Dr. Pimple Popper isn’t shy talking about scrotum cysts and hair loss—and you shouldn’t be either.
As a pro dermatologist and TLC host, Dr. Sandra Lee, MD became a household name for poking pimples and blackheads. But she’ll also prod you to talk about your own skin conditions and concerns to better your overall health and confidence.
According to Dr. Lee, opening up about skin concerns is especially important in the COVID-19 era, a time when men are arguably “spending more time in front of a magnifying mirror.” While the world is talking about maskne, Dr. Pimple Popper wants to bring awareness to another COVID-19 side effect: hair loss. (But if you do experience maskne, Dr. Lee says to spray her SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Body Spray inside your face mask, let it dry, then put on your mask to mitigate the pesky problem. You can thank her later.)
“People have been calling it pandemic hair loss,” Dr. Lee tells Men’s Health about the oft-ignored side effect of pandemic stress. “There’s a condition called telogen effluvium, and it’s pretty common actually. People most often know it as associated with childbirth. If you have a baby, your hair falls out three to six months later. During a stressful event—like surgery, like having a baby, like COVID—it triggers your hair to go through part of the death cycle. The hair dies, but doesn’t fall out until three to six months later when the new hair pushes it out.”
Basically, if you’ve noticed recent hair loss, don’t automatically think you’re balding and shave all your hair off. Dr. Lee suggests checking in the mirror for short hairs sticking up, which means your hair is growing back after a bout of understandable stress.
A post shared by Sandra Lee, MD, FAAD, FAACS (@drsandralee) on Aug 13, 2020 at 4:47pm PDT
While stress-related hair loss may be temporary, Dr. Lee also knows hair loss in general is an issue for men—and one they often don’t talk about until it’s too late. Generally, men experiencing hair loss silently obsess over every lost hair, panicking internally but not dare telling anyone else they are, to put it bluntly, balding. But the famed derm says addressing hair loss at the first sign of hair loss is ideal, as hair thinning can be minimized and slowed rather easily through oral or topical medications.
“The issue is a lot of men seek it out when it’s a little bit too late,” she says of hair loss. “It’s a lot harder to grow back hair than to slow down the actual hair loss that you have.”
But if you think hair loss is embarrassing to confront, Dr. Lee will raise you a dermatological concern that will make your skin crawl: scrotum cysts. Dr. Lee says this is one skin condition she’s seen numerous times, and yet men will simply not discuss.
“They are white bumps, and they look like toothpaste when you squeeze them out,” Dr. Lee says. “It’s really important for men to know that that can happen, and it’s normal. A lot of men just hide it and it impacts their ability to have a relationship with someone.”
In her practice, Dr. Lee says she’s seen patients with up to “a hundred of them”—and yet these patients still have never told a soul aside from her. She especially remembers a “sweet, kind guy” who was in his 20s, who came to her with the condition.
“His family didn’t know about this,” Dr. Lee says. “He never dated because this affected his life so much. He felt like a monster.”
Though understandably embarrassing, the condition is treatable—like almost all of the skin conditions Dr. Lee sees as a dermatologist. You can even watch Dr. Lee squeeze these toothpaste-filled scrotum cysts on her YouTube channel, if you dare.
But while discussing “embarrassing conditions,” let’s make one thing clear: While some say shows like Dr. Pimple Popper exploit vulnerable patients, Dr. Lee sleeps at night knowing her show helps start conversations around skin concerns. And she has confidence those conversations are sensitive and patient-first, centering her overall approach on those values.
“For me to go, ‘That’s gross. How could you even walk around like that?’—that’s a big no-no,” she says of how she treats patients. “People are really scared to see doctors, so one thing I’m really conscious about is making people feel like they’re in control as much as they can be when they see me.”
Not only does Dr. Lee have confidence in her approach, but she also has trust in her audience’s intentions—and that’s perhaps best exemplified by her new series Dr. Pimple Popper: Before The Pop. As the title suggests, the series, which debuted earlier this month, documents patients calling in to the famed derm for telehealth consultations. The concept is a product of finessing her popular TLC show to abide by COVID-19 social distancing measures.
“It’s just kind of a special way—and I feel like a better way—to practice medicine,” Dr. Lee says. “Obviously for most of these people, I can’t really treat them until I meet them in person. But it’s a great way to get things started.”
A post shared by Sandra Lee, MD, FAAD, FAACS (@drsandralee) on Sep 2, 2020 at 5:47pm PDT
But the series is an obvious departure from why you’d expect many viewers to watch. Namely, the show doesn’t include those sickly satisfying pops that made Dr. Pimple Popper a household name. While Dr. Lee says she grew her audience on Instagram with pop videos based solely on procedures, she now thinks her audience is more patient-focused, too. And the reason why is simple.
“We’ve all had those feelings like we don’t fit in, and now you’re seeing somebody who can’t even walk out of their front door without somebody noticing that they’re different,” Dr. Lee says about the show. “For all of us, we know that feeling. It makes you feel so good for them afterwards.”
Tune in to Dr. Pimple Popper: Before The Pop on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT on TLC. If you want a sneak peek of the episode three before it airs, check out the exclusive clip above showing Dr. Lee's consultation with a man who has a melon-sized leg growth.
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