Dr Pimple Popper lost a lucrative income stream after YouTube said her videos were 'too graphic' for advertisers

Dr Pimple Popper lost a lucrative income stream after YouTube said her videos were 'too graphic' for advertisers
Sandra Lee runs the Dr Pimple Popper YouTube channel, which has 7.5 million subscribers.Dola Budazhapova
  • Dr Sandra Lee, aka Dr Pimple Popper, briefly made hundreds of thousands a month on YouTube.
  • That ended as many advertisers didn't want to appear next to "graphic" content, she told Insider.

The founder of a pimple-popping YouTube channel said she lost an income stream worth nearly six figures a month when the site said her content was "too graphic" to make money.

Dr Sandra Lee, also known as Dr Pimple Popper, told Insider that her YouTube channel, which has 7.5 million subscribers and has clocked up nearly 5 billion views, struggles to make significant revenues from advertising.

After making close to $100,000 a month from YouTube views between 2014 and 2016, the site then told her that her content wasn't a money-maker.

YouTube revenue

YouTubers like Lee make money from advertising on their videos, memberships, and a portion of revenue from premium subscribers.

This became a major revenue stream for Lee when her "popaholic" viewers began watching her videos in their billions. According to the Influencer Marketing Hub's estimates that 1,000 views generates between $3 and $5, Lee could have made between $15 million and $25 million from those views.


However, YouTube discourages users from posting "graphic or violent content" on its channels and warns that it will be removed. This included "footage or imagery showing bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit, with the intent to shock or disgust viewers."

This is typically meant to target harmful content and dissuade violence or trauma, but it appears Lee's popping videos have also fallen into this category. A chart seen by Insider details a steep decline in revenue in 2016, which was when her team said YouTube told her the videos could not be monetized.

But Lee, who said she received strikes on her account from YouTube for her posts, argued her videos were only ever meant to be educational.

"I'm really proud of the fact that kids know what a lipoma is now or they know that you can't just squeeze a cyst – you have to remove the sack entirely to get it removed," she said.

"We're teaching people about psoriasis or hidradenitis, but if you're not motivated to get that content out, how are people going to learn?"


Battling medical disinformation

Lee feels like she is helping to battle medical disinformation by acting as a verified source on dermatology, and has been dismayed by YouTube's actions.

"They changed the rules all of a sudden," Lee said, noting advertisers didn't want to be associated with a blackhead-popping channel.

"They [social media platforms] grow big because of all these new posters, but then they wait until they get big enough that they can sort of clamp down on it and make restrictions."

Lee has since set up a members-only section, where viewers get access to exclusive pops, while she also gets income from her clinic, a show on the cable channel TLC, and her skincare brand.

But she noted that TikTok, where she has more than 15 million followers, is also beginning to clamp down on content like Lee's. Some of her TikTok videos now come with a content warning.

@drpimplepopper You like the Cyst Life? #drpimplepopper #SLMDskincare ♬ Ooh Ahh (My Life Be Like) [feat. Tobymac] - Grits

"There's a fine line between what's dangerous, what is just shocking, and what is educational," Lee said.

YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.