Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper, answers our skin care questions

Her new book 'Put Your Best Face Forward' addresses everything from acne to anti-aging
By Dalene Rovenstine  Published on 02/20/2019 at 11:00 AM EDT
Theo and Juliet Photography

You’ve probably seen her videos pop up (pun intended) on Instagram—and you squeal, either in delight or disgust. Dr. Sandra Lee opened her Instagram account, Dr. Pimple Popper, in 2014; quickly, her videos, where she extracts blackheads and pops cysts and pimples, garnered millions of viewers from around the world.

In 2018, Dr. Lee launched her own TV show, Dr. Pimple Popper, on TLC and just last month she released her first book: Put Your Best Face Forward: The Ultimate Guide to Skincare from Acne to Anti-Aging. She also has her own line of skin care products, SLMD Skincare Products.

Here, Dr. Sandra Lee answers your questions about aging, pimple popping and more…

“Now that winter is setting in, my eczema is going crazy. Just when I get the dry, discolored patches to heal, the weather gets worse and I flare up all over again. What can I do to prevent my winter woe?” —Chrystal Y.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an extreme form of dry skin and of course during the winter, cool weather causes us to turn up the heater in the home and also bear the brunt of cold winds to the skin and is going to make it much worse. If you know that your eczema flares up with winter weather, take extra care to keep skin super moisturized. Fragrance-free moisturizers are your friend and something with colloidal oatmeal in it is really going to help soothe eczema. You may want to switch from lotions (which are water based) to creams (which are oil based, thicker and more moisturizing). Avoid harsh fragranced soaps on your body and put body lotions on while your skin is still damp after the shower; this will help lock in the moisture. A dermatologist can also prescribe some topical prescription medications that will alleviate patches of eczema and associated dryness/discomfort.

“My kids have always suffered with cystic acne. They’ve only popped a handful of them, if they’ve been so large that they’ve been painful. However, popped or not, their skin is horribly pockmarked. Can I do anything to help clear their skin while they’re still young.”—Stephanie C.
I know it can be tough to see your kids dealing with acne —and it’s great that you are thinking about them! Definitely teach them not to pop their pimples as this is going to leave scarring, as it sounds like you know. Depending how old your children are, I would consider taking them to a dermatologist who can really help point you in the right direction with in-office treatments to help improve scars. And, I definitely recommend getting your kids thinking about their skin and using a complete acne system at home. This can help prevent breakouts from forming in the first place and getting them used to taking care of their skin at an early age is something they will likely thank you for later!

“What are your suggestions for anti-aging solutions for super sensitive skin?” —Elizabeth N.
This is a tough one because people are sensitive to different things. My best suggestion is to ask for samples of products if you know you have sensitive skin, and do a test spot—where you place a small amount of this product for a few days on the delicate skin behind your ear or on your inner forearm. Monitor the area for any type of irritation, rash, breakout, and if this happens, obviously the product may not be right for you. Also, if you start a new topical anti-aging product you may also want to apply it initially to a limited part of your skin, such as just to one cheek for the first few days to make sure that you are not sensitive to any of the ingredients. Also, a board certified dermatologist can do a skin allergy test, testing whether your skin is sensitive to the most common skin allergens so that you know what you may specifically have a problem with. I recommend for everyone with age-related issues a good sunscreen with broad spectrum protection, and tretinoin (which is a prescription) or retinol (which is the over-the-counter option), which has been proven to help minimize fine lines and wrinkles over time.

“How do you know if a pimple/cyst is poppable/squeeze-worthy or should be left alone? My mom taught me to never pop them or they’d scar, but based on your work, I’m assuming that’s an old wives’ tale?” —Natalie S.
I’m going to be like all other dermatologists and tell you to NEVER pop anything on your skin, especially on your face. But I know that many of us can’t help ourselves. So my mantra is, please, if you can’t help yourself, know when the best time is to pop a pimple so you risk damaging your skin the least, and “know when to pop and when to stop.” The most ideal time to pop anything on your face is when it has come to a white/yellow “head” and is most superficial or closest to the surface of the skin. The more superficial the pimple the less damage and risk of permanent scarring, but also be sure to use sterilized clean instruments, including clean fingers! 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 skin care professional to help you get these extracted. In short, Know When To POP and Know When To Stop!

Put Your Best Face Forward

“For aging skin (I’m 55) what’s the best product to use to help plump up fine lines and wrinkles—especially around eyes? I’ve heard of ceramides, peptides and retinoids, but it’s hard to keep it all straight.” —Jeanne M.
Well, there’s really no quick and permanent topical solution that’s going to make wrinkles go away, but keeping skin moisturized and protected can certainly help. The area around your eyes is more sensitive, so you should be careful with what products you are applying, and also pay attention to how you touch the skin around your eyes. When you are applying/removing makeup or products, try not to pull or tug at the skin in this area…. instead you want to pat very gently. This can help prevent eye area skin that appears to be slightly thickened, raised and therefore makes you look older. As far as ingredients—retinol is the tried and true anti-aging ingredient available over the counter, and I recommend that everyone use a retinol in their routine. I also love hyaluronic acid as a moisturizing/plumping ingredient for everyone. I even have my own retinol serum and HA serum.

“I’ve heard that silk pillowcases are good for preventing wrinkles, but my teenage daughter told me she heard it can help with teenage acne as well. Are silk pillowcases really that powerful?” —Joanne L.
Silk pillowcases, as an alternative to cotton pillowcases, absorb less moisture (so that more moisture stays in your pores instead) and reduce friction (resulting in less skin irritation and hair breakage). Both of these things may contribute to worsening acne, but for the most part I don’t think a silk pillowcase is going to solve your breakouts. However, your pillowcase CAN exacerbate your acne for other reasons, and it may be because you are not washing your pillow often enough. Ideally you should be changing your pillowcase at least 1x a week… think of all of the bacteria, oil and makeup that gets on there!

“After pregnancy my skin is reacting so different. I’m still breastfeeding now, but when I finish—will it ever go back to normal!?” —Suzanne J.
Your body is going through a lot of hormonal changes during the entire pregnancy cycle… so it can be frustrating and hard to predict how/when your skin will change or go back to normal. It is often the case that your skin changes for the better though, after you stop breastfeeding, so there is hope for you! As you probably know, you need to take extra caution with what ingredients you are using on your skin when you are pregnant or nursing, and I always recommend that you check with your physician before trying anything new. My best advice is to be patient with your skin and not worry about it so much during this time… then once you are no longer breastfeeding, see a board certified dermatologist to help put you on a regimen.

“I have a skin tag that is just below my eye (pretty much sitting right on my orbital bone). It doesn’t hurt or have much detrimental effect on my vision. Should I leave it alone, try an over-the-counter skin tag remover, or have a doctor remove it? I worried about the OTC treatments since it’s so near my eye.” —Jocelyn H.A.
Skin tags are generally painless and not harmful, but if you’ve seen on my social media, most people want them removed! If you want it removed, please see a board certified dermatologist who can remove it easily and painlessly… you’re correct that the area around your eyes is very sensitive. It’s a very simple procedure, quick and painless with little to no recovery time! I would avoid an OTC skin tag remover—these can have acids in them that could burn your skin, causing more damage than they are worth.

“One of my skincare concerns is looking after the skin on my neck and keeping it looking its best, as I have noticed that as we age, the skin on the neck tends to sag. (This year I’m turning 40!)” —Clare W.
You’re not alone! The neck is definitely an area that shows age and these signs can be hard to avoid, especially because gravity is against you on your lower face and neck area. My best advice is to keep the neck moisturized and remember your skincare routine—especially SUNSCREEN—should always go below your chin and onto your neck. Botox is an option if you have strong platysma muscle banding, which are the cords which bulge on the neck if you strain or bear down. Laser resurfacing and chemical peels can also help to improve texture and tone, and fillers can help lessen some of the deeper lines. There are different issues in the neck area, which are amenable to different treatments, so it really is a conversation you should have with your cosmetic dermatologist.

To watch her videos, buy her skincare products or learn more from Dr. Sandra Lee, visit her website. You can purchase her new book Put Your Best Face Forward: The Ultimate Guide to Skincare from Acne to Anti-Aging on Amazon.

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