- People love watching videos in which pus, blackheads, and the like are being squeezed from someone’s face, back, and beyond.
- And the main reasons people are watching may be rooted in human survival.
Update: A previous version of this article contained quotes from an expert whose credentials are now in question. We have reached out to him for confirmation of those credentials and have not heard back. You can read Gizmodo’s investigation here, and his response here. INSIDER has updated this article as of 3/1/19.
Does the sight of oozing white pus on your computer screen make you want to exit the page immediately or oppositely, enter full-screen for a better view of the action? For millions, you could say it’s the latter. YouTube pages exist today solely dedicated to pimple-popping, cyst extractions, and blackhead treatments.
The question is why has pimple-popping and the like become an internet sensation. We dug in to find out why.
The disgust response causes us to remove anything that looks like it doesn’t belong.
Over time, people have developed a response, known as the disgust response, to dangers such as dirt, bugs, and signs of disease to repel any hazards that threaten survival.
Similarly, humans that see a large bulge of acne growing on someone’s skin, such as in these pimple videos, develop a reflex to cleanse it. This seems to be rooted in a desire to want to conform and fit in by removing anything that seems like it doesn’t belong, according to several studies cited by NOVA.
It can be thrilling to anticipate a pimple being popped and then seeing it happen
Watching pimple-popping videos can be a roller coaster ride of emotions, which can be just like an actual roller coaster: thrilling and fun.
“There’s a cycle of anxiety or arousal before the act and a sense of relief after,” Heather Berlin, PhD, a neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Refinery29.
“I think watching popping is similar to seeing a scary movie or riding a roller coaster for some,” Dr. Sandra Lee, who famously goes by Dr. Pimple Popper online, told Refinery29. “You get a rush of euphoria and excitement.”
Pimple-popping videos are a survival mechanism.
Watching gross videos featuring medical procedures, bug-eating, or pimple-popping also satisfies the inner curiosity of how others have dealt with these not-so-glamorous situations.
Exposure to these videos teaches people how to deal with these instances themselves and how to survive.
“Our ancestors who went around eating rotten food or putting their fingers into other people’s diseased lesions-they’re not our ancestors because they’re extinct,” Val Curtis, a professor and director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told TIME. “Squeamishness is a useful evolutionary adaptation because it keeps us from eating or touching things that could make us sick.”
In watching a white, clogged mass oozing out of someone’s skin, you not only are glad that the person is getting rid of a pimple, but you also learn that there are solutions for you to solve the same skin problem.