Lisset is a 19-year-old sophomore in college. This past summer, she traveled over five hours to get her cyst removed by board-certified dermatologist Sandra Lee, M.D., also known as Dr. Pimple Popper. This is her story, as told to Mi-Anne Chan and edited for length and clarity.
I started noticing it during my sophomore year of high school. It was surprising, because I've never had bad acne. It wasn’t very noticeable [back then], just a little tiny bump right next to my eye, so I didn’t really freak out about it — I thought it was going to go away. But then it started growing my senior year. Eventually, it was the size of a marble. That’s when I really started to freak out. I had my cyst for five years [before I got it removed].
People would refer to my cyst and say, "Oh, what happened? What is that?" I have really fluffy, long hair, so I would cover it. I felt like an alien. I started washing my face a lot more, which caused dryness around my mouth, and with that more insecurities came. I wanted to know what it was, so that’s when I started Googling.
I started researching extractions and came across Dr. Sandra Lee. That’s when I knew that I had a cyst. From then on, I waited for uploads, trying to find new videos to watch. It was nice to know that I had something that someone else has had, too.
I watched them for a year, and one night, I was on the phone with one of my friends who mentioned that Dr. Pimple Popper is based in California. I called her the next day. It was so hard to get an appointment with Dr. Lee because she’s booked like crazy and she wasn’t taking any new patients for three or four months. I was going to start my sophomore year [of college] the next month, and I didn’t want to go in again hiding my face.
So I took an appointment with her husband. I figured he’s just as good, and I’d seen some of his videos on Dr. Pimple Popper’s page. I knew I could trust him. My parents and I left at 5 a.m. and drove five hours to [their practice] in L.A. When I went in, he looked at my cyst and said, "Oh, wow, that’s pretty big. Would you consider [letting us tape the extraction]?" I was all for it and agreed immediately. Then he asked: "How do you [feel] about my wife doing it?"
Usually, you book a consultation before surgery, but since my cyst was [relatively] minor, she said she’d do it — especially because I drove five hours to see her. She cleared all her appointments for me. She told me that sometimes your body gets confused and starts storing dead skin cells instead of throwing them out — and that’s what was happening on my face. I gave my consent to film, and she numbed me. That’s the only part that hurt — the numbing — since the skin around the eye is really sensitive. I was familiar with everything because I had watched tons of her videos, but I was super nervous because I really had forgotten what my face looked like before it had this bump. I wanted my old self back; it was exciting but scary at the same time.
I lay down on a chair in her office, and she put this veil on my face that had a hole in it so she could concentrate on my cyst. Then she used a little scalpel to cut a small incision in my cyst. She was concerned about how I would feel if I had a scar on my face, so she made the incision as small as possible.
It was a struggle to get it out. My cyst liked me! I felt her pulling and squeezing my skin — it was the strangest feeling. I was like, "Oh, my gosh, she’s literally inside me!" Finally, she was able to break through and squeeze it out. A lot of people on YouTube said it looked like a flower.
I love watching cyst extractions, so I wasn’t grossed out or anything. It wasn’t watery because it wasn’t irritated; it was actually very dry. I actually thought it was going to come out yellow, but it was really white. And there wasn’t any smell, either — I was surprised. That’s when it hit me that it was really my dead skin.
She showed me my cyst after she stitched up my face. I almost missed it! I touched it a bit, and I was so relieved. Now I have a tiny scar, but it’s not bad. It’s a bit red still, since I just got my cyst removed this past summer, but it doesn’t hurt. I had forgotten what I looked like without the cyst on my face. It felt like it was a part of me, but I felt like a brand-new person afterward.
My video went up a month or two after I got my cyst removed. My friend actually found it before I did. I watched it and showed it to everybody I know — my mom, my dad, my sister, my dad's girlfriend...my brother showed his in-laws and said, "That’s my sister! There’s something gross coming out of her, but that’s my sister!"
My friends and family were proud that my cyst was finally gone. I was starting to become myself again. Before, I was always in my room, and I never wanted to go out. Now that my cyst was gone, sure, I may have had a black eye because of the numbing and pressure, but I just put a Band-Aid over my stitches and went out. I was so happy that I didn’t have a big ol’ bump on my face. When people asked me about it, I’d just ask them if they wanted to watch my video. I used to hide my cyst with my hair, so the wind was my worst enemy. But now that my cyst is removed, I’m like, "Yes, wind! Blow on my face!" I don’t mind one bit.