be avoided?

Most people believe greasy foods lead to breakouts, but this is only true if you’re rubbing that grease directly on your face… So don’t do that! Dairy can be an exacerbating factor when it comes to acne because of elevated hormones in milk, and we know that changes in our own hormone levels do play a big role in acne, so if you know you’re especially sensitive, try your best to not eat a ton of cheese or dairy products!  However, I also like to say that if you strongly suspect that a food is causing you to break out and you can avoid it then, of course, avoid it!

The Instagram fad of popping blackheads has gained popularity, is this ok to do at home?

I’m going to be like all other Dermatologists and tell you to NEVER pop anything on your skin, especially on your face. But will you listen to me? No – so my mantra is, please, if you can’t help yourself, “know when to pop and when to stop”. You’ll want to make sure you wash your face before with warm water to really open up the pores. It should come out pretty easily if it is ready, but if the pimple is not popping, there’s definitely a time to give up because forcing it and continually pushing and squeezing will only irritate your skin and certainly increase your risk for scarring. See a dermatologist or skincare professional to help you get these extracted. In short, know when to pop and know when to stop!

How can hormonal-acne be controlled?

In terms of treating hormonal breakouts, it’s always a good idea to be consistent with your skincare routine and have spot treatments on hand, to really target problem spots with a stronger concentration of active ingredients – during that time of month, etc. In addition, it’s always best to consult with a dermatologist if your acne isn’t responding to any over the counter products. They will be able to give you an educated opinion on your situation, and may prescribe you stronger medication, if necessary!

What’s the best way to maintain unclogged pores?

Be consistent with your skincare routine – washing your face both in the morning and at night. Incorporate products with salicylic acid, lactic acid, and/or glycolic acid into your routine. They’re all gentle, but very exfoliating and good at diving deep into the skin to clear pores from the inside out.

How often would you suggest to wash our faces?

Twice a day, or at least at night if you are less oily.

What’s the best solution to fix acne scarring?

See your dermatologist so they can evaluate your scars and help you find the best approach!

Have you had any career hurdles that you’ve had to deal with?

I didn’t match on match day, which is the day in March when every med student around the nation finds out where they are doing their residency training. While this was devastating, I do believe that this initial failure has a lot to do with my success now.  While I would never wish for failure in others or in myself, I do believe this made me realize that I really wanted this and was willing to put in the work to try again. I don’t take it for granted and I’m appreciative to those who took a chance on me, especially as I’m fortunate enough to be a dermatologist now.

How can we prevent any stress-related breakouts?

Stress and anxiety can definitely contribute to skin flare-ups and cause us to pick at our skin more than normal, so I would recommend trying your best to keep your hands off, and if you need more help – apply a glop of spot treatment or put a band-Aid on any pimple you want to keep off! This will remind you not to touch it.

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