Pimple Popping: Why are “pimple popper” videos so popular?


On YouTube and Instagram, millions of people watch “pop-ups,” close-up videos in which blackheads, cysts, abscesses, and sores are removed. Why the fascination? What's fun about popping pimples?

Read also: Why shouldn't you squeeze a pimple?

In a new neuroscience study, scientists investigated what happens in the brain while people watch such videos. The brains of 80 women were studied using an MRI scanner while the women watched three different types of videos: pimple videos, water fountain videos, and steam cleaning videos. Among the participants were women who enjoy watching pimple videos on the one hand, and women who hate such images on the other hand. In addition to watching the videos in the MRI scanner, the women also filled out questionnaires about their feelings in general and how they felt about the pimple videos.

Read also: 9 tips against pimples: what should you do or not do?

Why do some people enjoy popping pimples?

What happened? Women who enjoyed watching pimple videos were less likely to be disgusted than other participants. According to the scans, this group showed an increase in brain activation in the so-called frontopolar cortex while viewing images, compared to the other group. This brain area plays a crucial role in cognitive functions such as decision-making, planning, and multitasking. Recent studies also suggest that the region is involved in resolving ethical dilemmas. In addition, the prefrontal cortex contributes to adaptation to different situations, indicating its importance in flexible behavior.

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Women who did not like watching pimple videos showed deactivation of the nucleus accumbens. This area of ​​the brain is involved in feeling pleasure, but also in avoiding unpleasant events. Disruption of this brain area is often associated with the disgust response. Therefore, the disgust reaction appears to be stronger in this group than in the other group.

Based on these findings, scientists think they've discovered two different mechanisms that explain why some people like the sight of a pimple and others don't:

  • Difference in the ability to regulate disgust.
Disgust is a feeling that helps us stay away from things that pose a risk to our health because they can lead to poisoning (such as spoiled food) or infection (such as a festering wound). Although the pimple-popping video is disgusting, it poses no real risk to the health of people watching it. Thus, people who enjoy watching pimple videos may be better able to regulate their disgust response when watching a (actually harmless) video than people who are disgusted by it. You can compare this to why some people like horror movies while others find them too scary.
  • Noticeable curiosity about negative content.

Previous studies have shown that watching “bad” things can activate the brain's reward system in some people. Thus, people who enjoy watching pimple-popping videos may display stronger morbid curiosity than others who do not.

Read also: Relaxation through sounds or images: What is ASMR?

Read also: Stress and disgust: What if ASMR has the opposite effect?

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Last updated: March 2024

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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