Dr. Pimple Popper Brings Her Expertise to KCON LA
Every year, KCON ups the ante by diversifying their special guests. The music remains the convention’s primary focus, but the expansion of other aspects like K-Beauty and K-Food has opened up opportunities for KCON-ers to meet and greet a variety of stars. In this year’s case, one of the most standout guests on the list had to be Dr. Sandra Lee—more commonly known as Dr. Pimple Popper.
If you’re on the Internet, chances are you’ve come across one of Dr. Lee’s addicting, albeit graphic videos. She boasts over three million followers on her Dr. Pimple Popper Instagram and over five million subscribers on YouTube. Her pimple popping expertise has even landed her a reality show on TLC, and she’s the proud spokesperson of her own skincare line, SLMD Skincare.
As it turns out, a lot of K-Pop fans are Popaholics—she even has her own fandom name!—as well. At this year’s KCON in Los Angeles, fans were able to attend Dr. Lee’s panel and ask the dermatologist questions regarding skincare, beauty, and her career. And while she’s still a newbie to K-Pop as a musical genre, the convention afforded her the opportunity to learn more about Korean culture overall.
Before her highly-anticipated panel, we sat down with Dr. Lee to discuss her very first KCON and her tips on skincare and beauty. Based on our discussion, we’re confident that all who attended Dr. Lee’s panel left with a renewed curiosity for their journey to great skin. The major takeaway? Just because a tip works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you, so stick to what you know works best for you!
Q: What were you looking most forward to at KCON?
A: Before I came here, I would say the food and going to the beauty section, of course. I wanted to check it out. I know of K-Beauty, but I wanted to kind of see what was going on there. Unfortunately, I just made it to the food. That’s as far as I got.
Q: Well this defeats the purpose of my second question, because I was gonna ask what’s been your favorite aspect of KCON so far?
A: Well so far, [the food has] been pretty great, and this interview is also pretty good, too.
Interviewer: Oh yay, I’m glad!
A: It’s all really exciting. It’s so nice to do this. Actually, walking here, we got stopped so many times. You don’t realize that people, you know, it’s so nice to see people who are excited to see you and say hello and say they love your videos. That’s been really nice, and weird, but nice.
Q: As a dermatologist, what is your take on Korean beauty and skincare’s effectiveness?
A: You know, K-Beauty came on strong and they’re here to stay. I really admire their innovation and creativity. They really think outside of the box. Actually, it’s common knowledge amongst dermatologists and people in the cosmetic industry that they’re also at the forefront when it comes to lasers and devices and things like that—things that you guys might not necessarily see because they’re not marketed to you, but may be marketed to us. It’s really nice because I think they’re sort of on the cutting edge; they’re trying out new things and they’re coming at it from a new angle.
In terms of what you’re saying and the effectiveness, I mean if you’re talking about topical products in general, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and that tells you something. There’s something that drives it, you know. People are interested in skin care. They’re interested in looking more youthful and taking care of their skin. But there’s only a certain level that it can get to; there’s only so much that it can do. And so, I just admire them for always being innovative and trying new things. I think you can say that they’re finding some really great options for people by just trying new things.
Can I say one thing is the most effective thing? I just think that’s not the case with any topical products. I think what people have to know is stick with the things that, if you feel like something is working for you, go for it! That’s the best reason to use it. Sometimes it’s hard because you get sucked into, “Oh, this is supposed to eliminate your pores,” or “This is supposed to get rid of all your brown spots,” and not necessarily is that always true. There are also things that have been around for years that we know over the years, they’ve done something, so there’s something to be said about that too.
Q: What was the process like in becoming a panelist at KCON?
I don’t know, what was the process like? I think they sent out an email saying, “Hey, would you be interested?” and I thought, “Oh yeah! I know about K-Pop. I know a little bit about this, and I thought with my kids, that would make me cool. So I figured it’d be a really nice experience. I know K-Beauty is a thing here and here to stay, and so I really wanted to see what this was all about. So, they emailed me and I said, “Yes, I’m interested,” and here we are!
Q: But you said you’re not that familiar with K-Pop?
A: I’m not because I don’t listen to the music, but I know people! It’s sort of like a Popaholic; I feel like, if you don’t really listen to it or you’re not really a part of it, you know about it but you don’t really know about it. But if you’re in, you’re IN! It’s sort of like that. I think there’s almost like an obsession with K-Pop, people who are K-Pop fans, and it’s sort of like that with Popaholics. They’re into popping videos. So I understand it.
Q: You see the same kind of fandom with your business.
A: The same kind of obsession and interest, yes!
Q: So, a little more serious: As an Asian-American who is pretty prominent in entertainment and media, how does it feel to see more Asian representation in media?
A: I mean that’s fantastic, I would say I’m very proud to be a female Asian surgeon that can show people that they can do these things. I think it’s important to sort of transcend that, where you’re not looking at me and saying, “Oh my gosh, she’s Asian,” or “She’s female and she can do this.” It’s just that you’re doing this. I’m proud to be Asian, and I’m proud to be a role model for other people, but I’m just doing me. I feel like everybody should know that they should be able to do them, and it doesn’t matter what race you are. It doesn’t matter what sex you are or what religion or what part of the world you’re in.
Q: This kind of ties into the whole effectiveness question: Do you know of any common Korean skincare tips that you can confirm actually work?
A: So, when you talk about tips in general, I think the most important thing for people to realize is that a tip that is good for you may not be a tip that’s good for me. That’s the key to it. The key to everything is to know your own skin and what type of skin you have. Are you dry? Are you oily? Are you sensitive? Are you prone to brown spots? Are you prone to rosacea or redness? All these sorts of things tie into what kinds of products you should use on your skin.
So, there are tips like… I heard that people put petroleum jelly on their face to help keep in the moisture. Well, I do that, but that doesn’t mean you should do that, you know what I mean? So I feel like there’s not a tip where I would be like, “That’s what you should do.” You shouldn’t necessarily have a 10-step program or use a toner or use two different kinds of cleansers, that kind of thing. It really has to do with you and you should take this information and just know that it’s not cookie-cutter or a recipe that everybody needs.
Q: What kind of approach do you take with your own skincare line?
A: My skincare line, I’m very proud of, and the reason is because it’s been such a wonderful thing I’ve been able to do. I feel so lucky because I now have this following of people who trust what I say, and I don’t take that lightly. That’s a big responsibility and I feel like I wanted to create something that is not like, you don’t have to hike up to some remote mountain and find a berry that’s anti-aging or helps with your acne. It’s like, real, real treatments.
I know there are so many people in the world who can’t see a dermatologist, because of money, of time, insurance. They don’t live near a dermatologist—you know, that sort of thing. So for me to be able to use my videos—they entertain people but they kind of trick them into educating them. They realize they’ve learned something. If I can use that to sort of teach them a little bit about their own skin, that’s what these products are. They’re really for people who can’t see a dermatologist, trying to give them real products that we, as dermatologists, would recommend to our own patients and make it accessible to them.
I think, too, when people understand how to use certain things—like for acne, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide—if you kind of know why it works and what it’s trying to do, you’re more willing to use it. You’re going to be more compliant, and you’re also going to feel really proud because you’re going to be like, “I did this! I understand why I’m using this, so now I’m going to use it and now I see what it’s doing.” It’s control; it’s like a feeling of empowerment. So, that’s what’s really so wonderful about it. I was scared about that, like I’m trying to create these products for people and I know they would work. I understand why they work, but are they going to work for other people? But they are, and that’s what makes it feel so rewarding.
Q: What’s your number one skincare tip?
A: I will give you a tip in general: sunscreen! That’s it. I mean, obviously sunscreen is so important, and I think a lot of Korean beauty is centered around that. They know the importance of that. In Asian cultures, usually they don’t want the sun. They’re trying to avoid it. But that is the key, really, to everything.
That’s actually one of the newest products that I have out in my skincare line. There’s something called UV BOUNCE, which is a powdered sunscreen. That is key for people to know it is an important product to have. People will wear sunscreen—I’m sure you put on sunscreen today, but when is the last time you put on sunscreen? That’s why powdered sunscreen is great! When you put on makeup, you don’t want to put [liquid sunscreen] on over your makeup. It blots you if you have a little oil―it’s like a little setting powder! It’s easy, like I even have the brush right here. You just tap it and it’s just like you’re powdering your face. Yeah, it’s something you can use throughout the day, especially when you’re out at the street market.
Q: If someone couldn’t make it to your panel today, what would you want them to know in terms of what you’re presenting today?
A: First, I would say thank you so much for being a fan. You mean so much to me! I’m here to be accessible to people. If people have questions about skincare, I want to give them the best information that I can. So thank you to them for trusting me to give them this information.
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