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Uploaded:2019-11-11
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For some reason, popping pimples gives many people a satisfying rush - but why? And why is there a whole television show dedicated to watching other people do it?!

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Sources:
https://digitalcommons.wcupa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=musichtc_facpub
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28478137
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2014.0108
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553506/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010440X16303078
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719449/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712759/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4491543/
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xqvwz/popping-pimples-satisfying
https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1988.tb38612.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed

Image Sources:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dopamine.svg
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Go to CuriosityStream.com/Psych to learn more. [♪ INTRO]. Fair warning: If you don’t like thinking about zits and the stuff that comes out of them, this episode might be a little too gross.

Picture the last zit you had. But not a baby one — a real juicy sucker, right there on your forehead. We’ve all had them, and many of us have spent more than a few minutes squeezing them into oblivion in front of the bathroom mirror.

When a zit finally bursts, it can give people a really satisfying rush. But this love of pimple popping isn’t just limited to personal acne: It’s a phenomenon, complete with YouTube channels and even a TV series. But why?

Why is this so satisfying? And why do people love watching other people do it so much? On one level, the answer seems to be pretty simple:.

It sometimes feels good to pop a zit. Although no studies have looked at pimple popping directly, a number of researchers have investigated other forms of compulsive skin picking. And they’ve found that picking at your skin can trigger your brain to release the chemical dopamine.

Dopamine plays a huge role in motivating reward-based behavior. When it’s released, the brain interprets it as a signal that you’ve done something right, and you generally feel motivated to do that thing again. So when you see the goop come rushing out of the pimple, your brain might think of it as an accomplishment.

And the next time a big whitehead springs up, you could find yourself getting up close and personal with the bathroom mirror. For some, though, the need to pick may go beyond wanting to feel satisfied. In some cases, the act itself might actually be soothing or reduce tension and anxiety.

For example, in a small 2015 study with forty-seven people, researchers found that participants were more likely to do things like skin-picking, hair-pulling, and nail-biting when they were frustrated or bored. The effect was especially significant for those who typically had trouble controlling these behaviors, but it was there for the control group, too. Since this was an exploratory study with a small sample size, more research would help back up this idea.

But it does seem to make sense. After all, if popping zits does release dopamine, it’s reasonable that you’d feel an urge to do it when you’re otherwise not feeling super great. Now, all that might explain why some people have a fascination with picking at their own skin, but the Internet is obsessed with watching other people’s zits pop, too.

And… yeah, we’re just not going to show any clips of that. You can search YouTube for yourself if you want. The bigger question is why people enjoy this so much.

It’s possible that watching these videos might release some dopamine, or that it could be relaxing. But there might be something larger going on here, too. As humans, we often like to watch or do things that make us experience undesirable emotions or reactions, like disgust.

There’s even a term for this: benign masochism. Benign masochism is the idea that we like negative experiences only when we know nothing bad will happen to us. In these scenarios, your brain initially thinks that what you’re watching or doing is dangerous or threatening and reacts accordingly.

Like, when you see a close-up of someone’s pimple, you might be overcome with waves of disgust, and might even feel the urge to run out of the room. Then, when your brain realizes that everything is actually fine and no harm will come to you, you get a jolt of pleasure. It’s still not clear how this works neurologically, but researchers suggest that benign masochism is also why you might like eating spicy peppers or riding huge roller coasters.

Two things that, honestly, sound more pleasant than watching zit videos. Also, just for the record? Picking at your zits is totally normal, but there are reasons dermatologists don’t recommend doing it yourself.

When you do, you risk infection, scarring, and generally making the pimple more irritated. So leave that zit alone! Maybe ride a roller coaster.

Eat something spicy! Or watch a documentary. If you want to learn more about the strange things humans do and why, you can check out CuriosityStream.

They’re a subscription streaming service with thousands of documentaries and films. And while none of them are about popping zits, they are fascinating. In 2015, for example, they came out with a film called Maestro, which follows one of the world’s most famous musical directors.

It covers classical music in a really thoughtful and insightful way, and you can learn a lot about culture and history because of it! If you want to check it out or browse any other films, you can get unlimited access to CuriosityStream starting at just $2.99 a month. And for our audience, the first thirty-one days are completely free if you sign up at.

CuriosityStream.com/Psych and use the promo code “psych” during the sign-up process. If you decide to subscribe, know that you’ll be helping support SciShow and the work we do here. So whether you’re checking out CuriosityStream for the first time or have been subscribed for a while, thank you! [♪ OUTRO].