12 Dermatology Terms Defined By Dr. Pimple Popper

Viewers of Dr. Pimple Popper's YouTube channel won't be surprised that their favorite dermatologist—whose real name is Dr. Sandra Lee—is taking the world by storm. Not only does she have an explosively fun game, her SLMD Skincare line, and a new season of her TV show, she also just released a book, called Put Your Best Face Forward: The Ultimate Guide to Skincare from Acne to Anti-Aging. Dr. Lee stopped by the Mental Floss offices to define 12 dermatological terms that you'll often hear her discuss with her patients.

1. Comedone

This word, which comes from Latin, once referred to what people in the 18th century believed were little worms in the skin. Now, Lee says, a comedo or comedone is "the medical term for a blackhead or a whitehead. It's essentially a pore that's clogged with dirt and debris, dead skin cells, oil."

2. and 3. Blackhead and Whitehead

A closeup image of blackheads on the nose.
iStock.com/artorn

Open comedones are blackheads and closed comedones are whiteheads, according to Lee. "The fact that a blackhead is open means that it's more exposed to oxygen, so it oxidizes, it turns darker—that's why it looks black," Lee says. "But a whitehead has a fine layer of skin over it so it stays unexposed to the sun. It stays a whiter color."

Whether you have blackheads or whiteheads, Lee says, the treatment is similar. One route is extraction: Blackheads can be removed at home, with the aid of a comedone extractor, which is Lee's preferred method; you can get the one she uses here. "It's a Schamberg type extractor and I use it because I think it does create less trauma,” she says. "I can go around the area and just extract the blackhead like that." Whiteheads can also be extracted, but because the skin must be pierced, Lee advises having a dermatologist handle that—if you try to do it yourself, "you can traumatize your skin," she says.

There are also products that will eliminate blackheads and whiteheads—look for ones that contain salicylic acids or retinol. You can find products containing those ingredients in Lee's SLMD Skincare line.

4. Hard pop

Viewers of Lee's YouTube channel will be familiar with this phrase, "a term that I sort of made up to describe pops or procedures that I do that are a little more invasive or a little harder, a little more advanced, maybe," she says. "I usually use it to describe the surgeries we do, something that requires a scalpel, maybe some stitches, there may be some blood involved." Hard pop compilation videos on her channel feature excisions of cysts, for example.

5. Soft pop

On the opposite side of the dermatological spectrum from hard pops are soft pops. "A soft pop is usually something that involves a comedone extractor or even your finger," Lee says. Think things like blackheads. "There's usually no blood or knicking or using sharp objects. And those are usually the most popular [videos] and really the gateway drug, so to speak, of popholicism."

6. Pilar Cyst

According to Lee, this type of cyst—which is also called a trichilemmal cyst, and is filled with keratin—occurs on the scalp 90 percent of the time, but "they can occur in any hair-bearing part of the body," she says. "It is derived from a hair root sheath, or part of the hair follicle, and it's a common growth—it can run in families, so it has a hereditary basis to it. This type of pop is really kind of cool to see visually because the wall or the lining of this cyst is thicker. It's almost the consistency of an olive." Because of this, Lee says, pilar cysts typically pop out whole, making them satisfying to see—"and satisfying for me as a surgeon, because I know I got rid of the whole thing."

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7. Epidermoid Cyst

As with pilar cysts, epidermoid cysts can occur wherever there's a hair follicle (though it comes from a different part of the follicle). They're the most common type of cyst, according to Lee. "It's essentially just a balloon under your skin," she says. "Your skin sort of gets tucked under and it's now shedding into this closed space. That's why it grows, because there's just macerated keratin under there." On her YouTube channel, Lee describes the texture as having a "'cheesy' consistency, and there can be a pungent odor."

While pilar cysts have a thick wall, the lining of epidermoid cysts is thinner. Because of this, Lee says, an epidermoid cyst "tends to break easily, and more commonly gets inflamed or infected, because if you traumatize it and it breaks under the skin it elicits a reaction from your body. Your body tries to destroy this foreign body under the skin." This also complicates matters for her, because if she leaves any bit of the cyst behind, it can recur.

8. Dilated Pore of Winer

In her book, Lee calls the dilated pore of winer "the king of the comedones." They are, she says, basically giant blackheads. "It's dilated to such an extent that it changes the topography of the skin," she says. "They're particularly satisfying to see because they're usually huge and you can't imagine someone has something this size on them, and when you remove them they often come out entirely whole."

9. Keratosis pilaris

An image of keratosis pilaris.
iStock.com/IHUAN

Colloquially called chicken skin, Keratosis pilaris is "a form of dry skin, it's a form of eczema," Lee says. The condition is characterized by tiny, red or brown colored bumps that typically appear on the upper arms, but it can also show up on the face, the butt, or the front of the thighs. "People don't like the appearance of it, and the feeling of it, because you see these little bumps, it's like your hair follicles are more pronounced—it's very bumpy. It's almost like a keratin plug, a skin plug there," she says. "It's really a self conscious thing—you don't want to wear things that bare your arms or your shoulders because you feel like people can see it, and also when people rub up against your skin, it doesn't feel soft, it feels prickly."

To get rid of the bumps, Lee says, you should use products that exfoliate your skin. "My skincare line, SLMD Skincare, has products specifically designed to help exfoliate the skin and to help improve this feeling, this roughness that you feel," she says. You can find them here.

10. Lipoma

In the season two premiere of her TLC show, Lee removes 68 lipomas from a patient's forearms. "A lipoma is a collection of benign fat cells in that space in us that has fat, it's called the subcutaneous space," she says. "I say it's as if one fat cell decided to divide upon itself and create its own little utopia under the skin, because a lot of times it's sort of walled off and separate and looks different than the regular fat under the skin."

According to Lee, lipomas are benign, and "they don't have to be removed, but they are bothersome to people because they can grow to pretty big sizes and really be a source of embarrassment," she says. Her patient had familial multiple lipomatosis, which causes many lipomas to form. "She was very self-conscious about it, and that’s very understandable. Because even though they're benign, they're pretty disfiguring," Lee says. "It makes you realize how often we expose our forearms. Most of us don't even think about it, we take it for granted."

11. Steatocystoma

Fans of Lee's channel will know steatocystomas thanks to her patient Momma Squishy, who has a number of these cysts, which form in the sebaceous glands. According to Lee, steatocystomas aren't as common as pilar or epidermoid cysts. "These cysts have oil glands lining the wall of the cyst, so these are particularly satisfying to pop because they kind of come out like melted butter," she says, also comparing them to linguine noodles. "The sac is very thin-walled but very strong and so you can usually pull it out with a tweezer and forceps and take it out in its entirety."

12. Milia

An image of milia under the eye.
iStock.com/vchal

These tiny, keratin-filled cysts are "pretty common," according to Lee. "They kind of come out like little pearls. They're really pretty. They look like little birdseed, almost. We mostly get them around our eyes because it's a very thin-skinned area. They're deep enough under the skin that you can’t really squeeze them. You definitely have to nick the surface of the skin, which is again something that I don't advise a person does. They should see a dermatologist to do it. And it's nice to get them removed because they can drive us crazy. You can feel this little pebble, this little ball under your skin."

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

iStock
iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

11 Lesser-Known Animal Phobias

iStock.com/Scacciamosche
iStock.com/Scacciamosche

He’s dealt with elaborate booby traps, KGB agents, and a face-melting artifact, but to Indiana Jones, nothing’s more unsettling than snakes. Many people can relate. Ophidiophobia—or “the persistent and irrational fear of snakes”—affects roughly 1 to 5 percent of the global population. So does the clinical fear of spiders, also known as arachnophobia. But did you know that some people feel just as uncomfortable around chickens? From puppy-induced panic to equine terror, here are 11 lesser-known animal phobias.

1. Lepidopterophobia

Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman is unfazed by spiders or snakes, but she can’t escape her lepidopterophobia, or fear of butterflies. As a young girl, the Australian actress once scaled a fence just so she could avoid a butterfly perched nearby. “I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things,” Kidman once said, “but I just don’t like the feel of butterflies’ bodies.” (The Independent reported that she tried to break her phobia by spending time in a museum butterfly cage. “It didn’t work,” the actress said.) Kidman and her fellow lepidopterophobes may refuse to leave windows open in the summertime, lest a stray monarch come fluttering into their home.

2. Batrachophobia

A giant river toad
iStock.com/reptiles4all

No, frogs can’t give you warts. That urban legend—and others like it—may explain some cases of batrachophobia, a deep-seated fear of amphibians, including frogs, toads, and salamanders. It’s thought that the condition might also be linked to an overarching disdain for slimy things. By the way, if you specifically don’t like toads, then you could have a case of what’s known as bufonophobia.

3. Entomophobia

Entomophobia is a family of fears related to insects that includes lepidopterophobia, the previously mentioned butterfly-related dread. Another phobia within this group is isopterophobia, the fear of wood-eating insects like termites. Then we have myrmecophobia (the fear of ants) and apiphobia (the fear of bees or bee stings). Of course we can’t leave out katsaridaphobia, or the debilitating fear of cockroaches. “Cockroaches tap into this sort of evolutionary aversion we have to greasy, smelly, slimy things,” Jeff Lockwood, an author and professor of natural sciences at the University of Wyoming, told the BBC. “Plus, they’re defiant little bastards.”

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí was terrified of grasshoppers. “I am 37 years old,” he wrote in 1941, “and the fright which grasshoppers cause me has not diminished since adolescence ... If possible, I would say it has become greater.” He went on to say that if a grasshopper ever landed on him while he was standing “on the edge of a precipice,” he’d instinctively jump to his death.

4. Ornithophobia

Traumatic childhood experiences involving birds—like, say, getting chased by a goose—can give birth to a lifelong fear of feathered critters. For Lucille Ball, they always reminded her of her father's untimely death when she was just a toddler: As her mother was delivering the horrible news, a couple of sparrows gathered by the kitchen windowsill.

“I’ve been superstitious about birds ever since,” Ball wrote in her autobiography. “I don’t have a thing about live birds, but pictures of birds get me. I won’t buy anything with a print of a bird, and I won’t stay in a hotel room with bird pictures or any bird wallpaper.”

5. Ailurophobia

Tabby cat against a gray background
iStock.com/Sergeeva

Lucy van Pelt (sort of) mentions ailurophobia in A Charlie Brown Christmas, although she bungles the nomenclature and tells Charlie Brown, "If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia." (The -phasia suffix generally refers to speech disorders, such as aphasia.) That being said, the fear of cats is a phenomenon that goes by many names, including gatophobia and felinophobia.

Rumor has it that Napoleon Bonaparte and lots of other famous conquerors were terrified of kitties. In Bonaparte’s case, the allegations are probably false; according to historian Katharine MacDonogh, “No record exists of Napoleon either liking or hating cats.” She thinks this myth reflects the long-standing cultural belief that our feline friends wield supernatural insights. “Cats have been endowed with a magical ability to detect the overweening ambitions of dictators, many of whom have consequently been accused of ailurophobia on the flimsiest evidence,” MacDonogh wrote in her book Reigning Cats And Dogs: A History of Pets At Court Since The Renaissance.

6. Alektorophobia

Chickens, hens, and roosters put alektorophobes on edge. A rare type of ornithophobia, this fowl-based fear is no laughing matter. One 2018 case study reported on a 32-year-old man who would experience heart palpitations, a sudden dryness of the mouth, and uncomfortable feelings in his chest upon seeing a neighbor’s hen. It was ultimately determined that the man's phobia was the result of a frightening childhood encounter he’d had with a rooster.

7. Ostraconophobia

“I have a lobster phobia, I don’t know why. I just don’t like them,” NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin told the press in 2017. “I cannot eat dinner if someone beside me is eating lobster.” The admission came just after Hamlin had won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Why did that matter? Because the event took place at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where race-winners are customarily rewarded with giant, live lobsters. But when somebody approached Hamlin with a 44-pounder, he tried to flee the stage. Ostraconophobia, or fear of shellfish, can also manifest itself as a fear of crabs or oysters. The majority of people who deal with this phobia develop it after getting sick from the shellfish that makes them feel uneasy.

8. Ichthyophobia

Piranha fish on black background
iStock.com/bluepeter

Ichthyophobia is a bit of an umbrella term that covers an irrational disdain of fish in a variety of situations. It can refer to the fear of being around live fish, the fear of eating dead ones, or the fear of touching them. A common version of that first anxiety is galeophobia, the widespread fear of sharks. And then there are those who are disturbed (and sometimes even physically sickened) by the sight or smell of fishy entrees; these ichthyophobes may take pains to avoid supermarkets with large seafood aisles.

9. Musophobia

Among the British adults who participated in a 2017 phobia survey, more than 25 percent reported that they were afraid of mice. By comparison, only 24 percent said they dreaded sharp needles or airplanes. In addition to disliking mice, musophobes are often afraid of other rodents, such as hamsters and rats.

10. Equinophobia

Sigmund Freud once wrote a case study on a boy who was terrified of horses. At age 4, Herbert Graf—referred to as “Little Hans” in the paper—had seen an overloaded work horse crumble to the ground in a heap. Following the traumatic incident, Hans became easily spooked while in the presence of horses; just the sound of clopping hooves was enough to trigger his anxiety. As a result, Hans often refused to leave the house.

Little Hans eventually overcame his fears, but equinophobia is still with us today. Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry developed it after being bitten by a pony at a petting zoo when he was a child. Unfortunately for Berry, one of the Chiefs’s mascots is a live pinto horse named Warpaint. As former teammate Derrick Johnson told NFL Films, “He’s always watching for the horse, making sure the horse doesn’t look at him or do something crazy.” Berry has taken steps to overcome his horse phobia, though; in fact, he has even worked up the courage to (briefly) pet Warpaint.

11. Cynophobia

Pug wrapped in a pink blanket
iStock.com/Alexandr Zhenzhirov

If you’re afraid of snakes, at least you’ll (probably) never have to worry about some coworker bringing his pet anaconda into the office. Cynophobes aren’t so lucky. Defined as the “fear of dogs,” cynophobia is an especially challenging animal phobia to have because, well, puppers are everywhere. Cynophobic people may go out of their way to avoid parks and tend to feel uncomfortable in neighborhoods where loud pooches reside.

As with ornithophobia, the fear of canines often stems from a traumatic childhood event. Therapists have found that, for many patients, the best way to overcome this aversion is through controlled exposure; spending quality time with a well-trained dog under a supervisor’s watchful eye can work wonders.

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