Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee — best known as Dr. Pimple Popper — has netted more than three million YouTube subscribers with her videos of pimple pops. One of her latest uploads, first shared on Monday, features a pilar cyst lodged in a woman’s scalp.
With Lee’s surgical expertise and some numbing medication, the removal is swift and satisfying. Near the 1:48 mark, the cyst unleashes a stream of gunk; at 2:30, Lee teases out the whole thing as a single, smooth bulb.
During the procedure, Lee also strikes up an interesting conversation with the patient, who describes a previous attempt to pop one of her cysts at home. The woman says that she squeezed the cyst and then noticed “something pointy” sticking out of it a few days later — the growth hadn’t been totally emptied.
The anecdote is a great reminder that DIY cyst popping is usually futile — and potentially dangerous.
Pilar cysts are benign growths commonly found on the scalp, according to DermNet NZ, the educational website of the New Zealand Dermatological Society. These cysts are sacs in skin that fill up with keratin — the protein that makes up hair and nails, and the cheesy, pungent stuff that comes out when a cyst gets squeezed.
But squeezing alone won’t vanquish one completely. To treat a cyst, the sac that contains it must also be removed, DermNet NZ notes. (This is also true of epidermoid cysts— similar growths that appear frequently in Lee’s videos.) Otherwise, cysts simply refill.
This means that DIY cyst removal is a no-win situation. If you squeeze out a cyst’s contents without removing the sac, it will only keep refilling. But removing the sac on your own would involve considerable pain andinfection risk. At-home removal isn’t worth it, even for all the YouTube fame in the world.
If you’ve got a cyst that you’d like removed, the American Academy of Dermatology has a handy tool for finding a dermatologist in your area.
And if you’d like to watch a dermatologist perform one safely, well, that’s exactly what Dr. Pimple Popper is for. You can see the entire excision process below. Here’s a final warning that it’s graphic and shows quite a bit of blood.