TLC had an instant hit on its hands when it took YouTube sensation Dr. Sandra Lee (who struck viral gold with her pimple popping videos in 2014) and turned her into reality TV star Dr. Pimple Popper.
Her job might not always be glamorous, but as she told Mental Floss in July 2019, dermatology “kind of fell into my lap” because her dad was a dermatologist. As she recalled, she was “surrounded” by the profession from a young age and it seemed like a logical choice. “I would go to the office, and there were textbooks all around the house […] It just was kind of a natural path,” she said. Dr. Lee also told The List that the profession “was ingrained in me.” Dr. Lee shared how, in addition to her family connection, she became a dermatologist because she experienced plenty of skin struggles firsthand. “I had acne. I had atopic dermatitis, which is a form of eczema,” she revealed. “I had light skin, I had alopecia areata, I had, like, a loss of skin hair when I was young.”
And while there is one procedure that always grosses her out, she pretty much does it all — from removing “parasite” cysts to tackling “Pokémon” lipomas. It’s a messy (and smelly) job, so it’s easy to imagine it would come with a hefty price, but does it? After years of speculation, we finally know how much it costs to see Dr. Sandra Lee, the infamous Dr. Pimple Popper.
Is there a discount for appearing on the show?
Before Dr. Sandra Lee transformed into Dr. Pimple Popper, she offered her infamous procedures for free in order to help build her online following. As she explained to Refinery29 in March 2018, “I would just ask, ‘Do you want me to remove these blackheads for you? I won’t bill you, if you don’t mind me anonymously videotaping it.’ Everybody said yes.”
That’s because insurance companies consider most dermatological procedures to be voluntary and refuse to cover the (often hefty) cost. As Dr. Lee told Refinery29 in January 2020, “The rules of what dermatological procedures are covered under certain insurance plans differs state to state. Sadly, I find that the reason a lot of my patients haven’t had their condition treated is because they don’t have the money to have it done,” she told the outlet, adding, “If you have to cover a complicated surgery out of pocket, it can be very expensive.”
These days, not much has changed. In exchange for appearing on Dr. Pimple Popper, patients receive their required procedure free of charge! “The production company foots the patient’s bill for their travel expenses as well as my fees,” the TV doc told Refinery29. So, although they are not paid an appearance fee, they do get free “travel, accommodations, and medical care,” per Refinery29. The only catch? Those selected to be on the show must agree to allow cameras to film them for the series.
How much would a session with Dr. Sandra Lee cost you?
If you don’t get on the show, but you really want Dr. Sandra Lee to care for your skin, you can book an appointment with her. As the reality star, who owns and runs Skin Physicians and Surgeons, told Refinery29 in January 2020, “I still see patients daily. But I also consult many of the cases I can’t take to my husband and the other doctors and mid-level professionals in our office.” But if you do choose to be treated at her Upland, Calif. clinic (where she’s joined by two dermatologists, one nurse, and two physician assistants), note that it won’t come cheap.
According to Showbiz CheatSheet, all potential clients are required to cover an initial consultation fee of $120. This amount is like a deposit that will go towards the bill of any treatment, which can include everything from cosmetic surgery to laser treatments and, of course, dermatological extractions. The latter, which have made Dr. Lee a household name, cost hundreds. As she confided to Refinery29 in March 2018, dermatologists “usually don’t do these types of extractions. They’re not medically necessary and are not covered by insurance, so it would be very expensive for the patient — easily $500 or $600.”
So when should you opt to see a dermatologist? As Dr. Lee told The List, make sure to seek professional help “if you have severe acne, if you have cystic or nodular acne, or a lot of acne bumps that are deep under the skin, because that has an absolute risk of scarring.”
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